Transcript of a Press Briefing by Gerry Rice, Director, Communications Department, International Monetary Fund and Siddharth Tiwari, Director, Strategy, Policy, and Review Department

Washington, D.C.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Webcast of the press briefing Webcast

MR. RICE: Good morning everyone and welcome to this press briefing on behalf of the IMF. I'm Gerry Rice of the Communication Department. As usual this morning we are under embargo until 10:30 A.M. A bit out of the usual this morning. We have a special guest who will join us in just a second. You know in the past we've had various senior members of IMF staff come here to brief you on different issues -- Managing Director has been here and you know, we've had others to talk about different issues, Ukraine and such. This morning, I'm very pleased to tell you that we have with us the Director of our Strategy Policy and Review Department. That's Mr. Siddharth Tiwari. And Siddharth is going to open the briefing this morning to talk about the IMF's work program over the next six months and priorities for the IMF over the next six months. That document I know has been released to you in advance under embargo and it will follow the same embargo rules as the briefing. But we thought it would be useful to have Siddharth has come speak to you directly on that, take a few questions and then I will come back and we will get on with the usual press briefing. Okay? So we're going to proceed that way.

QUESTIONER: I hope we have more time for the briefing, the regular briefing to ask questions about Greece.

MR. RICE: You know we always try to provide ample time.

QUESTIONER: Thank you very much.

MR. RICE: Thank you. So let's proceed in that way and I'll invite Siddharth to join us at the podium. Siddharth will both say a few words, take a few questions and then we'll get back to the briefing. Siddharth, thank you very much. Welcome.

MR. TIWARI: Thank you. Thanks. Look, I'll be short. The work program will be released later today. You know it comes out of the Managing Director's Global Policy Agenda that's discussed with the Ministers of the spring meetings, fall meetings. It results in a communique. The work program is anchored on the communique. The work program is focused on two issues -- lifting today and tomorrow's growth. That's one. And the second one is working together for a better future and I'll touch on both of them a little bit. On the first one, the Fund will work on credible growth friendly fiscal policies. There are two papers that the board will discuss, first on fiscal policy and long term growth, then they look at expenditure, revenue reforms to support growth. Second, making public investment more efficient -- this is looking at how to reform the public investment framework to support growth. I think our work shows on average, countries lose one third of the public investment dollars due to inefficiencies, and so this will be an important topic for us. This is the IMF so there will be work on monetary policy, improving the traction of monetary policy. Two sets of papers, one on strengthening monetary frameworks, improving policy effectiveness and the second -- regular work on external balances, the ESR on exchange rates, on reserve of adequacy.

We will continue to work on reducing financial risk. We will deepen the analysis of interconnections between the financial markets and the real economy. We will also look at what we -- improving our understanding of the connection between financial deepening inclusion financial stability.

Work on macroprudential policies will continue. We did a guidance note on this earlier. This is an area where the membership continues to focus. But there will be work on structure reforms. In fall, the board will consider a paper that looks at what areas the Fund deepens its engagement in. Some will be regional specific work in Middle East, Central Asia as well as Europe. Some will be topical, looking at creating foreign investment liberalization supporting growth.

There will be continued work on inequality, gender, energy pricing, climate change. This is an unprecedented year for global development. There are three conferences this year. The Managing Director will represent the Fund at all three conferences. On the first one in Addis, there are two subjects that we will pursue. One is how we strengthen support for a sustainable development framework underpinned by a financing framework that gets to the goals and second, whether we can support countries more financially within the existing envelope.

Finally, we'll look at the international monetary system as a stock taking exercise, will be done later in the Fall and part of that will be the review of the SDR basket that will take place this year. This is a standard review. It's done every five years. The last review was done in 2010. The review covers selection of currencies. It covers weights for those currencies, and the review of the financial instruments to determine the SDR basket interest.

