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After Tunisia FM Predicts $500M After Jan 29, IMF Tells ICP Not So Fast

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 9 -- In Tunisia amid protests of the new vehicle tax, put down with tear gas in the south, Finance Minister Ilyas Fakhfakh said on January 8, "the IMF's conditions are to reach a political agreement to finalize the transition, and keep our deficit under control. We have so far taken the main necessary measures. It is on the right track. There is a meeting on January 29, and we expect to get that tranche after that."

At the International Monetary Fund's biweekly media briefing the next day, January 9, Inner City Press asked:

"On Tunisia, what is the IMF's response to criticism that its requirements or recommendations have led to the vehicle tax increase being protested (the government has responded with tear gas)? Is Tunisia on track for second $500 million tranche at or after January 29 meeting, as finance minister Ilyas Fakhfakh said yesterday?"

  IMF deputy spokesperson William Murray read out most of the question, and his response by no means confirmed that a second tranche will be forthcoming on or soon after January 29.

  In fact, he said the first program review of the facility established in June 2013 is not yet agreed to; it is being combined and discussed with the second review.

  Murray said that the underpinnings of the protests are "complex," and that the "political issues boiling there" implact "policy implementation." He concluded that the IMF remains committed to supporting Tunisia with finance and advice.

  So what ABOUT the advice to raise the vehicle tax, now being protested?

  Still, that Tunisia question got a response. Here are three other questions Inner City Press put in, before and during the briefing, that have yet to be answered by embargo deadline:

On South Sudan, given the upsurge in violence in the past three weeks, what is the status of the IMF's programs, and what is its assessment of the economic impact of the crisis?

On Iceland, what is the IMF's response to prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson statement that criticism of debt reduction is wrong-headed? What is the IMF's position in the US on mortgage principal reduction?

Also on the US, does the IMF have any comment on moves in Congress to question or not approve the US' payment(s) to the IMF as part of the omnibus bill being negotiated?

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