Transcript of a Press Briefing with Gerry Rice, Spokesman, IMF Communications Department

June 16, 2016

Washington DC
June 16, 2016
Webcast of the press briefing Webcast

MR. RICE: Well, good morning, everyone and welcome to this press briefing on behalf of the International Monetary Fund. I'm Gerry Rice of the Communications Department. As usual the briefing this morning will be embargoed until 10:30 a.m.; that is Washington time.

We are going to depart a little bit from our regular process this morning because today we are publishing the Work Program of the IMF for the next six months. It's an important document for us. It lays out the roadmap of policies and issues for the next six months. And I'm very pleased that we have with us at the top of the meeting this morning our Director of Strategy, Policy, and Review, that's Mr. Siddharth Tiwari. And Siddharth has kindly agreed to give you a very quick overview of that work program, take a few questions, and then I will come back, and we will carry on with the regular briefing.

So if that's okay with you I'm going to invite Siddharth to come to the podium. Siddharth, thank you very much for joining us today.

MR. TIWARI: Thank you. I'm going to try and take you through the Work Program very fast. As you know, the way this is put together is the Managing Director presents a global policy agenda at the Spring/Fall meetings. There's an IMFC Communiqué after that reflects the endorsement by the Ministers, and then we have the Work Program of the Executive Board. The Work Program of the Institution is much larger than this. There is research, capacity development, other things that goes on.

At the time of the Spring meetings the MD called for a three-pronged mutually self-reinforcing approach, continued monetary foundation, fiscal actions where available and desirable, and structural reforms. And the Work Program that you have with you builds on these three areas. So on monetary policy it's looking at the impact of negative interest rates on bank profitability, bank lending; it's examining potential spillovers of these policies to emerging markets. It will look at external shocks and how to respond to them in an integrated matter in terms of monetary policy, foreign exchange, intervention, regulatory policy. There has been significant movement of exchange rates of major currencies, so the external sector report that will be presented in July will look at assessment of multilaterally consistent exchange rates, global imbalances.

We have a large program on capital flow measures for this year. The Fund will be reviewing the Institutional bill on the liberalization of capital flows that was adopted in 1992, and it will do it in two steps. Mid-year will be a review of experiences and the application of that view and possible areas where adjustments need to be made. And then end of the year will be the formal review of the institutional view. Next year, early in the first quarter, we will try to bring both views on capital flow measures and macro prudential policies together.

We will push ahead with macro financial surveillance. This came out of the TSR a few years back. There's a pilot in 67 countries and that will be brought -- the lessons from the pilot will be brought to the Board later this year. You will read in the Work Program the FSAP assessments continue, and we will have a discussion with the Board as to what we learn out of them.

On fiscal policy, there's been quite a lot of discussion on how you harness fiscal policy for growth, specifically what is fiscal space, how do you measure it, who has it, and if you have it, under what circumstances should you be using it. Apart from that, the Fund will be pushing on growth trending fiscal frameworks, both in terms of revenue and expenditure composition. There is a focus on infrastructure investment and doing this in the context of public expenditure management debt sustainability framework. In this we will cooperate with the World Bank in taking this forward. In fiscal policy the Fiscal Affairs Department will also look at the financial stability effects of different tax policies, especially with respect to leverage. We continue our work on domestic revenue mobilization, which has gone on for many years and looking at fiscal policy in fragile states.

On structural reforms we had a Chapter 3 in the WEO that laid out principles for structural reforms. Work will go on in this area, assessing specific policy measure in countries. There is work on strengthening institutions and governance on capacity development and on international tax issues, which have come to the forefront.

On standards and codes, there will be two pieces of work, one taking at least a snapshot midyear and the review of standards and codes early next year.

To more areas, emerging issues, there are several of them which have become macro-critical, whether it is climate in small states, whether it's natural disasters; looking at inclusion, whether it's gender, income inequality, macroeconomic impact of this, non-economic spillovers, refugees, impact of technology, FinTech, on labor markets, on statistics; there will be a focus on this.

Last thing, on the international monetary system there is quite a rich agenda, including in the context of the work that's happening in the G-20. The agenda looks at debt. There's quite a bit of work on debt, on the review of the debt sustainability framework. Next year we will look at a review of the framework we used for market access countries, which is essentially most of what we apply to our current programs. We will look at state contingent bonds, instruments, GDP linked bonds, something that the UK is pushing. Global financial safety net -- we are going to look at least two layers in it, one strengthening our cooperation with regional financial arrangements, and second, looking at our own toolkit.