As you know under the current criteria, that was set in year 2000, U.S. Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen and Pounds Sterling are part of the basket. The criteria are two-fold. One -- currencies are members with largest exports of goods and services and second, the currency has to be deemed by the Fund to be freely useable. Free useable is defined in the articles. There's a very clear definition of faith that it has to be a currency that's widely traded in principle exchange markets and currency that is widely used for international transactions.

Why these criteria? The export criteria is to select a currency that has central importance in global transactions. A freely useable criteria brings the financial aspect in a formal manner into the criteria. This is very distinct from freely floating. It's distinct from fully convertible. Currencies could be freely useable and still have restrictions. On the other hand, currencies may be widely used and widely traded and may not be freely useable. The reason we choose freely useable is because it has a central aspect in IMF operations. When a member purchases a currency which is always a freely useable currency until now, that they should be able to use it for the balance payments needed whether they use it directly to intervene and they do it, use it indirectly where in exchanging it for another currency.

Some of you had before asked about majorities. It's a 70 percent majority for the SDR evaluation. It's 85 percent for a fundamental change in the application and over time, all decisions have been taken with a 70 percent majority.

So what will this review do? It will pick up from the work at the time of the last review. RMB was the only currency that met the export gateway criteria. It was not deemed to be freely useable at that point. So we will pick it up from there. It's natural to pick it up from that point. There's considerable amount of data work involved, indicators, judgement is involved at all levels. Nothing is self-executable. It's not an on-off switch.

The Board will discuss the first, or will consider the first paper informally in July. That will be a description of the landscape and the formal meeting in November. I'm going to stop here and take questions if you have them. Yeah.

QUESTIONER: Question, if the Fund is meeting about it in November, is that too late to include it in the SDR basket as of January, or is it -- yeah.

MR. TIWARI: So if the -- the formal meeting will be in November. I think at that point the Fund will have to decide what time period a currency comes into the basket, if it is judged to come in, so it is not too late. And the time periods would adjust. We'd have to find some interim plans. Yeah.

QUESTIONER: Among the interesting points, I note that the plan in the process of streamlining to stop the ex post evaluation of IMF programs, what will replace them, and will it also be released to the public immediately even if the country in question is still under a program that is continuing?

MR. TIWARI: So we have quite a few vehicles that are looking at our own programs. We do it in the context of either our usual assessment. We do it in the context of crisis program reviews. We do it in the context of Article IV's that take place after the programs. So the streamlining is in fact to provide more, meaning more focus and more analysis on what we've done in the context of less documents that we put out, so I think from your viewpoint, you're likely to get more focus work and fewer documents. Yeah.

QUESTIONER: First on that, the -- is there any plan to beef up the IMF's independent auditor that has a tiny little office. Basically the Board simply reads and then seems to ignore most of the suggestions. What's the work there, and secondly, you said on the SDR or SDR inclusion, that an 85 percent majority was needed if there was a fundamental change in application. Does that mean fundamental change in the application of what freely useable could mean?

MR. TIWARI: So on the first one, the IEO, I tell you it keeps me busy all the time. Maybe a tiny office. They put out a lot of work. We take it seriously. Their evaluations have changed the way we do things. We value their interaction. So I guess yours and my compliments to them for putting out so much with a tiny office. They will be doing a review later this year of Fund programs and we look forward to it.

On the majorities for the SDR valuation, since 1978, all decisions have been taken by a 70 percent majority. And until to date, I think we have a description of what requires 85. The Board has never defined it. And so if we go in that area, I think there would have to be a discussion. But given the fact that currencies were added or taken off, and criteria's were changed and all of that was done with a 70 percent majority, I would expect the review to go forward with a 70 percent. Yeah.

QUESTIONER: We understand in early this month, a team has been sent to Beijing to do the SDR review. And could you please share some specific actions in Beijing and what kind of results from the review?

