Transcript of a Press Briefing by William Murray, Deputy Spokesperson, Communications Department, International Monetary FundWashington, D.C.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
|Webcast of the press briefing|
MR. MURRAY: Hi, good day. I’m William Murray in the Communications Department at the International Monetary Fund here in Washington. This is one of our regular biweekly press briefings. We’re embargoed until 10:30 a.m. Washington time; that’s 1430 GMT.
As usual I’m going to run through a few items and then open the floor to questions. I would also encourage those of you that are watching online currently to start submitting your questions to the IMF press center so that we can get to those as well.
So what I’m going to do is I’m going to start with the management travel. Because this is our last briefing before the spring meetings here in Washington, I’m just going to run through a couple of items on the spring meetings. And then I want to also mention something on Guinea and Ebola before going to questions.
On the management travel side, Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu is participating in the Boao Forum for Asia, which is in China March 26-29. He has a number of speaking engagements in the context of this forum, which is thematically called “Asia’s New Future towards a Community of Common Destiny.” That’s Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu March 26-29.
Again, Deputy Managing Director Min is traveling after that to New York where he will speak at a U.N. ECOSOC event on March 30. It’s entitled “The Big Think: Employment and Growth.” He’s on a panel that is being moderated by a journalist that you know, along with ILO’s Guy Ryder and Joseph Stiglitz.
QUESTIONER: I’m sorry, which journalist?
MR. MURRAY: Richard Quest, who will be moderating. Now let me get into the spring meetings. Again, the spring meetings press registration is open now. It’s online. Make sure you register early and often. And we look forward to seeing you in Washington in the next few weeks. I’m going to run through some of the items that are of interest and this is on the public schedule now.
The World Economic Outlook background/analytic chapters’ press conference will be here at IMF Headquarters on April 7. The following day the Global Financial Stability Report’s analytic chapter press conference will be here at headquarters on April 8. April 8 as well will be when the Fiscal Monitor analytic chapters/background chapters will also have a press conference here at headquarters. Documents will be provided to you under embargo via the online press center.
Mark on your calendars as well April 9; that is when Managing Director Christine Lagarde will have an address, a speech, at the Atlantic Council here in Washington. She will preview some of the key agenda items for the spring meetings here in Washington, along with some key issues for the IMF in the period ahead.
Then on April 14, which is basically the start of the spring meeting events, there’s the World Economic Outlook press conference on April 14. April 15 is the main chapters of the Global Financial Stability Report press conference, as well on April 15 is the Fiscal Monitor press conference here at IMF Headquarters.
On April 16, Managing Director Lagarde will have her pre-spring meetings’ press conference. Again, in that context she will be releasing her global policy agenda. We’ll be giving that to you under embargo. The global policy agenda basically summarizes some of the key findings of the flagship’s World Economic Outlook, Global Financial Stability Report, and the Fiscal Monitor, and tees up some key agenda items for the period ahead. Obviously among them are developments on the international monetary front and some of the other important macro critical issues like climate change and financing for development. So that’s on April 16.
Then other things to watch for is on Friday, April 17, there will be a series of regional economic outlook briefings, briefings by our African Department or Asia-Pacific Department, the European Department, the Middle East and Central Asia Department, and the Western Hemisphere Department. That’s Friday, April 17. The directors and senior staff of those departments will be briefing the press on key economic developments in their regions.
And then the International Monetary and Financial Committee, that’s a policy-guiding body of the Fund, will be meeting on Saturday, April 18. Obviously, Agustin Carstens, the head of the Mexican Central Bank, is now the Chair of the International Monetary and Financial Committee. This will be the first meeting he chairs. He and the Managing Director, along with First Deputy Managing Director Lipton, will have a press conference to wrap up the discussions of the Committee on the afternoon of April 18.
So that’s a summary of some of the key press events. There’s a lot of other things going on. I direct you to the public schedule for the seminars and things of that nature, topical seminars, whicht are of interest.
