IMF Executive Board Approves US$79.3 Million Stand-By Arrangement and US$13.2 Million Arrangement Under the Exogenous Shocks Facility for MaldivesPress Release No. 09/444
December 4, 2009
The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved blended financing arrangements for Maldives amounting to a combined SDR 57.4 million (about US$92.5 million). The financing is designed to help smooth the country’s adjustment to the fallout from the global crisis and support the authorities’ strong policy program.
The blended arrangements for Maldives include a 36-month, SDR 49.2 million (about US$79.3 million) Stand-By Arrangement (600 percent of Maldives’ quota), and a 24-month, SDR 8.2 million (about US$13.2 million) arrangement under the Exogenous Shocks Facility High Access Component (ESF-HAC, 100 percent of Maldives’ quota). The ESF-HAC is an IMF facility designed to provide policy support and financial assistance on concessional terms to eligible low-income countries facing temporary exogenous shocks.
A combined disbursement of SDR 5.13 million (about US$8.3 million) will become available under the arrangements following the Board’s decisions.
Following the Executive Board discussion, Mr Takatoshi Kato, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, issued the following statement:
“The Maldivian economy was severely hit by the global crisis through significant declines in Maldives’ tourism receipts, capital inflows, and goods exports. Coming after unsustainable public spending over the last few years—partly reflecting post-tsunami reconstruction efforts—the crisis led to a very large fiscal deficit, a sharply weakened balance of payments position, and reserve losses.
“The government’s ambitious policy program, supported by the IMF, is aimed at addressing the impact of the global economic crisis and restoring macroeconomic stability and fiscal sustainability. At the core of the program is a very strong effort to bring down the fiscal deficit while protecting social spending. To that end, the authorities are taking immediate action to cut spending, including unwinding part of the recent large wage increases, and are introducing new revenue measures to broaden the tax base. They have also taken steps to reform the civil service, improve the targeting of subsidies to the poor, and transfer enterprises and services to the private sector.
“The program aims to rebuild international reserves to prudent levels while preserving the current exchange rate peg to the U.S. dollar. Monetary policy will support the fiscal adjustment efforts through a tightening of domestic currency liquidity. The authorities have taken key steps in this regard: the monetization of the fiscal deficit has been halted; the government debt stock with the Maldives Monetary Authority has been converted into tradable securities; and open market operations have been introduced to absorb excess liquidity.
“The authorities are committed to strengthening the financial sector. These measures include restructuring the Bank of Maldives’ portfolio; ensuring speedy action for the recovery of its collateral on defaulted debt; and, as necessary, securing a capital infusion. The authorities also plan to put in place a stronger legal framework for the operation, supervision, regulation, intervention, and liquidation of commercial banks, and have already introduced regulatory changes to enhance asset classification and loan loss provisioning.
“The authorities’ program, while subject to considerable risks, is strong, comprehensive, and well-focused, and deserves strong support of the international community. If fully implemented, it will put the Maldivian economy back on a path of macroeconomic stability and set the conditions for sustained economic growth and poverty reduction,” Mr Kato said.
Recent Economic Developments
The Maldivian economy is facing severe fiscal and external imbalances. A rapid fiscal expansion began after the 2004 tsunami, including steep wage bill increases. From mid-2008, the global crisis significantly exacerbated existing imbalances and severely weakened the country’s balance of payments position. Tourism revenue has been badly affected by the global downturn, reducing fiscal and foreign exchange earnings and driving the economy into recession. Net capital inflows have also fallen sharply, as have goods exports. The loss in fiscal revenues, combined with the continued growth in public expenditures, led to a dramatic increase in the fiscal deficit in 2008-09, much of which has been monetized. Despite foreign exchange rationing by the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), international reserves had fallen to about 2¼ months of imports by end-September 2009.
Key Program Policies and Objectives
The authorities are undertaking a very significant adjustment program, aimed at addressing the severe impact of the global economic crisis and restoring macroeconomic stability and fiscal sustainability, thereby setting the conditions for renewed economic growth and poverty reduction. In particular, they plan to:
• Reduce the very large budget deficit by curtailing spending and implementing revenue measures, in order to restore economic stability and fiscal sustainability;
• Protect critical social spending and broaden the coverage of the pension system. The targeting of food, medicine and other subsidies to the poor will also be enhanced. For instance, across-the-board electricity subsidies have been eliminated and replaced by a cost-based electricity pricing formula combined with a subsidy mechanism for the poor;
• Reduce excess liquidity of the Maldivian rufiyaa and rebuild reserves to prudent levels; and
• Strengthen the financial system.