MR. TIWARI: So I think what this involves is a huge amount of data work, meaning that over time indicators are used, data sources are used. Just to give you examples, some of the earlier indicators were bank based; a data banking system, in the crisis, the size of the banking system has shrunk 20, 30, 40 percent. You need to determine whether the informational content of the old indicators is right, whether it's not right. And so there's a huge amount of data work that goes in the regular missions. You will see missions, maybe every month, maybe every second month and those are technical missions to understand data sources and to understand the functioning of markets. And so the last mission that went there was in the similar vein to understand that when Fund members make a purchase and if they get RMB in return, would they be able to use it to make the balance of payments needs in the manner that I described? So don't be surprised by it. Don't expect a conclusion after mission, because the conclusion will be in the Fund Board. Thank you.

MR. RICE: Thank you very much. Thanks everybody, I hope that was useful to you. The work program is an important road map for us, for the next six months. So I think it was useful for Siddharth to point to some of the priorities. So we return to normal business that will be resumed, as of now. And so let me give you a few details of upcoming travel and events. Then I'll come to your questions in the room and online. On July 8th, the Managing Director, Christine Lagarde will give a speech at the Brookings Institution on financing for development. This relates to the Managing Director and the IMF's upcoming participation in the International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia later in July -- July 14 and 15. So that's July 8th at Brookings.

The Managing Director will travel from Ethiopia to Liberia and meet with the authorities and have various public events there. As you know, the IMF has been strongly supportive of Liberia's efforts to combat the Ebola epidemic, so I think the visit is timely in that respect.

On July 9th, so that's the day after the Brookings speech that I mentioned, we will publish the latest WEO (World Economic Outlook) update. As usual, Olivier Blanchard, our economic counselor and Director of the IMF Research Department will hold a press conference on the release of our Wheel update. That's going to be at 9:00. That's going to be here, at HQ and IMF Headquarters. And you know, further detail from the Media team if you need that. As you know, sad to say, Olivier is retiring from the Fund, so this will be his last Wheel press conference.

MR. RICE: We can all be part of this on July the 9th. Finally then on July 23 and 24 our deputy managing director Mitsuhiro Furusawa will be in El Salvador to participate in the regional conference for Central America and the Dominican Republic hosted jointly by El Salvador and the IMF. And given that I mentioned the WEO update press conference will be on July 9th, our next biweekly press briefing will be on July 23 so there will be another press conference in two weeks, but that will be Olivier and the WEO and then we will get back to normal.

QUESTIONER: What’s the press conference on.

MR. RICE: Yes you are probably right, I hadn’t thought of that. Thank you, okay so let’s turn to the room and take some questions inside the room. All right, Michael let’s start with you.

QUESTIONER: Let’s start with the basics because I just received an email saying that the euro group has been indefinitely suspended. Do you have any news Brusselsto tell us?

MR. RICE: I do not, in fact I have not seen that report so you are bit ahead of me in that respect. So far as I knew the euro group meeting was continuing but if you have breaking news to that effect then I don’t have any comment.

QUESTIONER: Was there anything about Ms. Lagarde meetings? I mean the current status of the talks what is happening there?

MR RICE: Well maybe -- well a couple of things since the negotiations are ongoing it’s difficult, not appropriate in fact, for me to go into the details of that and I think we have to respect the process in Brussels and I think you all understand that, but let me step back a bit, and try and give you a couple of points in terms of context.

Number one, in terms of the proposals, the three institutions, the European Commission, European Central Bank, IMF are all on the same page. They have presented a common position, and I think you have seen the public comments from the other institutions in that respect –- so I wanted to make that point. In terms of IMF’s position, I can really only wanted to reiterate a couple of points, that we have been flexible, we remain flexible, in terms of working with the Greek authorities and with our partners towards a credible program, we want -- I would characterize it as a balanced approach and -- we have been striving for a balanced approach, and I think that’s been consistent. And what do I mean by that, balanced on the fiscal reform, the balance of expenditure and revenue, the right balance on growth, so that the proposals are as growth-friendly as possible, and as we have said a number of times, that it all adds up. Balanced on the social reform and on the social dimension, we have indicated – and again I think it’s a shared view by the institutions – that reform of the pension system is essential, and we have stressed consistently, that within that reform it should be done with protection for the poorest groups within that reform, and we have been supportive of a modern, well targeted, social safety net and we continue to be on taxes again repeating perhaps what we have said a number of times before that we have been advocating for the privileged, the more privileged to pay their fair share in terms of taxes and for the burden not to fall upon the less advantaged and the poor.

