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IMF Dismissive on Sequester, Answers ICP on Tanzania, Ignores Bahrain, Sri Lanka & Zimbabwe

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 28, updated twice – On the eve of the US sequester, the International Monetary Fund minimized the disruption it might cause, at least at first.

  In an embargoed Thursday morning briefing, the IMF's Deputy Spokesperson William Murray told the press that the sequester would take seven months to kick it, and that it is a “political process.”

Asked about Greece, he refused to comment on reports the IMF is telling Greece to carry out 25,000 lay offs. Instead, he emphasized that if Greece could increase or improve tax collection, less austerity would be needed.

  Then he refused to comment on quotes from a leaked report in which the IMF calls Greece's tax system in shambles.

  Murray purported to take all online questions: from the Dominican Republic (he chortled at the question), two from a journalist in Argentina, and finally form the Business Recorder of Pakistan.

  On this, he immediately said he had no answer. But he read out the question, implying that those were the only questions submitted.

In fact, Inner City Press had submitted these questions, two on Africa -- otherwise unmentioned in the Q&A -- one on Bahrain and one on Sri Lanka, a follow up.

  Before deadline, the IMF offered a February 12 press release on the Tanzania question, which was "BoT's Governor Ndulu has been quoted that the IMF's Standby Credit Facility (SCF) of about $117 million is “to finance various development projects and programs.” Is that the IMF's understanding?

 The IMF told Inner City Press, "Hi Matthew: Regarding your question on the disbursement for Tanzania, I will refer you to the press release we issued on February 12:

  But at deadline these remain unanswered:

On Zimbabwe, what is the IMF,s engagement and is it true the country had only $217 in the bank in January?

On Bahrain, what does the IMF mean by the "Bahrainization" of the economy? Is locking up or barring critics good for the economy?

On Sri Lanka, Treasury Secretary P.B.Jayasundera has just said, “If the IMF can support our reform programme, it was most welcome.” On Feb 14, IMF told us “IMF financial support for Sri Lanka’s budget is not required at this juncture.” Is this consistent? Please comment.

What's wrong with the IMF under Christine Lagarde? Watch this site.

Update of 11:11 am -- after 11 am, that is, after embargo deadline Mr. Murray did respond to say, "Matthew, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to take these questions during the briefing.  On the Bahrain reference, this is jargon often used by analysts, officials, and others in the Gulf region in reference to instances where expatriate workforces are being gradually phased out in favor of nationals. Someone will get back to you on Zimbabwe.."

  It's appreciated but... what about Sri Lanka? And why were questions read out at the briefing even though Mr. Murray said he had no answers to them? What are the rules, or even logic, here?

 On Bahrain, Bahrainization has ALSO meant recruiting soldiers from other countries and turning them into citizens -- so they won't be considered mercenaries...

Update of 1:02 pm -- then after another inquiry, this arrived just before 1 pm, on Zimbabwe:

"Hi Matthew, On Zimbabwe, the Minister has clarified that he dramatized to emphasize that the 2013 budget is tight and that the government would be seeking support from development partners. As for our engagement, since we announced the relaxation of most restrictions on technical assistance last October (here), we’ve been working to increase our provision of technical assistance, including in areas related to statistics, public financial management, and other areas."

  It's appreciated. But again: what about Sri Lanka? And why were questions read out at the briefing even though Mr. Murray said he had no answers to them? What are the rules, or even logic, here?  Watch this site.

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