Press Briefing by Caroline Atkinson, Director, External Relations Department, International Monetary Fund

March 26, 2009

Washington, D.C.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Webcast of the press briefing

MS. ATKINSON: Hi. So, good morning. I’m Caroline Atkinson, the Director of the External Relations Department of the IMF. Welcome to those of you here and also those online to our biweekly press conference. Just a reminder that the material here is embargoed until 10:30 a.m. D.C. time.

Before I turn to questions, I just wanted to mention some upcoming travel and events.

The Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the First Deputy Managing Director, John Lipsky, will be participating in the G-20 Summit in London next week on April the 2nd.

Ahead of that, this Friday the 27th, the Managing Director will conduct a live press conference from Paris, London and Washington via videoconferencing, and he’ll take questions from journalists in all three sites. The start time will be 11:00 a.m. in Washington, 4:00 p.m. in Paris, 3:00 p.m. in London.

You may have already received our media advisory on this yesterday, but if not, if you have any questions, please contact Media Relations as usual.

Also, at the end of the G-20 Summit on April 2nd, we expect Mr. Strauss-Kahn to have a press conference in London at the conference site. Once we have got that arranged, we will let you know the details.

Let me now turn to your questions and remind those of you online to submit questions via the Online Briefing Center. Thanks.

QUESTIONER: I was wondering if you have an update on Turkey and if you have a planned date or something for a visit of the mission to Ankara. Thank you.

MS. ATKINSON: Thank you. That was concerning Turkey.

We have, as you know, been engaged in ongoing discussions with the Turkish authorities, and these are continuing. We don’t have any new dates or anything for you.

QUESTIONER: A follow-up?

MS. ATKINSON: Yes, one quick follow-up, and then I have one from online.

QUESTIONER: So you’re waiting for an invitation from the Turkish authorities?

MS. ATKINSON: No. We’re involved in discussions, ongoing, continuing discussions as we have been for some time with the Turkish authorities on the next steps.

I’m going to take a question from online that is about Latvia referring to a Reuters report this morning that the IMF backs devaluation for Latvia, and the question is whether I can confirm that and whether we’ll be opening an office in Latvia.

On the first part, as you know, the program, the IMF program with Latvia was built around the authorities’ strong determination to maintain the exchange rate peg, and we are in discussions with the authorities on how to do, on technical issues concerning the review but not on that central plank, and we expect that a full mission will be in the field to carry on discussions soon.

Also, on the issue of the res rep office, as I think you know, we announced or it became public that we will be opening an office in Hungary soon, and we expect also to open an office in Latvia. We don’t have a date as yet.

Any other questions here?

QUESTIONER: I’m going to follow up on that, Latvia, because it’s not clear. I mean are you denying that those discussions are taking place on the currency?

And a follow-up on that one, would the mission maybe broach that subject when they’re there?

MS. ATKINSON: What I’m saying is that we’re discussing the first review of the program. The program, an important plank of the program is the maintenance of the existing exchange rate. We’re primarily having discussions on fiscal policy. Thanks.

Are there other questions?

QUESTIONER: I probably have the same question on Turkey. How advanced are those discussions on Turkey?

I mean they’ve been going on for a while. There is some feeling now that the IMF has adjusted its lending program, that a lot of countries have been waiting for that announcement. Is your sense that those discussions are advanced and that market conditions now could push those discussions forward a lot quicker?

MS. ATKINSON: Just dealing first with the part of your question that is about the reforms. As you know, we have announced important new reforms. We have not designed those reforms with particular countries in mind, and we have steered well clear of doing that, and that’s what I will continue to do today.

Turning to Turkey, I will just -- I’m sorry -- repeat that we’ve been having discussions. Those continue, and we expect them to continue. Thank you.

QUESTIONER: I’ll do a boring follow-up. Has Turkey approached the Fund of using the new reforms or the new lending procedures?

MS. ATKINSON: I’m not going to get into that. I will just repeat that we are having fruitful discussions with the Turkish authorities. Those are continuing, and I think that’s a separate issue from the facility.

As you know, there are the changes I think we described quite extensively in press briefings and in our materials online, and they relate to both the lending facilities and the way that we’re designing and implementing conditionality.

QUESTIONER: One clarification: So, you’re involved in negotiations with Turkey for a Stand-By program?

MS. ATKINSON: I’m not moving from saying that we’re involved in and we’re having ongoing discussions with the Turkish authorities on a program as has been the case for some weeks.

QUESTIONER: On a program means Stand-By program? What else could it be?

MS. ATKINSON: Yes. I mean a program is a program. That is about the economic policies that justify Fund support.

QUESTIONER: Which has nothing to do with urgent lending mechanisms.

MS. ATKINSON: I’m not sure quite what you mean by that because Stand-Bys are urgent lending mechanisms.

QUESTIONER: No. I mean your new reforms and the new lending mechanism that you announced very recently. It’s something separate from that?

