Transcript of a Press Briefing by David Hawley, Senior Advisor, External Relations Department, International Monetary Fund

April 28, 2011

Washington, DC
April 28, 2011
Webcast of the press conference Webcast

MR. HAWLEY: Good morning. I’m David Hawley from the External Relations Department of the IMF, and welcome to another of our regular press briefings. As usual the briefing is under embargo until 10:30 Washington time; that’s 1430 GMT.

Before going to your questions, I’ll run through a few announcements. The Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, will travel to Switzerland, to Zurich, on the 10th of May where together with the Swiss National Bank he will participate in a high-level conference on the international monetary system. At the moment we have no media events planned around that conference.

And today, Min Zhu, the Special Advisor to the Managing Director, is appearing at an International Finance and Economic Policy event at Columbia University in New York.

You may have noticed that our Regional Economic Outlook (REO) is being released for a number of regions. Yesterday and today the APD, that is to say Asian Pacific and the Middle East, REOs have been released. The forthcoming events in the REO series are as follows: Anoop Singh, the head of our Asian Department, will be in Sydney, Australia, on May 2nd for a REO event. The Western Hemisphere REO will be launched on May 3rd in Mexico City by Nicholas Eyzaguirre. And the Africa REO will be launched on May 3rd in Lagos, Nigeria, by Saul Lizondo, and by Roger Nord in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, also on May 3rd. And finally, the European REO will be launched by our European Department Director, Antonio Borges, on May 12th in Frankfurt.

And just a heads-up of something coming later today, we plan to publish our medium-term budget, which will cover the Fund’s financial years 2012-2014. That document will be released later today. So with that we’ll take questions.

QUESTIONER: Do you have any update for us on the talks in Portugal and how those are going and when you expect them to wrap up?

MR. HAWLEY: I don’t have anything to add to what has been said this week in Lisbon. Negotiations are ongoing and will continue as long as needed. All parties involved understand the importance of reaching an agreement, but I don’t want to be drawn on a date specific. Please?

QUESTIONER: The speculation about the Greek debt restructure has remained: many economic analysts are not persuaded by your assurances that the Greek debt restructure is not an option. Are you afraid that Greece may be the Lehman Bros. of the eurozone eurozone?

MR. HAWLEY: Let me repeat what we have said. When the program for Greece was designed, the government made the decision that debt would be repaid and guarantees would be honored. These assumptions were incorporated into the program framework and they still hold.

I’ve got a question [online] on Portugal: “Is the IMF prepared to bailout Portugal alone if the European decision is blocked by a veto?” That’s a matter on which I’m not going to speculate. We are negotiating a program with the European Commission, together with the European Commission and the European Central Bank, and talks are continuing.

QUESTIONER: I know Masood [Ahmed, Director, IMF Middle East and Central Asia Department] was just in Dubai talking about the Middle East, but I was wondering if you have any update on any possible agreement or official talks starting with any of the countries on programs?

MR. HAWLEY: All right. I think the country which is most under the spotlight there is Egypt. We have had good discussions with the Egyptian authorities on the challenges that Egypt is facing and how the IMF could help, but we have not gotten to the point where the authorities have made a formal request for an IMF arrangement.

QUESTIONER: Again, sorry -- just a follow-up about Côte d’Ivoire. I know you were talking to the Minister during the IMF meetings and was wondering whether the Fund had come up with a -- there were several options that it was going to focus on during those talks and was wondering if you have any kind of breakout of what it was?

MR. HAWLEY: I haven’t got really much to add to what was said at the time of the meeting, during the spring meetings between the Managing Director and Finance Minister Diby. The position is this: Once the Ivoirian authorities complete their assessment of conditions on the ground, the IMF will be ready to enter into discussions on an economic recovery program, for 2011. Financial assistance could follow, but that is only once the main elements of the recovery plan have been finalized.

QUESTIONER: Is there a mission planned to go there or are you still worried about the security situation?

MR. HAWLEY: I don’t have a mission schedule yet for Côte d’Ivoire. Thanks.

QUESTIONER: Do you think that the next installment of the IMF bailout is at risk for Greece, and what are you expecting from Greek authorities about the implementation of measures you have agreed on?

MR. HAWLEY: Well, as you know the fourth review mission is tentatively scheduled to visit starting in early May. The focus of this mission will be to assess the policy implementation overall under the program. And so the focus will be on ensuring that policies continue to be calibrated in a way that they deliver on the program objectives. And if you want a bit more specificity, we’re going to look at several key policy milestones, including the medium-term fiscal strategy, the authorities’ plan for privatization and real estate development, and banks’ medium-term funding plans. But as I say, the mission is forthcoming so we’ll await the conclusion of the mission before offering more detail on that.

QUESTIONER: I guess I just, could just follow up. Will this review have a debt sustainability chapter to it?

And just a different question completely, on the Fed’s first press conference yesterday, did the IMF have any comment to make about that and about inflation expectations in the U.S.?

MR. HAWLEY: Okay, I’ll take the Greek question first. So the question is about debt sustainability. Now the point to make here is that in any program review -- so this is not a Greek-specific comment -- in any program review, the IMF makes an assessment of debt sustainability and a Fund program cannot go forward unless debt is deemed to be sustainable, and this review -- and I’m stressing this as a general thing -- that the Greek review will be no different.

You had a question on the U.S.? Our view is that the Fed’s decision to end its unconventional monetary -- unconventional easing program as scheduled is appropriate in view of the ongoing recovery.

I have a question [online]: “Can you describe the IMF’s interface with Syria and Yemen and how the crackdowns there may impact on that and how they’re viewed by the IMF?” In Syria we are, like other observers, following the situation closely and wherever it occurs, we deplore the loss of life associated with unrest. We have a program with Yemen, but -- and I refer you to remarks by Masood Ahmed yesterday that that program is basically on hold in the current situation.

So if there are -- are there other questions?

QUESTIONER: Is there a potential for a meeting of Mr. Strauss-Kahn in Athens? Do you something about that?

MR. HAWLEY: I can only speak for Mr. Strauss-Kahn. There is no -- I’ve seen reports that describe him visiting Greece. Those reports are incorrect.

Thank you. With that I’ll end the briefing which is under embargo until 10:30. Thank you very much.



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