So balance on the fiscal side, balance on the social side and balance in terms of all side playing their part in the process, so for Greece to implement the necessary reforms and provide the reforms are agreed and implement then for efforts by the European partners on financing and debt sustainability. Now again we’ve been – we’ve said this publicly – Oliver Blanchard had a blog, had a statement a couple of weeks ago, the managing director has said this recently including in an interview that was published yesterday.

So, in trying to characterize what we see as a balanced approach in these different aspects and that’s what we are working towards and continue to work very hard towards.

QUESTIONER: I just wanted to come back to the last point you made about debt sustainability. It seems like in recent days all we’ve heard is about what the Greeks have to do and a lot less about what the Europeans have to do and the IMF initially said you cannot bring the proposal to the board without having some debt relief. If you reduce some of the reforms like Greece has to do, whereas in Europe especially Germany and others have said they are not talking about debt relief until Greece fulfills some of the reforms. So why has the IMF become quieter on that point that relief must come now as part of the current program and what is -- do you have disagreements with Germany about that or is there something else?

MR. RICE: I don’t really have much to add beyond what I said we’d be calling for and I think it’s been consistent and as I’ve just mentioned it’s even been recent that we’ve been calling for a balanced approach and for all sites to play their part. So, you know, first and foremost we need to see the reforms agreed and implemented and then on the other side we need to have the requisite financing and debt sustainability issues addressed so I think we’ve been consistent on that, Andrew.

QUESTIONER: Gerry can I delve for a minute a little bit into June 30th? If Greece does not make the payment on June 30th will it be in default? And if it is not in default on June 30th I know that you have a lengthy process for managing countries that are in arrears. At any point are you going to declare them in default and I very precisely make the distinction between the words default and arrears.

MR. RICE: Yeah, well number one it’s all speculation because we are expecting the payment to be made June 30th and that’s what the Greek authorities have said publicly. The way I would characterize this is that if the payment were not made on June 30th then Greece would be in arrears. Again we are speculating, expecting that not to be the case, but Greece would be in arrears, you know, immediately upon non-payment.

QUESTIONER: Just a follow up on that. There seems to be an expectation perhaps you can correct this particularly among bond investors and bond strategists in the credit market I would say, that after 30 days that you may possibly make a statement that is a little harsher than saying that they are in arrears, that you may make a statement that they are in default and that’s important because it may trigger cross-default provisions on other securities. Again just to clarify is there any plan to make a statement that they are in default at any point?

MR. RICE: I have no knowledge of any such plans.

QUESTIONER: Okay, good.

MR. RICE: We speak in terms of arrears to the fund and breach of obligations and that’s true for any country that would be in that situation. It’s a standard. Here let me take you.

QUESTIONER: In terms of the balance in terms of financing and debt and sustainability you mentioned that in terms of sequencing first and foremost there has to be Greek movement and then there will be debt, why is that so important here and secondly why is the IMF only talking about debt relief in terms of maturity extensions particularly since if we go back to the original program IMF required a fiscal adjustment that is much greater than it would have been if it had required debt restructuring in the first place and if it had required Europe to put up a big firewall. So what is IMF being – requiring credibility from the Greek side but not credibility on the debt/financing side?

MR. RICE: You know, again the negotiations are ongoing and I’m not going to get into details, but we require in all our programs as I think you know that balance of adjustment, the reforms and the financing and that’s what we require in all our programs and that’s what we would be looking at in this case as well. I’m not going to get into the details of what that might mean.

QUESTIONER: (off mic)

MR. RICE: Again it’s – as is the norm in all our programs we would need to see both sides of the package. It would need to add up. We’ve said that consistently, both sides of the package need to add up, that’s the reforms and the financing.