MS. ATKINSON: Well, we have -- I’m not going to give you anything on that. We have -- I would refer you back to the description of the new lending reforms which involve both an expansion and streamlining of our facilities including of the Stand-By and introduction of the FCL and the nature of our conditionality.

And, as for some time now, we’re discussing the elements of an economic program with the Turkish authorities that could be supported by a program, by IMF resources, and that is the same position that we have been in for a while.

QUESTIONER: Caroline, do you have any anticipation about what the IMF expects from the G-20?

MS. ATKINSON: Thank you. Well, as I said, we will, the Managing Director will be addressing those issues, of course, on Friday.

I think that we do -- we felt that it was a very fruitful meeting that ministers had in the middle of March. We believe that the world economy is facing serious challenges, and we look forward to the leaders making proposals to move forward on addressing those challenges.

QUESTIONER: This is also a G-20 question, I mean, and I know that the MD is going to discuss that tomorrow, but Friday is pretty late. What elements do you think should be key for not only IMF reforms but helping advanced and emerging economies through this next phase as the leaders come together and then there’s a break for the next meeting after that?

MS. ATKINSON: Yes. Well, as we’ve discussed and I think both the Managing Director and Mr. Lipsky have been clear, we believe that it’s very important for countries to move forward on reforms to the financial system. We believe that it’s important to move forward on fiscal stimulus and that this should be sustained in 2010 in those cases where there is scope and space. We are concerned about the impact of the crisis spreading to emerging markets and the third wave to the low income countries.

We have, this week, announced important reforms to the way we do business with emerging, with our general resources. We expect that to be followed in due course by details on reforms to the way we do business with low income countries. The conditionality reforms cover everybody, but -- announced this week -- but the low income facilities we will be addressing later on this summer.

And, finally, to do all of that, we think that the IMF needs a significant increase in its resources and, as the Managing Director has been saying, at least a doubling. Thank you.

There is a question online. Sorry. I’ll just take that one about Sri Lanka.

Are discussions between the IMF mission and Sri Lankan authorities progressing rapidly or slowly? When is an SPA likely to come for Board approval and what is the amount of Fund resources that Sri Lanka would require?

I think that the discussions are continuing. There is a mission there on the ground. They have only just arrived earlier this week, I believe.

I’m sure that the discussions are going well. We don’t have any date as to the conclusion of those discussions or their likely bringing to the IMF Board, and we don’t have any information yet on how much Sri Lanka will be requiring from the Fund, but those discussions are ongoing now in Colombo.

Any other?

QUESTIONER: I was wondering if you have any update on Zimbabwe. I think that the mission was meant to wrap up this week.

And then a follow-up on that one is yesterday, Trevor Manuel, well, the paper on the panel of experts was published. What happens to that?

Is that sort of dropped? Is that still an ongoing process? What happens to those recommendations now?

MS. ATKINSON: Okay. So, on Zimbabwe, just to say that we have -- this is a mission that is also still on the ground, and we expect it to be coming back soon, and that will be it’s an Article IV mission.

We would expect the normal Article IV process. There will be a report to the Board, and in due course we will probably be able to release that to you, and at least we will be releasing a press release on the main findings of that mission which is an Article IV mission.

On the Trevor Manuel report, as you know, the Managing Director, yesterday, welcomed this report, and it will -- it is a final report from the Trevor Manuel group that the Managing Director, you may remember, had asked to look into this issue and report back to him. So the group has now reported back to him with their recommendations. The Managing Director has sent that report immediately to our Executive Board, and we have released it to you.

So it is completed. That piece of work, it feeds into the debate on governance, which is going on in our IMF Board with civil society, the so-called Fourth Pillar, and of course with the membership more broadly, and with the G-20. So this is not a debate that ends with the transmission of the report. The report is an important input.

QUESTIONER: It was unclear yesterday if the Board had actually discussed the report. I would have thought it would have, right?

MS. ATKINSON: The Board was -- the report was just received by the Managing Director yesterday. So he immediately gave it to the Board and released it. Thank you.

Well, I’m asked whether there are any updates on Ukraine or Belarus, and I don’t believe that there are, although I can, we can certainly get back to you on that.

Okay. Well, if there are no more questions -- oh, okay, one more. I’ll look up Belarus in the meantime.

QUESTIONER: I’ll keep it to the home turf.


QUESTIONER: So, this week, we saw Tim Geithner unveil the plan on toxic assets. That seemed to be generally well received. The question now is does the IMF think that that is enough for now?

Yesterday, Nicolas Eyzaguirre said that there were still a lot of uncertainties out there going forward on that plan and that the U.S. should move quickly on, for example, valuing those assets and making sure that there is enough money, obviously, to pay for all this.

MS. ATKINSON: Yes. Well, I think we welcomed the plan even before the markets did, I guess, as an important step towards the framework that we have thought is necessary, and that’s still our position.

Of course, we’ve been -- you know we all want things to happen quickly. I think the Managing Director has also been stressing the importance of speed, not just in the U.S. but elsewhere, to address the financial system difficulties.

Thank you all very much.

And just a reminder, this is embargoed until 10:30 Washington time.


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