Now, let me just turn to -- before I go to questions -- let me turn Guinea. What I would like to bring to your attention is a press release that was issued this morning before this briefing started announcing nearly $30 million of debt relief to Guinea under the new Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust. Approval of this debt relief will provide added resources for recovery from the Ebola crisis when Guinea’s debt repayments to the Fund begin in 2017.
It’s also important to note that with the approval of this debt relief, the Fund has now fully met its commitment to assist Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. We have provided a total of $390 million of assistance, including $100 million of grant aid for debt relief, to these three Ebola-stricken countries. The idea of this money helps the three governments to fund increased public health spending and other essential outlays during the crisis. And that’s the last point I want to make.
The Ebola crisis is not over. There has been a sharp increase of infections in Guinea over the past week. Sierra Leone is making progress, but still has new cases, and Liberia has reported a patient testing positive after nearly a month without any new infections. The Fund, as we have stated all along, will continue to do all it can within its mandate to assist in the effort to combat Ebola.
With that let me open the floor to questions.
QUESTIONER: I want to ask a point on what you just described, the plans for the spring meetings. Do you expect progress at the spring meetings on the quota reports?
MR. MURRAY: Well, as you know, in January the Executive Board of the Fund issued a statement, a report really with a cover statement to the Board of Governors. That’s the ministerial body that ultimately oversees the operations, the policy activities, of the IMF. In that statement we set June 30 as the deadline for action by the Board of Governors on interim steps regarding how to deal with the lack of ratification of the 2010 Quota and Governance Reforms. So work is underway and it’s continuing and I would expect that this issue will be discussed in some detail when the ministers convene here in Washington in mid-April.
QUESTIONER: Since I have the floor for now.
MR. MURRAY: One more.
QUESTIONER: I just wanted to ask you a question, if you wish, on theory. Can a country that’s in default on its debts have an ongoing program with the Fund?
MR. MURRAY: We’re changing topics. We’re not on quota anymore. We have a non-tolerance policy, and I want to be specific on that. The Fund does maintain a policy of non-toleration of arrears. That’s the name, “Non-toleration of Arrears.” The Fund does maintain a policy of non-toleration of arrears to official bilateral creditors. This policy requires the elimination of existing arrears and the non-accumulation of new arrears during the program period with respect to official creditors.
QUESTIONER: So you understand the context of my question.
MR. MURRAY: What is the context of your question?
QUESTIONER: Ukraine, obviously, because there’s been a discussion about the Russian loan of $3 billion. The Russians have indicated they are not prepared at this point to reschedule the loan. So I guess my question is if Ukraine does not pay it, does it mean that the program will be jeopardy under your rule, which you just described?
MR. MURRAY: Well, I’m not prepared to go there. It’s really too early to speculate on that. The applicability of this policy in the context of the program for Ukraine, as you know, the Ukrainian authorities are in an active discussion/consultation/negotiation, however you want to characterize it, with their private creditors. That is ongoing. We are obviously interested in how it develops, but we’re not party to those discussions. We’re seeing how they go.
And once that plays out, we’ll have a better sense. As you know, in every Fund-supported program, the Fund defines the financing envelopes that should be available during the program period, taking into account the country-specific circumstances. So there’s various ways to obtain financing and covering financing gaps and the overall amount needs to be secured one way or another. So we’re waiting to see how that plays and ultimately in the context of Ukraine, it’s up to the authorities and their creditors to determine whether and how much debt is to be restructured and how much financing needs to be obtained from this source.
QUESTIONER: Just to follow up on that. First of all, the IMF has already speculated that there would be debt restructuring before there were any talks. So I’m not sure how the IMF can’t comment on speculation when it has speculated itself. So if you could address that as a question.
Secondly, does the IMF consider the Russian $3 billion as official credit or corporate credit? You said there’s a non-toleration of arrears to official bilateral creditors, and so the IMF when assessing Ukrainian debt as it already has must have made an assessment on that $3 billion in Russian debt. Is it bilateral creditor debt or is it private creditor debt?