QUESTIONER: But you said first and foremost, firstly meaning the first thing that must be done is that Greece must do this. Why is the IMF requiring that first from Greece rather than that simultaneously which is what you do in all other programs, including the Ukraine program that the debt be addressed as well.

MR. RICE: Yeah, again I would say that this is business as usual as far as we are concerned. We need to see a comprehensive program – comprehensive package that has both the reforms on one side and the financing on the other and the whole thing has to add up and I think we’ve been consistent on that. QUESTIONER: Two questions, one can you just step back and characterize the current state of negotiation? How close are we to a deal from the view from here in Washington? Second of all June 30th is there any possibility delaying of that or giving it extra time particularly if a deal is close and is working its way through the Greek parliament or other European parliaments.

MR. RICE: On your first question, again they are hard at work in Brussels and the only thing I could say to characterize it is that speaking for the IMF we are working intensively as hard as we can night and day to achieve a positive outcome and that’s the spirit and the commitment that we have. On your second question as a matter of longstanding policy the fund does not extend payment deadlines. Okay, I can see more questions on Greece.

QUESTIONER: Did Greek officials claim that IMF insists on measures that in the past have ruined the Greek economy and the Greek government is accusing you you that even though they proposed equivalent measures you declined them unlike what you did in the cases of Portugal and Ireland. What is your response for both?

MR. RICE: I would only say that in all our programs we have a set of rules and policies and we apply those rules and policies in an even handed way to all our members. So that’s probably as much as I can say I think. It is one of the hallmarks of the IMF. We have 188 member countries and I think it’s very important for us to approach these programs and countries in an even handed way and that’s what we do.

There are so many questions I’m probably going to have to limit everyone to just one. Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: I’m still a little confused about what happened between Monday and now because on Monday the Greek proposal was considered by the institutions as a good basis for negotiation. I mean what happened between now and then? Because it seems that we’ve taken a couple of steps back. Can you be a little more specific about – I know that the negotiations are still in progress but can you be a little more specific about what could possibly happen this week that has taken us a couple of steps back?

MR. RICE: I cannot because I haven’t been in the room, I haven’t been in Brussels and I think we have to just let the process play out, people are hard at work in Brussels and I think we have to just let that process play out now. Jeremet let me take you.

QUESTIONER: I’ll ask two questions. The first one is do you get any new insurance from the Europeans that they are ready to act on debt relief if Greece accepts the plan. And also at the beginning of the month Ms. Lagarde during a press conference said that she was sure that the Greek would pay the day after. I think it was the day after.

MR. RICE: It was a couple hours later.

QUESTIONER: A couple hours but they didn’t pay, you know, and they didn’t pay. They asked for a bundling of payments so what makes you so sure that things are going to be different on June 30th and that the Greeks will repay their debts? Understand?

MR. RICE: Yeah, I’m just on the second point Jeremet I’m just going with what, you know, the public statements have so far been by the Greek authorities.

QUESTIONER: There has not been really mixed on that. They have not been assertively saying that they are going to pay. They said they are going to pay if they have money to do so. What makes you so sure that they are going to do it?

MR. RICE: Again our expectation is that the payment would be made, so I think we should just wait for June 30 and see what happens. On your other question I don’t have any updated information. Again I think this is a matter for the talks that are taking place in Brussels as we speak and I don’t have any further information on that. Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: The IMF is on the same page with the other lenders, but there is a sense among editorialists and commentators that the IMF is tougher on Greece than the European lenders. What do you say to that and then following up on that, is there a feeling of regret in this building of ever having gotten into this Greek crisis in the first place.

MR. RICE: Maybe just on your last question. Our job is to try to help our member countries when they seek our assistance, so again we try to do that for all member countries, including Greece. You know, that’s what we have been trying to do, to help Greece get back. Greece faced an extremely difficult situation, as everyone knows, and requested the assistance of the Fund, and we stepped in to try to do that, try to get Greece back on the path of growth and sustainability.

