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IMF Has $51M For Burkina Faso After Inner City Press Asked of Cameroon and Ivory Coast

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Video
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Nov 13 – When the International Monetary Fund addressed sub Saharan Africa on October 21, Inner City Press posed questions on Cameroon and on Cote d'Ivoire.

Inner City Press asked the IMF's Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director, African Department: "On Cameroon, in light of the October 21 announcement of additional COVID-related aid, what safeguards are in place to engage a lack of corruption in distribution, and to prevent the torture which many human rights groups allege?"

  His answer involved assurances that the beneficial owners of companies getting government contracts, for COVID and otherwise, should be made public. Video here.

  Now on November 13 from the IMF on Burkina Faso, this: "The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today completed the fourth and fifth reviews of Burkina Faso’s economic program under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF). Completion of these reviews, which constitute the last two under the ECF-supported program, unlocks access to SDR 36.12 million (about US$51.28 million), bringing total disbursements under the arrangement to SDR 108.36 million (about US$152.58million). Burkina Faso’s three-year ECF arrangement was approved by the IMF Executive Board on March 14, 2018. It aims at maintaining macroeconomic stability, reducing poverty and creating fiscal space for priority spending. The Executive Board also approved the authorities’ requests for a waiver for the nonobservance of the program performance criterion on the ceiling on net domestic financing of the government and rephasing of access for the fifth review to make the sixth disbursement available on November 13, 2020. In addition, Burkina Faso has benefited from a second tranche of debt relief on its debt service falling due to the IMF from October 14, 2020 to April 13, 2021 (SDR 10.3 million or about US$ 14.52 million), in the form of grant assistance under the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust. This relief follows that granted for debt service due between April 14 and October 13, 2020 (about US$12 million). The economic impacts of the global and domestic measures to contain the COVID19 pandemic have been stronger than expected. Real GDP is expected to contract by 2.8 percent in 2020, compared to a forecast of 6.0 percent expansion prior to the pandemic. The fiscal deficit in 2020 is expected to widen to about 5.3 percent of GDP, to accommodate an effective response to the fallout from COVID19 and security shocks. The main risks to the outlook are the uncertainty surrounding the duration of the pandemic and the ongoing security crisis. Following the Executive Board’s discussion on Burkina Faso, Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, issued the following statement: 'The COVID19 pandemic and the security crisis continue to negatively impact Burkina Faso’s economy.'"

  Back in October, Inner City Press also asked about Cote d'Ivoire, where IMF alumni Ouattara is running for a third term. The answer was largely praising Cote d'Ivoire economic diversity. Here's the transcript:

MR. VILKAS:  Thank you.  The next question is also now through Webex.  It's Matthew Lee who wants to ask questions.  Matthew, do you hear us?              

MR. LEE:  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to know, I saw yesterday, the announcement of continued disbursement to Cameroon and obviously it is a country in need, but there are a lot of issues that have risen, not only about human right issues, or people that have fled the country due to conflict in the northwest and southwest, but also some alleged corruption in the distribution of COVID‑19 aid.  So, I'm wondering, if you can, kind of, as you can say, how does -- how do the general principals of ensuring that this aid actually helps people?  How are they implemented, generally and specifically in Cameroon?     And just finally, on Côte d'Ivoire there's controversy of your alumni Alassane Ouattara.  Without getting into the politics of that, what's a been the impact of the pandemic on Côte d'Ivoire and what are your views on its prospects going forward?  Thanks a lot.              

MR. SELASSIE:  Thanks.  On Cameroon, of course, conditions remain very difficult socially, and economically as a result of the pandemic.  And yesterday, actually we had -- we went to the Board for disbursements there.  On almost all of our operations with countries that we've been doing in the context of the Rapid Credit Facility, we have been asking the authorities to, number one, explain what the resources are being used to.  And then, number two, use their institutions, and if their institutions are not strong enough, external auditors, to show that those resources have been used for the intended purpose.  I think already, you know -- and also, sorry a third element of this is that beneficiary owners of the companies that are being awarded contracts are published.                So already, you know, yesterday there was some reporting, if you look at the staff report on Cameroon, on the, you know, on how the resources from the first disbursement were used.  And also, of course, you know, the beneficial owners of companies for those benefits.  So, there's already some reporting.  And this is something that we are working diligently to get into the public information.                We strongly, strongly believe that not only is governance important, you know, for countries benefit, but also, what we can do is bring about a lot of transparency in terms of how resources are used.  This is a core function that we do through our work in helping certain countries public finance management systems, but at times like this, I think when resources are being provided quickly.  It's really important also that, you know, there is transparency in how these resources are being used.                We want this information to be in the public domain so that civil society organizations, anti-corruption agencies can all scrutinize how these resources are being used and this is an area of what we are very, very diligently, following on.  And that's our contribution to making sure that that there continues to be improved governance.    

SELASSIE:  So, on Côte d'Ivoire you know, the WAEMU region more broadly has seen even within the African context of limited infection levels the WAEMU overall has seen even lower, you know, at the lower end of infection rates.  So, in terms of the direct infection numbers, even controlling for testing being low, it seems that the number of COVID cases has remained low.  So that is very encouraging, and we've also seen overall in the WAEMU fairly strong economic, somewhat stronger economic outcomes than elsewhere in the region.  On account of a bit more diversified economic structures that countries have.  But again, you know, even there, we are looking at very anemic or even negative real per capita growth rates, including in Côte d'Ivoire.  So, the conditions have remained fairly weak and they continue to you know, much of what I was saying earlier, the policy challenges remain as challenging as elsewhere.

 Earlier in the week, Inner City Press asked the IMF: "What is the IMF's assessment of the turmoil in Kyrgyz Republic? Can or will the IMF to do anything to assist, including on continued COVID-19 response as well as debt to China / Eximbank?"  

His answer, interim video here, recounted the IMF's pre-turmoil assistance to Kyrgyzstan. here

 Inner City Press also asked, "On Yemen, what is the status of the use of the new riyal banknotes printed by the Central Bank in Yemen, and any actions taken by the IMF?" and, when called on by video for a follow-up, about the Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.  Video on YouTube here.

  On the latter, Jihad Azour cited the IMF's Technical Assistant center set for Almaty, Kazakhstan and said the IMF joins in calls for a ceasefire (which have been mouthed by but not followed up on by the UNresponsive UN). We'll have more on this.


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