MR. MURRAY: Andrei will correct me if I’m wrong. If I’m not mistaken, the $3 billion euro bond comes from Russian Sovereign Wealth Fund, so it’s official. In terms of speculation, I mean the fact is we have a policy. The fact is that it’s way too early to be applying it to Ukraine.
QUESTIONER: Coming back to Ukraine, previously, the Ukrainian government said they were seeking to finish the debt talks by June, at the time of the next IMF review, but now there seems to be a bit of shifting of that time frame.
What is kind of the IMF’s perspective? Do you need to have all that decided, are you willing to give them a little more flexibility in coming up with that $15.3 billion?
MR. MURRAY: Thanks for that question. I’ll have to get back to you on hard deadlines here, but June is a pretty long time away, if we have any change in view, but let’s see how this plays out. They have been talking to their creditors. I’m going to leave it at that. We will share it.
“To follow up on the question about the deadline for debt negotiations, let me point to the published Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies. Paragraph 26 states that the debt operation is expected to be finalized by the time of the first program review, which is planned for June.
Also, let me take this opportunity to clarify my earlier remarks on Ukraine’s Eurobond debt to Russia and its status as official or not. No determination has been made by the Fund as to the status of this claim. And as I mentioned at the top of today’s press briefing, my remarks on the policy were not in the context of Ukraine, which is not in arrears on this claim.”
Excerpt from the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies
To secure adequate public sector financing in the coming years, while also putting public debt firmly on a downward path, we intend to consult with the holders of public sector debt on a debt operation to improve medium-term debt sustainability. To facilitate this consultation, and in line with international best practice, we have hired financial and legal advisors (prior action). While the specific terms of the debt operation would be determined following our consultations with creditors, it would be guided by the following program objectives: (i) generate US$15 billion in public sector financing during the program period; (ii) bring the public and publicly guaranteed debt/GDP ratio under 71 percent of GDP by 2020; and (iii) keep the budget’s gross financing needs at an average of 10 percent of GDP (maximum of 12 percent of GDP annually) in 2019–2025. The restructuring is expected to be based on the program baseline macro framework applicable at the time the debt operation is launched. The debt operation is expected to be finalized by the time of the first review.
QUESTIONER: I would like to follow up on the Ukraine. Russia and Brazil, during the votes on the Ukraine program, are you concerned about this unusual level of dissent within the IMF, and also it is my understanding that the military expenses were going to grow during the program, don’t you feel you could be accused of financing a military intervention at the same time that you are trying to help Ukraine recover economically?
MR. MURRAY: A couple of different questions there. Jeremy, you know we typically don’t get into votes and things of that nature, so I’m not going to comment on these reported abstentions. The program has been approved. Now, there is a regular review process that is set up. That’s the main point, there’s a program in place in the Ukraine.
In terms of the military spending, I really don’t have much to offer you on that. There are checks and balances. The whole point is our financing aims to help restore the reserves of the national bank, the central bank, to adequate levels. That’s the point of the program, while facilitating the payment of some external debts.
That’s why we have programs by and large with countries. Together, the financing to be provided by the international community -- this program will help the authorities achieve key objectives of their economic program to restore macroeconomic and financial stability while protecting the most vulnerable.
QUESTIONER: Good morning. According to the Greek government, Ms. Lagarde spoke yesterday with our Prime Minister. First of all, there are some reports that the Prime Minister asked Ms. Lagarde for a favor to postpone the next payment. Can you tell us if he asked to postpone the next payment, please?
MR. MURRAY: Thanks. Yes, I can confirm the Managing Director and Prime Minister Tsipras spoke yesterday on the telephone. They had a constructive conversation that focused on next steps in taking forward the policy discussions related to the IMF’s continued support of Greece’s reform program.
Technical discussions on ongoing in Athens, with the aim of doing a comprehensive stock taking, which is expected to be followed by a discussion on policies. Beyond that, I don’t have any guidance for you on anything, any detailed aspect of the conversation.
QUESTIONER: Can you take the question because it is very important if the Prime Minister of Greece asked for a postponement, to postpone the payment.
