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Amid IMF Hardball in Pakistan on Textiles & Tax, IMF Silent, on Ukraine Taxes Too

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 4 -- After the floods in Pakistan, the International Monetary Fund said it was much concerned, was only waiting for a joint assessment mission in order to consider how to help the country.

Now an IMF team in Islamabad is back to playing hard ball, about not only the country's utilities but now its textile sector.

At the IMF's November 4 briefing, Inner City Press submitted two questions, including

Given the ongoing humanitarian situation in Pakistan, please explain report that “IMF has turned down Pakistan’s request to exempt textile sector from Reformed General Sales Tax.”

To this, spokesperson Caroline Atkinson merely said that with an IMF team in the country, she would not comment. But Pakistani officials have been speaking, off the record, about the IMF's demands.

Pakistan after floods, IMF hardball on textiles & tax not shown

Inner City Press also submitted this question, while Ms. Atkinson was still speaking:

In Ukraine, some 2000 small businesses have protested tax increases on them, which they blame on the IMF. What is the IMF's response?”

After the briefing, the following arrived:

Dear Mr. Lee: Regarding your question on Ukraine that came in after the briefing was concluded please be advised that the following can be attributed to an IMF spokesperson:

The IMF supports the modernization of the tax system in Ukraine in a manner that is consistent with medium term fiscal sustainability. An IMF mission is currently in Kyiv for the first review under the Stand-By Arrangement. The mission will be discussing with the authorities the draft tax code to ensure that is consistent with the program and promotes the rationalization of the tax system, broadens the tax base, and strengthens tax compliance”.

Tell that to the 2000 protesters. Watch this site.

* * *

With Pakistan Blocked by IMF from Debt Relief, EU Stalls GPS+, Ripert Dodges Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- As at the UN countries jostled to give speeches about past contributions to Pakistan, Inner City Press asked UK International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell about the IMF's requirement that Pakistan not seek any relief of its $500 million a year in debt payments in exchange for a $450 million loan.

Mitchell responded that Pakistan's debt service is “only 3% of its gross national income.” He said he was sure negotiations would continue on the debt.

But a letter submitted to the IMF on September 10 by State Bank Governor Shahid Hafiz Kardar and Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh committed, at the IMF's demand

To make sure Pakistan’s international trade and financial relations continue to function normally, we will not impose any restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions nor introduce any trade restrictions or enter into any bilateral payment agreements that are inconsistent with Article VIII of the Fund’s Articles of Agreement.”

Inner City Press asked Pakistan's foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi about this, and he replied that his country's finance minister is speaking with the World Bank, the IMF and Asia Development Bank and he is “sure he will take it [debt relief] up with them at the appropriate time.”

But he and the country appear precluded from taking it up, by the IMF's own demands.

Inner City Press also asked Mitchell about whether the EU will grant Pakistan GSP Plus trade benefits. Mitchell made much of his Prime Minister Cameron pushing for this, but the EU has yet to move on it, reportedly due to protectionist opposition by France, Italy, Poland and Portugal (which is seeking a UN Security Council seat). It was impossible to ask the EU, as Catherine Ashton unceremoniously canceled her scheduled stakeout.

To the side of Minister Lectureship’s stakeout, against his will, stood UN envoy Jean-Maurice Ripert. He had refused to speak to the Press outside the General Assembly's pledging session on Pakistan, and this time had to be summoned after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left without taking questions, due to the need to swear in Michelle Bachelet at the head of UN Women.

Inner City Press asked Ripert, by name, to explain his and the UN's failure to push for humanitarian access to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas including Waziristan. Ripert tried to get OCHA's Valerie Amos to answer in his stead, but Inner City Press said Ms. Amos had already taken the question last week. (Ms. Amos later on Monday introduced and praised her previous UK colleague Andrew Mitchell in a way some correspondents found noteworthy, “like Le Roy and the French,” one said.)

Ripert came to the microphone and offered nothing but praise for the government, then referred to “security issues,” saying it is “quite normal that the UN has to discuss with the government” issues of access.

Qureshi with Ripert in a previously life, IMF and Ripert's dodges not shown

Just like UNAMID has not had access in Darfur to parts of Jebel Marra since February, the UN and NGOs have been denied access to Wazirstan. And what has the UN and Ripert done?

Footnote: Ripert has been avoiding the Press for days. On September 17, greeted by Inner City Press, he scowled and walked away, smoking a long white cigarette. Later he was seen chatting euphorically on his cell phone in the UN's Vienna Cafe. On Sunday evening he was on CNN International saying that the floods have impacted an area “as large as Italy.” Some in the Pakistani press corps have stories of Ripert in the Alps -- others say Geneva -- but everywhere but Pakistan. Watch this site.

* * *

On Pakistan, IMF Won't Explain Lack of Debt Relief, Why & When Loans, MDG Games

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 9 -- Despite the flooding crisis in Pakistan, the International Monetary Fund is offering loans, which barely make up for the debt payments Pakistan is making. Inner City Press on September 9 asked IMF Spokesperson Caroline Atkinson the following question:

In Pakistan, given the scope of the flooding and that 60% of the population lives in poverty, why is the IMF not considering debt forgiveness, and grants instead of loans? Does IMF dispute that Pakistan's debt payments ($500 million) are larger than the $450 million loan?”

Ms. Atkinson paraphrased the first part of the question, and declined to read out the second part. She said there was a question from this reporter, that “talks about the scope of the flooding, which is indeed terrible... We are assessing, there is a damage assessment by the World Bank and ADB [Asia Development Bank], results in late October.”

But there is no dispute that Pakistan is deeply damaged. Why use the damage assessment as an excuse? Ms. Atkinson went on to say that Pakistan's financial minister was at the IMF last week, discussing an ENDA (emergency) loan that she said will be approved by the board on a date not even set yet.

But she did not read out, or answer, this: “Does IMF dispute that Pakistan's debt payments ($500 million) are larger than the $450 million loan?”

Nor did Ms. Atkinson acknowledge another question Inner City Press submitted, after in her introduction she presented the IMF's commitment to what she called the “Millennium Development Challenge Goals” -- seeming to conflate the MDGs with the U.S. Millennium Challenge.
Pakistan floods, IMF debt relief or explanation not shown

Inner City Press submitted this question, in the same manner as the paraphrased Pakistan question, that NGOs have

criticized the IMF 'for appearing to retreat to its “traditional position" and not providing enough flexibility on unwinding deficits without harming development spending.' Your response?”

To this, no answer. Watch this site.

Footnote: The IMF's Ms. Atkinson did read out and provide a response to an Inner City Press question on Serbia. Given the vote later today in the UN General Assembly on Serbia's resolution about the International Court of Justice, the IMF's answer will be reported at that time.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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