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IMF Put Off Sri Lanka Military Budget Question, Then Ignored, Mali & Romania

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 15 -- The International Monetary Fund lent into Sri Lanka's military build-up, then when challenged tried to downplay it.

  Two weeks ago, Inner City Press asked the IMF to comment on the Rajapaksa government's new 2013 budget, which reportedly has $2.2 billion for defense / "urban development," a 26% increase over 2012. Inner City Press asked, "Given past IMF claims defense spending was not rising, what is IMF comment now?"

  The IMF did not give a substantive response, but a spokesperson replied, "On Sri Lanka, the 2013 budget is expected to be finalized and presented in early November (we understand November 8). We have not yet seen the 2013 budget, and thus would not be in a position to comment at this time."

  The spokesperson, asking to be identified as such, told Inner City Press "it would be the best if you could follow up on this later this month."

  On November 15 the IMF announced a "Press Briefing by William Murray, Deputy Spokesman, External Relations, IMF, at 9:30 a.m., Washington time."

  And so at this IMF briefing, after the Sri Lanka budget was released, Inner City Press asked again: "On Sri Lanka, now that the budget is out: given past IMF claims defense spending was not rising, what is IMF comment now?"

In light of news all over the world this week, Inner City Press also asked, "in light of this week's UN report on its failures in Sri Lanka during the killings in 2009, does the IMF as a member of the UN system have any review of or comment on its performance with regard to the killings, accountability and defense spending in the country?"

  But during the IMF's embargoed briefing, alongside question after question on Greece, an online question was taken, why can't the IMF make concessionary loans to Greece? The answer given was that Greece is a relatively affluent country, not eligible for concessionary loans.

  It was said that the IMF has a relationship with Portugal, but only monitors banks in Spain. Then the new Deputy Spokesman said it was over, there were no more questions.

  What about the deferred Sri Lanka questions? What about the new questions on Mali and Romania which Inner City Press submitted, through the IMF Media Center and by email?

On Mali, did IMF's $18 million agreement on a Rapid Credit Facility include any consideration of the involvement in the government of those participating in the coup d'etat earlier this year? Would any funds be used for military activity in northern Mali?

On Romania, what is IMF's response to Economy Minister Traicu's criticism that IMF doesn't understand that appointing private sector managers for public companies takes time?

  None of these questions were answered. Inner City Press e-mailed again, asking for an explanation before deadline / embargo time. None was received. This is Lagarde's new IMF? Watch this site.

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