MR. MURRAY: I’m not aware of that. We’ll have to get back to you if there is any --
QUESTIONER: I will follow up. According to the Greek government, Ms. Lagarde is furious because today, after five years in the program, the rich people in Greece still today, they don’t pay their taxes. Any comment on this?
MR. MURRAY: I’m not going to characterize the tone of our views vis-à-vis the wealthy in Greece, but we have been pretty clear, not just the Managing Director, but throughout the whole Fund system, pretty clear about the need for their burden sharing among Greek taxpayers, particularly among the most wealthy of society. Beyond that, I don’t have anything more to add.
QUESTIONER: Two questions with respect to Greece. First of all, there were payments due this month of approximately $1 billion SDR, if I’m not mistaken. Can you confirm those have been received?
MR. MURRAY: I can confirm they have been received; yes.
QUESTIONER: Secondly, you talked about the policies with respect to arrears when a country falls into arrears with another, with a bilateral official creditor. What is the Fund’s policy on repayment of money owing to the Fund?
MR. MURRAY: To the Fund. Again --
QUESTIONER: Is there any tolerance on arrears?
MR. MURRAY: You want to know about our arrears’ policy; sure. Number one, I want to make it clear, Greece has stated -- the Greek authorities have stated publicly they fully intend to pay the Fund. That is where things stand.
My remarks on our arrears’ policy have nothing to do with Greece specifically. In general, if a country fails to pay the IMF, and typically that is by close of business on the due date, they immediately go into arrears’ status with the institution, and are not eligible for additional financing. That’s the basic policy. This is general. This applies to any country. Like I said, the Greek authorities have said they fully intend to repay the Fund.
QUESTIONER: In general, there has been some talk about the importance of the IMF’s kind of preferred creditor status. Can you comment on that? How important is it?
I mean the IMF has asserted in the past that that is the de facto number one preferred creditor throughout the world, that if for some reason the IMF were not to be repaid, then the entire kind of creditor system would unravel because you are the lender of last resort.
How important to the IMF is it to maintain that status?
MR. MURRAY: The answer is in your question. I mean, this is it. We are a lender of last resort. We take the ultimate risks, and that’s why under convention, the Fund has preferred creditor status.
It helps countries who repay in full faith their outstanding debt to the institution, maintains a standing in the international financial community and the international community in general, it’s positive.
Don’t forget, we are the International Monetary Fund. We’re not an investment bank. We don’t have clients. We have members or what we view as partners. We are recycling funds from 187 countries to one particular country or numbers of countries. We are a custodian of sorts of other people’s resources, and we have an important custodial responsibility or duty to make sure the funds are sound. That is the basic convention.
I am going to take one more question on this side of the room, one here, and I have a couple on the screen that I want to get to.
QUESTIONER: I wanted to ask you about Yemen. I asked online actually a couple of times ago, and you had said it wasn’t helpful but there would be a review in the spring. Now, with these air strikes by Saudi Arabia and Houthi’s moving on Aden, what is the status of the IMF’s program, and what is the thinking, how are you going to review it?
MR. MURRAY: Thanks for that question. Well, obviously, we are watching the rapidly evolving situation in Yemen carefully and closely at the moment. Given a host of uncertainties surrounding Yemen at this moment, the first review under the Fund supported program is postponed until the situation clarifies.
When it will clarify? Can’t say. Certainly, the review mission is postponed. One of our biggest concerns about Yemen is the impact on the poorest there, and the economic reverberations of events. Way too soon to say what those will be, but we are just going to have to keep an eye on the situation.
QUESTIONER: Has the IMF had any kind contact with the Houthi’s since they have been in contact --
MR. MURRAY: I’m not aware of any recent contact with the Houthi’s, certainly not in recent days. I really don’t have any recent guidance on that.
Let’s go to this person here and then we will go to the screen. Thank you.
MR. MURRAY: Okay, I’ll come back to you then. The Executive Board -- let me tell you a little bit about our process right now, and then I will get to your question. The Executive Board of the IMF is working with our staff, the technical experts on our staff, about the various options and what those options translate to in terms of impact on quota shares, et cetera, highly technical detailed work.