QUESTIONER: No regrets?

MR. RICE: We are still engaged in that effort very much so. Your first question was?

QUESTIONER: Is the IMF tougher on Greece than the Europeans.

MR. RICE: You know, again, it is the even-handedness issues. We are even-handed in the way we approach all our countries. We have a set of rules and policies. It is important they be applied in an even-handed way. That’s what we have tried to do. That’s what we have been trying to do.

I would go back to a couple of things I said at the beginning, which is we have tried to do that in a balanced way. I tried to describe the different dimensions of that. As I also said at the beginning, the latest set of proposals put forward represent the unified view and position of the three institutions.

I am probably going to have to limit everyone just to one question and then I’m going to take these two, and then I’m going to cut it off on Greece. I’m sorry.

QUESTIONER: Have you got an estimate of the recessionary effect the Greek proposals will have on the economy, and do you have an estimate about your own proposals and the recessionary effect they will have on the Greek economy? I’ve heard an estimate of between 8 and 12 percentage points. I was wondering if you could confirm it, and that’s for your own proposals, not the ones from Greece.

You have said you are flexible repeatedly. Can you see the Europeans going forward on their own if the IMF cannot sign on to the Greek proposals? Thank you.

MR. RICE: I don’t have any granularity on those forecast issues you were asking about. The IMF doesn’t do take it or leave it. That’s not how we work with our member countries. It is always a give and take and that’s carried into negotiations, so we don’t do that.

I think your third question was?

QUESTIONER: Do you see the Europeans going forward on their own.

MR. RICE: I realize it’s frustrating for you but again, they are in the middle of the negotiation in Brussels as we speak. It would be inappropriate to speculate on this going forward.

I’m going to take these two and then change the subject.

QUESTIONER: Would the IMF expect the European partners to bail the IMF out in case Greece would not pay? Because the European partners forced you in to solve the problems with Greece.

MR. RICE: Again, I want to go back to what I said, that we are taking a balanced approach to this whole package, and it would be a balanced outcome that we would be looking for.

QUESTIONER: The IMF badly underestimated the damage that austerity would do to the Greek economy in years past. Why are you so confident that a similar approach of more pension cuts and tax reform would not continue to be counterproductive?

MR. RICE: Again, I think I said this in the beginning. We are looking for this balanced approach. I mentioned explicitly as part of that that we would want it to be as growth friendly as possible.

In terms of the past, there have been lots of forecasts by lots of different people, and lots of things have happened over the past six years to affect those forecasts. It is probably a topic that could be pursued in a bit more detail in some other forum.

Just to say I think it’s tempting to make a simplistic declaration that all forecasts and all program design has not worked out the way it was supposed to, but I think you also have to take into account a lot of other things that have happened, external factors. These programs are very dynamic.

QUESTIONER: Just quickly on the Ukraine, there’s a meeting next week. Can you provide some more details? Is the IMF hosting that? Who do you expect to be there? What do you hope the outcome will be? What is your expectation on these debt restructuring talks that are taking place?

MR. RICE: I can confirm that IMF staff will participate in a technical meeting between -- it is actually called the Ad Hoc Committee of Ukraine’s bond holders, and the Ukrainian authorities. That will take place in Washington, here in Washington, on Tuesday, June 30. The IMF is not hosting that meeting, to the best of my knowledge. I don’t have any further details on that, so it is participation in a technical meeting.

QUESTIONER: Just in general, do you know how the restructuring talks are going and the IMF position on that?

MR. RICE: You know, we have said from the beginning that we support the ongoing discussions for a debt operation that restores Ukraine’s debt sustainability, and we have said it’s critical for the Fund supported program.

QUESTIONER: There is a view out there on Ukraine that the Fund is encouraging the government in Ukraine in some ways towards default or towards a moratorium, to take a hard line. Can you respond?

MR. RICE: You know, again, the context is what I just said. We support the ongoing discussions on the debt operation with a view to restoring Ukraine’s debt sustainability, and that is critical for the Fund supported program.

