Thursday, June 8, 2017

ICP Asks IMF About Egypt Subsidy Cut, Qatar Cut-Off, Mozambique Secret Debt & Cameroon

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed press briefing on June 8 Inner City Press submitted questions about Egypt, Mozambique and Qatar, as well as Cameroon. Three of these four got answered. 

IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice noted that Inner City Press asked, "In Egypt it's said that starting July 1 for fiscal year 2017-2018 the country will see another sharp price rise as a result of the IMF loan requirements, including cutting fuel subsidies to 1.75% of gross domestic product this year and then to less than 0.5%. What is the IMF's response?" 

Rice said the IMF is following President Sisi's plan to cut fuel subsidies in three years; Rice said that the subsidies benefit those who are better off and cutting them will allow increased social spending on the most vulnerable. We'll see. On Mozambique, Inner City Press asked "the Kroll audit of secret debts was filed on May 12. When does the IMF expect it should be made public, and what is the status of IMF / Mozambique?" 

Rice said that the IMF expects first a summary then the whole report to be published, and that the technical talks on a new program depend on this audit report. On Qatar, Inner City Press asked "What is the IMF's assessment, going forward, of the cut-off of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others, in terms of credit rating and otherwise?" Rice said it is too soon to say how these tensions will be resolved." Or, Inner City Press would add, how.  Inner City Press also asked the IMF, "If there is an updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring 'Silicon Mountain;' Also if there are any updates on Burundi or Yemen or South Sudan. " Watch this site. Back on May 25, Inner City Press asked about Saudi Arabia (and Blackstone), Ghana and again Cameroon.IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question, "On Saudi Arabia, what is the IMF's view of the interaction between the country's sovereign wealth fund's deal with Blackstone and the warning that rapid cuts to the government’s budget deficit could damage the economy?" Rice replied that the IMF views the Blackstone deal as an attempt to diversity internationally, and not related to domestic deficit reduction (transcript will be on IMF's website. Inner City Press also asked, "amid reports that Ghana will agree to extend the IMF program in return for a bigger credit facility, what is the IMF's position on the government's speed in meeting the objectives of the program?" Rice acknowledged that the IMF and Ghana are discussing an extension but said it would require a formal request by the country; he said a key objective is to key public debt on a continuing downward path. On Cameroon (and Yemen and the UN's "Financing for Development" outcome documents), no answers yet. Watch this site. From the IMF's May 11 transcript, of its Deputy Spokesperson Willam Murray: "I’ve got a question from Inner City Press on Sri Lanka. Do recent government moves on the Inland Revenue Act make it more likely the IMF Board will act on the request for completion of the second loan review in June and make a third disbursement? Again, it’s a question about Sri Lanka and the Inland Revenue Act and the likelihood of completing the second review. We had a staff level agreement in Sri Lanka on May 3rd, last week. We noted in announcing that agreement that it’s subject to completion of a prior action by the authorities, which is submission of the Inland Revenue Act to Parliament. And that was a prior action that was agreed earlier this year. Our legal experts are still analyzing the content of the new draft bill, and are in discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities. That’s where we stand at the moment on Sri Lanka."

 The answer's appreciated.