That process is ongoing. They’re soliciting input from the membership, who is represented by the Executive Board. Eventually, the Executive Board -- we have this June 30 deadline -- eventually, the Executive Board will coalesce around a particular proposal, and then submit a report to the Board of Governors for action.
The Board of Governors, ultimately the Ministers, are going to have to approve anything that comes out of the Executive Board.
We have set this June 30 deadline. I’m not aware at this stage of any proposal that does not involved some form of U.S. approval. That is really where it stands.
QUESTIONER: Second question about Asian Infrastructure Investment bank, the AIIB. When Ms. Lagarde was in China, she said the IMF welcomed the AIIB and was delighted to collaborate. Has the IMF started any discussion with the AAIB, perhaps any support you can provide?
MR. MURRAY: Thanks for the question. Well, as you know and you referred to, the Managing Director was just in China this past week, visits to Shanghai and Beijing, had meetings at the highest level of government. AIIB is just getting going. She was pretty clear that we stand ready to work with AIIB.
Now, don’t forget the space that a development bank works in in the global economy versus the space that the IMF works in. I mean we’re focused on the international monetary system, basically, the macroeconomic, fiscal and monetary policies that are evolving at the country level, the regional level, the global level, and that’s the space that we work in. We provide financing. We provide technical assistance.
We have extensive technical assistance relationships with China on fiscal policy, for example, work with them very closely, very actively. Heavily engaged with China in that sense.
The cooperation in general, World Bank, AIIB, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, EBRD, all these development banks that currently exist, we cooperate with them in a sense because we provide a macroeconomic foundation.
We keep an eye on economic developments at the country level, the countries that they operate in. They come to us regularly, routinely, to gain insights into the macro developments, because this is going to factor into their project related activities.
That’s a pretty standard form of cooperation we have with all lateral development banks. So we are actively engaged with all of them in terms of providing insights, guidance, recommendations on macro developments. Of course, their activities, too, impact the macro economy, the fiscal and monetary policies that countries pursue and regional bodies pursue, et cetera.
So there's a symbiosis, a natural symbiosis that evolves out of these institutions and then, it's basically the drift of the remarks by the Managing Director in China.
Okay, let me go to the screen here and we're going to change subjects a little bit. How would the military operation launch today in Yemen affect the MENA region and in particular, the Gulf area economies? Do you think it will affect the oil market and if yes, what would be the effects in the short, medium and long-term?
Thank you for asking the question. It's very early to say what the impact will be over the medium to long-term. You know, this obviously has created some volatility in markets today but I can't go beyond that so I don't have anything to offer you.
But we do have, as I mentioned at the top of the briefing, the world economic outlook, global financial stability report press conference is coming up in mid-April. Clearly, these are issues that -- well, world oil prices factor large in the current macro outlook and geopolitical risks.
Okay, change of topic here. This is on Ghana from George Waife Multimedia Broadcasting Limited, Joy FM. Is the IMF satisfied with economic data presented by Ghana for the program?
I'm going to have to -- let me get to the brief here, George. I’m not sure I have -- I may have to get back to you on that. Okay, bear with me, one second, I'm sorry. I have to look at -- I don't have a specific -- let me just give some background for those of you that haven't followed this closely.
It was really on February 26th, so just last month, the authorities and the Fund staff reached understandings on macro-economic policies including a medium-term fiscal path consistent with ensuring debt sustainability and reducing the external current account deficit. The executive board is expected to discuss the proposed program in early April.
So I think what I'm going to have to do -- I'll look into this a little bit I think it's best the board will take up the data, I can take up the data question around the timing of the executive board meeting. I don't have anything specific to offer you at the moment.
I've just gotten some guidance. We understand that the authorities have clarified with the Parliament actually yesterday that their budget financing plan. So these financing plans appear to be consistent with the agreement reached at staff level back on February 26th on a new IMF support program. Hence, I don't see this as an issue going into the board meeting that we expect in early April.