Ukraine itself, of course, has indicated that it would like to restructure some of this debt, and the Fund supports these efforts and would encourage everyone to take a cooperative solution, work toward a cooperative solution that contributes to the financing and debt objectives under the program.

I just want to refer to what Christine Lagarde said just a few days ago, where she said pretty much the same thing, success of the program rests on the completion of the debt operation with high participation. We welcome the government’s continued efforts to reach a collaborative agreement with all creditors. Let me leave it there.

Okay. I am going to take a couple of questions on line.

QUESTIONER: On the Ukraine, the debt held by the Russians, is it official debt or private debt. There was talk it had to be considered private debt.

MR. RICE: What I would say on that question is different views have been expressed. For us, it is not an issue right now. As you know, Ukraine has paid on the Russian bond recently, so Ukraine is current at the moment.

Is this on the Ukraine?

QUESTIONER: I think I was going to ask one more on Greece given that you all have been flexible for six years with Greece, and it is the biggest thing, and I would hope you might give me one more minute.

MR. RICE: I’m going to give you one more minute.

QUESTIONER: Great, thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you for your flexibility, Gerry. In the program for arrears, the protocol, it allows for the IMF, the Managing Director, to take a month to come to the Board. That was written years ago. I’m wondering if given the urgency of the situation, the nature of new telecommunications, et cetera, whether the Managing Director could go to the Board immediately.

MR. RICE: I’m glad you asked that question because actually there has been a lot of confusion about this and this 30 day issue.

As a practical matter, the Managing Director can inform the Board at any time about relevant developments in any country. Again, as a practical matter, given the relevance and visibility of this case, it would be expected -- we expect that the Managing Director would notify the Executive Board promptly.

Let me take a couple on line. I think there are some things happening in other parts of the world. On Nepal, there’s a question from Inner City Press talking about the international conference on Nepal, which is actually taking place today.

The question is with the World Bank announcing $500 million, is the IMF intending to do anything beyond the $50 million one year and $124 million mentioned in its response at the last briefing, and what is going to be the lending facility for that, is it the CCRT, is the question.

Just a quick update, the IMF is represented at the senior staff level at this conference that is taking place today in Kathmandu. I can confirm we have received a request from the Nepal authorities for financial assistance from the Fund under our rapid credit facility. The rapid credit facility, the RCF, I want to emphasize is our zero interest line, zero interest.

It is the Fund’s primary tool to provide indeed rapid financing, quick, with limited conditionality to poor countries, to low income countries, facing urgent balance of payment needs due to an external shock.

I would confirm in answering the question Nepal can access about 50 percent of quota per year, that is about $50 million in year one and about 125 percent on a cumulative basis, that is about $124 million.

A mission is in Nepal to discuss that possible assistance under the RCF, so that is coinciding with the conference.

We can move quickly on this if the mission is completed, so we could be heading to the Board some time in July conceptually if we can do this quickly.

Just to answer the other question, Nepal would not qualify for support under the catastrophe containment and relief trust because under current criteria and guidelines -- which you can all find on the website, we have discussed them here before -- there are certain criteria that need to be met including that at least one-third of the population is affected, which Nepal has indicated that, and the estimate of the GDP damage does not meet these criteria, but again, we are moving to support Nepal as expeditiously as we can, as fully as we can, with our zero interest instrument.

Last question is on Jordan. Has there been any movement on the criticism by the head of the United Nations Committee on Refugees and others that the IMF is treating Jordan as a middle income and can’t do enough to provide support given the volume of refugees they have received.

You know, the IMF program in supporting Jordan has been extremely flexible on this particular issue, including accommodating the fiscal costs related to hosting refugees, most of whom have come from Syria.

According to an USAID assessment in 2014, the fiscal costs have been around 1.4 percent of GDP, and under our program, we have explicitly provided additional fiscal space to accommodate that refugee program and to support Jordan in its efforts.

Look, I’m going to leave it there, and thank you all for coming. See you soon.



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