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On Tunisia IMF Tells Inner City Press Board Meeting Postponed Citing Inclusiveness

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 22 – When the International Monetary Fund held a question and answer briefing on March 23, 2023, Inner City Press asked (in advance, and in the briefing) on Tunisia, please describe the status of the $1.9 billion staff agreed program, which Italy for one says it is urging the Fund to "unblock," and the issues in that regard.  

 It added the more recent comments of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the EU's Joseph Borelli.    IMF Spokesperson Julie Kozack replied that the IMF Board meeting was postponed, and that other states can do more to help.

Inner City Press followed up with a direct question about anti-migrant statements by Tunisia's president. Ms. Kozack said the IMF is concerned and following developments, then referred again to inclusiveness. Transcript:

Okay. I now have a question from Matthew Lee. Matthew, good morning over to you. 

Inner City Press: Sure. Thanks a lot. I wanted to ask about Tunisia. There's a lot of, in fact, yesterday at the Standard Forum Banking, excuse me, Foreign Relations Committee and Secretary Blinken has commented, Mr. Browning's talked about it. What's the status of a program? There seems to be a sense that I don't know if the comments about migration have caused some delay, or the monopolization of power by the president. But there seems to be concern among, I guess, powerful IMF member states about the status of the program. And I'd like to know what the thinking is, what the slowdown is, and what the future portends. 

MS. KOZACK: Okay. Very good. Anything else -- any other questions on Tunisia? Okay. Don't see anything else coming through. So, to take a step back and let you know where we are with Tunisia. On October 15th, 2022, IMF staff and the Tunisian authorities reached a staff level agreement to support Tunisia's economic policies with a four-year arrangement under the EFF. And this arrangement was worth about 1.9 billion US dollars.  Tunisia's IMF supported homegrown program aims to restore macroeconomic stability, strengthen social safety nets and tax equity, as well as to step up reforms and support an enabling environment for inclusive growth and sustainable job creation. The international community can greatly contribute to the success of the authorities' program through a rapid release of additional financing. The presentation of this program to the IMF Executive Board has been postponed to give the Tunisian authorities more time to complete the program requisites.  A new Board date will be set in consultation with the Tunisian authorities once the requisites are in place. And the IMF remains a strong partner of Tunisia and will continue to support the authorities in their reform efforts, including to enhance social equity. 

Inner City Press: That would -- just one follow-up. I mean, I guess I wanted to know if you're willing to -- seems like many people have expressed concern about comments about the migrant flow through Tunisia and what's viewed as a real anti-immigrant stance there. Is that when you say inclusiveness, can it be read that way? Or is that a totally separate issue? 

MS. KOZACK: So, we are concerned about the recent developments in Tunisia, and of course, we note the steps taken by the authorities to address the situation. The IMF remains engaged with Tunisia, notably to support efforts to enhance social equity and promote inclusive growth. 

Inner City Press: : Thanks a lot.

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