QUESTIONER: Where are the members of the technical team? The last time --
MR. MURRAY: Yeah, I don't -- each member would -- you know, we've said the same --
QUESTIONER: -- I mean, do you have a team in Athens right now or in Brussels?
MR. MURRAY: Yes, yeah, yeah. Athens. Yeah, we do.
QUESTIONER: Okay. Did they receive what they want from the Greek government?
MR. MURRAY: Did they receive what they want? Well, there are ongoing discussions from the Greek authorities on this so.
QUESTIONER: Okay, and the last question from me today is that our colleagues at Bloomberg, our good colleagues, they wrote a few days ago that and I quote "Officials at the International Monetary Fund have labeled Greece the most unhelpful country they have dealt with in their 70 years' history." Do you have any comment on this?
MR. MURRAY: Just two comments. One I wish we had -- they had checked with us before that story was published, number one. Number two, as we told them, subsequently there is no basis in fact to that contention and no such remark was made.
Okay, I'm going to wrap this up pretty soon. There and then, back here.
QUESTIONER: Just following up on two different things. You said there was no comment on the board vote for the Ukraine package. It's my understanding there has not been a PIN, a public information notice, issued on that -- the IMF you said you don’t comment on board votes. But the public information notices are very much a comment on the board discussion on any number of issues.
MR. MURRAY: Right, sure.
QUESTIONER: And it includes indications on the whether or not there was general consensus, disagreement, et cetera.
MR. MURRAY: Right.
QUESTIONER: So you know, I don't understand why you can't give us some indication on the Ukraine --
MR. MURRAY: Understand; let me clarify my remark a little bit better for the audience. We do not publish votes, okay? It's been a rare occasion where votes by the executive board or abstentions by the executive board have been published by the institution.
That is at the, you know, if the member wants to have its vote entered into the public record, it can do that. There's been no such effort as I'm aware of. So we -- I don't comment on that.
The summaries that we publish do indicate areas where there is a large view of consensus and there's areas where there may not be unanimous consensus. That's a different story but in terms of individual actions by seats, that's really -- we don't go into that unless the -- and there's been rare occasions and I can't say it's unprecedented. It's happened but there been very rare occasions where a member has actually insisted on its view, its specific view being entered into the public record.
QUESTIONER: So just to clarify on that particular vote, not to get into the details but can you not give us some indication whether there was unanimous consensus or what --
MR. MURRAY: I'm not going to characterize it but the program's approved. The program's in place. We're proceeding. That's the bottom line.
QUESTIONER: I understand but also in the Greek program, there was some discussion about it. Raising questions about its sustainability, whether it was a wise thing to do, five years down the road we're still in the middle of a crisis.
So secondly, on --
MR. MURRAY: I think that's a healthy thing to have. Those kind of discussions should happen in the context of any IMF program. We take -- as we mentioned, we are the lender of last resort. We're there when countries are in serious trouble and obviously, there are a lot of considerations that go into every IMF program.
QUESTIONER: -- and secondly, on the arrears issue with Ukraine and the Russian debt. You said that the IMF has a strict, no tolerance policy for lending to arrears and yet, NAFTAGAS was in arrears and was -- is 100 percent state-owned, 100 percent state-guaranteed and yet, the IMF figured out a way not to make it --
MR. MURRAY: As far I understand it was a commercial transaction.
QUESTIONER: -- which but it is a state, 100 percent state-owned entity. So I'm just curious about whether any sort of funny accounting could also happen with the Russian debt?
MR. MURRAY: You're asking me to spec --
QUESTIONER: You called it official debt, so I just want to preserve --
MR. MURRAY: -- you're asking me to speculate.
QUESTIONER: -- no, no, no. I'm just --
MR. MURRAY: You're asking me to speculate about --
QUESTIONER: -- clarifying that you're saying --
MR. MURRAY: -- (inaudible) so I don't expect that --
QUESTIONER: -- you called it very specifically official debt. So I just want to make sure that on the record that you said that the Russia debt is official sovereign sector debt and so it would be considered --
MR. MURRAY: As far as I know that's --
QUESTIONER: -- if it’s not paid --
MR. MURRAY: -- as I asked, Andre and I were consulting each other here earlier, it comes from sovereign wealth.
