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

Washington, DC
February 17, 2011
Webcast of the press conference Webcast

Mr. Hawley: Good morning, everybody. I’m David Hawley, and welcome to another of our regular press briefings. As usual, the briefing is under embargo until 10:30 Washington time. That's 15:30 GMT.

Let me start, as usual, with housekeeping before turning to questions. The Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, will today and tomorrow take part in a conference in Paris, and then on Saturday, he and the First Deputy Managing Director, John Lipsky, will attend the G-20 Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. I expect there will be some press availability following their participation and for details on that, you should turn to media relations.

Looking further ahead, Mr. Strauss-Kahn will visit Latin America. He will be in Panama on February 28, in Uruguay on March 2, and in Brazil on March 3. There will be public events and some press availability in connection with this visit, and, again, we’ll have details closer to the time. So, with those preliminaries, I’m ready for questions. Please?

QUESTION: I would like to ask you if you are thinking to abolish the status of oral press conferences in Greece by replacing them with written announcements after the discontent of Greek government.

MR. HAWLEY: Communication is important and it should be effective. We are not prescriptive as to the manner in which it takes place.

QUESTION: What will Strauss-Kahn’s main message be to the G-20 in terms of reaching any agreement and whether to move forward and reform the Special Drawing Right to include the Yuan?

MR. HAWLEY: I don’t want to anticipate the outcome of the G-20. He will be talking to the press afterwards, so, I’ll leave that to the weekend, if I may.

QUESTION: David, do you have anything for us on whether the G-20 is going to ask the IMF to look further into the issue of capital flows far and beyond what it’s been doing as far as talking about volatility and how countries deal with it. Has the IMF been asked? And, number two, when could we expect something like that?

MR. HAWLEY: I’m going to leave G-20 until the weekend. Let’s see what comes out of the G-20 and allow the Managing Director and John Lipsky to talk about the meeting.

QUESTION: The Obama budget just came out last week. I don't know if the IMF has weighed in on that, but last year’s budget, you guys had estimated that the economic projections in it and the deficit and debt reductions were too rosy. I’m just wondering if you have an initial view on the latest budget.

MR. HAWLEY: Yes, the authorities in the U.S. are continuing to work towards stabilizing the fiscal situation, but this will require spending cuts as well as revenue increases, and given the size of the fiscal task ahead, it would be helpful if the budget targeted some additional fiscal consolidation in [2011.]

I’ll take a question, if I may, from the Media Briefing Center. “When is the next technical mission going to Argentina? How do you explain the delay?”

As we’ve said, the IMF’s staff expects to make further visits to Argentina in the context of its technical assistance work with that country, and we hope for visits that would allow us to present final conclusions on the issue and recommendations to the authorities sometime in April. However, since a date has not been set for the second mission, one can’t speak of a delay.

QUESTION: Yes. I want to remain on the Greek government’s discontent. It said that the Greek government does not take orders from anyone. Are you thinking that this discontent is justified?

MR. HAWLEY: The European partners and the IMF have full respect for the prerogatives and initiatives of the Greek authorities in all areas of decision-making. If a different impression was perceived, that is regrettable.

QUESTION: If I can just follow on that. So, are you now in talks with the Greek government to possibly diminish the amount of privatization that would be needed for the program?

MR. HAWLEY: On that issue, I would note that the Greek government has designed a program to maximize returns from Greece’s large portfolio of public enterprise and public property. Its European partners and the IMF are supporting this through offering technical advice to the government on how to design such a plan.

QUESTION: I’m also going to stick with Greece because is the IMF concerned that these tensions that came to the fore over the weekend and continue to persist could in any way cause the program to go off track if the government continues to resist privatizations?

MR. HAWLEY: I can only describe our current view of the program, which is known, as you know, is that we assess it to be broadly on track.

I have another question from the Online Media Briefing Center, asking whether there have been any plans, emergency lending, advisory, or other to be discussed with countries from the Middle East and North Africa undergoing political exchange. As we have said on a number of occasions in recent days, we look forward to be in contact with the authorities as they define their programs going forward, and we stand ready to support them in ways that they would see fit.

QUESTION: Turning to Cote d’Ivoire, there have been runs on banks, international banks have closed their facilities in Abidjan. What is the status of the IMF’s relations at the moment and you know that the stock exchange for the region is in Abidjan, and that was also closed.

MR. HAWLEY: I don’t have anything specific on Cote d’Ivoire. Naturally, we follow events closely.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow-up on U.S. budget. The IMF is suggesting even further consolidation in 2012, and I’m wondering if you could provide some kind of guidance on do you see consolidation as far as spending cuts or tax increases or is there a disappointment that the budget does not address entitlements?

MR. HAWLEY: You’re really throwing the question forward to how we see the medium-term consolidation in the U.S.

QUESTION: No, this is the 2012 budget that we’re talking about.

MR. HAWLEY: I’ve got nothing further on my comment earlier.

QUESTION: Yes, has the Greek government raised any objections against that plan of privatization of public assets? I mean, did the Greek government agree with IMF, your representatives, during the negotiations on that plan?

MR. HAWLEY: I’m sorry, I’m not sure I quite understand the question.

QUESTION: I mean do you know if the Greek government has any objections on this plan of exploiting or selling public assets or it’s only a proposal by the representatives of you and IMF?

MR. HAWLEY: Well, I believe it’s the case that the government has a program to maximize the returns –

QUESTION: Has a program…?

MR. HAWLEY: Has designed a program, and we stand ready to offer advice.

QUESTION: This is about the Ukraine. What more does the IMF expect from the government to do to actually -- because, as you know, the Fund last week never completed the mission. What does the Fund expect from the government to finish this mission and to come to an agreement?

MR. HAWLEY: Well, we made a statement on February 15, and I haven't got anything to add to that statement. There have been no further developments,

QUESTION: Do you expect this to be resolved before the bond repayment next month?

MR. HAWLEY: I don’t have a comment on that.

QUESTION: And last question.

MR. HAWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: So, this program of selling, exploiting public assets is the initiative from the Greek government and you support this initiative technically, right?

MR. HAWLEY: Yes, as I said, the government has designed a program to maximize returns from its public enterprises and public property. We’re supportive, and we offer technical advice.

QUESTION: I’m going to go to Ukraine because I don’t think the statement was that fully detailed on what the situation was because when is the mission expected? We know that they're going to continue talks. Is the mission going to go back? Just more clarity on exactly what’s going on.

MR. HAWLEY: I’ll have to come back to you on that one.

QUESTION: The Fund has not said anything more on the European bailout fund or the EFSF.

MR. HAWLEY: We have said nothing fresh in the last couple of days.

QUESTION: Yes, well, and not since they increased the amount of money that's available. Does the Fund think that that was an appropriate amount?

MR. HAWLEY: We welcome efforts towards a comprehensive plan in this regard. I haven't got a fresh comment on that. Okay, thank you very much. With that, it’s closed and embargoed until 10:30. Thank you.



IMF EXTERNAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT

Public Affairs    Media Relations
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