Transcript of a Press Briefing by Caroline Atkinson, Director, External Relations Department

Washington, D.C.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Webcast of the press conference Webcast

MS. ATKINSON: Good morning. I am Caroline Atkinson, Director of the External Relations Department at the IMF. Welcome to our regular biweekly press briefings. Journalists online are also participating. As usual, the press briefing is embargoed until 10:30 a.m. Washington time, 1530 GMT.

Today the Executive Board of the IMF is going to be discussing the Standby Arrangement for Jamaica. This as you know is an important element in helping Jamaica, which has suffered from the impact of the global financial crisis, to address some of the structural weaknesses that have held back growth in that economy and to provide the basis for strong and sustainable growth going forward and to make it less vulnerable to external shocks and its people less vulnerable. We'll be publishing later today the outcome of that Board discussion.

Onto some other issues, management travel. I'm sure you're aware that there is a G-7 Finance Ministers' meeting in Iqaluit in Canada on February 6 and 7 and Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and our First Deputy Managing Director John Lipsky will be there for that. There is no formal press briefing from the IMF planned up in Canada.

Next week on February 12, John Lipsky will be in Mumbai giving a speech at the Reserve Bank of India at their conference on Challenges to central banking in the context of the crisis. That will be open to the press and we will let you know about an advanced text for the speech. He will then be visiting Africa on an important trip to Liberia and Ghana. In Monrovia he will be meeting with the authorities, parliamentarians, international organizations, and he will also be participating in a discussion with university students. In Accra he will also be meeting with parliamentarians, CSOs and giving a press conference on February 17.

Let me now turn to your questions and remind any journalists participating online to submit your questions to the Online Media Briefing Center, and please identify yourselves and your affiliation.

QUESTION: We have seen some contagion going on from the situation in Greece and I was wondering how concerned the IMF was about that considering that now it's affecting also U.S. markets including the euro as well. Investors are worried that the situation isn't under control. The question is how do you bring back confidence. Do you have any comments on that?

MS. ATKINSON: As you, it's always difficult to understand particularly what's driving market developments on one day. What is important for markets over the long-run is that there are strong fundamentals in place and I'm sure you know that the E.U. this week yesterday released its comments on the important stability program that the Greek government has put in place saying that they supported this, and I believe that ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet repeated this morning that this program was welcome and appropriate. So I think the key going forward is for there to be a strong commitment to policy reform.

QUESTION: Has the IMF looked at the fiscal plan?

MS. ATKINSON: The E.U. has made comments on the details of the fiscal plan. It was a plan for the E.U. As you know, I think the IMF had a technical team in Athens because the Greek authorities are very interested in getting any help from us on the technical implementation of the plan. We certainly believe that the goals of the plan are appropriate.

QUESTION: I was wondering also of you have comments today on the ECB's decision to hold rates.

MS. ATKINSON: We've said before that we do believe that given the continued fragility of the economy recovery that it is important to maintain an accommodative stance and I believe the ECB's decision is welcome and fully appropriate.

QUESTION: I was wondering that the MD's role is going to be at the G-7 and what message he is going to deliver there.

MS. ATKINSON: The Managing Director will be talking in more detail about the global economy. We had our WEO and GFSR update last week and typically at the G-7, ministers and governors look to the IMF to bring a global picture so that he will be discussing of the timing and appropriate way of exiting from extraordinary measures, the prospects for the global economy and for individual G-7 economies. Of course, other issues can come up on the sidelines at any time. But as I mentioned, we are not planning a formal press briefing as this is a closed-door meeting.

QUESTION (ONLINE) U.K. Foreign Secretary Miliband has said we address the economic problems that face Yemen especially through the IMF program and is asking what is the IMF doing with or about Yemen. We'll get back to you, Matthew, on Yemen. I don't have any up-to-date information

QUESTION: I'd like to ask you about the report coming out of Paris today about Dominique Strauss-Kahn telling radio that he could leave his position early to run for the 2012 presidential election. Has the MD indicated this formally to the Fund or to the board that that is on his mind? And what would be the process for this?

MS. ATKINSON: Thank you very much. First of all, you may want to read or listen to the radio interview. In fact, he repeated what he said many times which is that he plans to see out his mandate at the IMF. All the rest of your question is therefore hypothetical and one thing I've learned is not to answer hypothetical questions.

QUESTION (ONLINE): Some have said that the IMF's new loan to Haiti should not be a loan, but a grant

MS. ATKINSON: I believe I also talked about this last week because it was last Wednesday that our financing was approved for Haiti. I made the point then that our financing for Haiti is interest free. Haiti owes the IMF no debt service now and will not for at least 2 years even if nothing else changes. Of course, we know that there is a big international effort to help Haiti underway now and our money is part of that and it goes to help them finance essential imports and to build up their reserves and to help them improve their banking system which is a very important to get cash into the economy. Down the road a number of people have talked about debt relief. That is not a today issue as regards any payments to the IMF.

QUESTION (ONLINE): Russia has decided to focus on the G-20 and is foregoing the meeting of the financial G-7. Will it be missed as far as the IMF is concerned?

MS. ATKINSON: We do believe the G-20 is an extremely important gathering. It proved itself last year. Of course, I expect that the G-7 finance ministers and governors will also have useful and interesting discussions this weekend. The G-20 has certainly last year made an important contribution to international cooperation.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you have any update on Iceland and whether there is any resolution?

MS. ATKINSON: I have no update on Iceland. As you know, we are in contact with the authorities and there will be an issue of securing financing for the authorities' program.

QUESTION (ONLINE):

Update on Argentina -- is there a mission planned? Recently the government has forced the central bank to transfer resources to pay the national debt. Are you concerned about the independence of Argentina's central bank?

MS. ATKINSON: We have no new information. Of course, as you know and as I've said many times, we have a very strong resident representative in Argentina on the ground in touch with the authorities, Gaston Gelos, and that continues to be the case. Of course, we believe that the independence of central banks is very important for monetary policy all over the world.

Thank you very much. Again, the embargo is until 10:30 Washington time, 1530 GMT.



IMF EXTERNAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT

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