QUESTIONER: Great, okay. Just wanted to clarify that.
MR. MURRAY: Thanks.
QUESTIONER: Just a very quick follow-up if you are going to be publishing the PIN but then, for Ukraine, since it hasn't been published, the summary of the board discussion? I don't believe --
MR. MURRAY: It would have been in the press release.
QUESTIONER: Okay, so I must have --
MR. MURRAY: You know the statement by the chair. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.
QUESTIONER: Okay, got it.
MR. MURRAY: Yeah, just go -- if you have another question?
QUESTIONER: And then, I was just wondering if you had any comments about the Fed's press conference last week and whether the IMF is shifting your estimates for when the Fed could raise rates. In the past you said it was in line with consensus which used to be July so is there any comments?
MR. MURRAY: Yeah, I mean, in general, we expect some time from midyear onward as a zone. In terms of being more precise than that, I don't feel comfortable right now. I mean Olivier and Jose will, Jose Vinals, our financial counselor and who will lead the global financial stability report press conference and Olivier Blanchard, our chief economist will lead the WEO, World Economic Outlook press conference. They're prepared to get into some of the nuances of the current situation but by and large, you know, our view on the Fed is continue communicating actively with the world on where policy is heading. The fewer surprises the better and that's what they appear to be doing at the moment.
I'm going to take one question on Egypt and then, I think I'm going to try to wrap this up with Matthew, okay? Is that -- let's go there.
The Egyptian government received financial support from Gulf counties and announced a number of investments during the economic conference. This conference was just held at Sharm el-Sheikh a week or so ago. How does the Fund see this? Is it enough or will it need external funding?
Thanks for that question. Let me give you a take on that. The money received during the conference that you refer to in the form of donations, grants and investments came at an important time for Egypt. It will help in completing the reform efforts the Sisi government has been talking about. However, this also comes as preliminary help.
The government also has a role in developing and strengthening the economy to ensure macro-economic stability and put the economy on a sustainable path otherwise it will continue depending on external support and the economy will continue struggling. Now, I mean, that's where we stand.
We are not in talks on a new program financing arrangement at this time and so far the authorities have not requested IMF financing. But as we've indicated, we'd be ready to consider such a request when the authorities feel it is opportune.
QUESTIONER: Thanks a lot. This is the kind of question that sometimes doesn’t get -- you can't get it in online. So I wanted to ask it since I'm here.
MR. MURRAY: Yeah, welcome to Washington.
QUESTIONER: It has to do with Haiti. There's reporting in Haiti that the IMF may decline to sign an agreement or to proceed with them given the sub -- you know, if they continue to subsidize electricite d'Haiti. And so, people are obviously very concerned. A lot of people don't have any electricity. Is that -- do you either know or can you get an answer on what the status of that is?
MR. MURRAY: Let me check to see. I don't, you know, this is not something that jumps out at me at the moment but let me see if I have something to offer you on that. We will get back to you and we'll share with everybody here. Hold on a second. Let me see if we have -- I have something on Haiti. I don't believe I have anything that's really current at the moment but let me just see.
Yeah, I don't. I'm going to have get back to you on that. We can talk afterwards and then, we'll share it. It'll go -- as our standard practice, when we receive questions, this is for the audience out there as well, when we receive questions of a nature where I don’t have an immediate answer, we will incorporate the answer -- the question and the answer that we give in the transcript that we publish and we'll make that -- we'll bracket it somehow to make sure it's clear that it was inserted. But you'll see also this conversation in the transcript.
[Added on March 31. In response to the question on Haiti, we can confirm that at the request of the authorities, the IMF is currently in discussions with the Haitian authorities regarding a possible follow up program.]
Okay, so thank you for coming. Again, register for the spring meetings. I expect it to be an interesting one for many reasons and this briefing is embargoed until 10:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, 14:30 GMT. Thanks for coming.