Finally, on the role of the SDR, we will look at whether it can be enhanced. And you know the RMB will enter the SDR basket on October 1 this year. The work is on pace for that to happen.

I'm going to stop here and take a few questions.

QUESTIONER: About the publication of the Report, the IMF and the growing crisis that was conducted by the Independent Evaluation Office – I mean, if you have a date of publication, the exact date that's going to be discussed at the Board.

Thank you.

MR. TIWARI: So I don't have -- I don't know if Gerry has a date for publication. I think the Report is under preparation right now, and they plan to go mid-year, so in the next few weeks.

QUESTIONER: On the issue of the IMF's toolkit, can you give us a sense of what types of things are being considered? And would this likely result in some type of proposal in the near future on how the IMF might revise its programs, the structure of its lending programs, that type of thing?

MR. TIWARI: So on IMF's toolkit, I think in the last three or four years there are a few areas where the membership has expressed an interest that we explore a little more. One is our relationship with regional financial arrangements. We have a relationship with Europe to explore more with Latin America and Asia. So that work will be conducted. Second, in the last year we've been asked to see if we can enhance our support to countries affected by the drop in commodity prices, that's an area where we actively study. The third area that we would like to look at is with multiple transitions in the making whether we have adequate facilities that can support the vulnerabilities that countries might face. And here it is essentially looking at shocks that happen day to day.

The conversation is at a very preliminary stage. I would say it's at stage one right now, to talk to the membership as to what they need. And if we are able to come to a meeting of the minds on what the membership needs and the countries that are willing to be supportive of that, but also use those instruments, I think at that point we will approach the Board. But we are too early in the conversation phase right now.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

MR. RICE: Siddharth, sir, thank you very much indeed.

MR. TIWARI: Thank you.

MR. RICE: You know, as I said the Work Program is a very important document for us and you all have it now, under embargo, and by 10:30 this morning everyone will be able to find it on the IMF website and really, as I said, it lays out the roadmap for policies and issues that IMF will be looking at in the immediate period ahead. So I think that was useful to hear from Siddharth at the top of the meeting.

QUESTIONER: (Question about IEO report on Europe and the IMF)

MR. RICE: I do not. As Siddharth said, I do not have a date for you, but the study is underway. I should mention that it's not just a study of Greece, it's a study of the Euro Zone programs, and we expect that it would appear sometime in the summer. But you know, that's as much as I have in terms of a specific date for you.

Maybe I'll just start with -- go back to the norm for our press briefing and give you a few announcements. There are some important ones here, and then I'll take your questions, including I see a few things coming in on line.

So again embargo 10:30. Let's start with the Managing Director, Christine Lagarde. Earlier today she delivered a speech in Oslo, you may have seen that. So that's published. Christine Lagarde is now on her way to Luxembourg, or she may even be there by now, to participate in the regular Eurogroup meeting and present the preliminary conclusions of the IMF's 2016 Article IV Consultation for the Euro Area. There will be a press conference as usual at the end of that meeting, so that's expected to happen imminently, and you can catch that live. So that's today.

Tomorrow Christine Lagarde will be in Vienna, and she will make a speech on the future of Europe at the Hofburg Palace. That's 11:00 o'clock Austrian time. And that speech will also be live webcast, and there's a media event after the speech as well.

QUESTIONER: Gerry, excuse me, is that speech tied into the (inaudible)?

MR. RICE: No. No. This is a long scheduled event. So, no, no connection there.

So that's tomorrow. In a week's time, on June 24, Christine Lagarde will welcome Governor Zhou of the Central Bank of China to the IMF for the 2016 Camdessus Lecture, and that will be here and you are invited, I believe. This is the third in our annual Camdessus Lecture Series, Governor Zhou from China.

Then Christine Lagarde, just to finish with her quite busy agenda. At the end of the month, she will be attending the Aspen Ideas Festival, where she will have a media event discussion with the Director of the Wilson Center here in Washington, Jane Harman. And we can get you the specific dates and times on that if you are interested.

Let me turn to David Lipton, First Deputy Managing Director. David, having been in China for the concluding statement of our Article IV Consultation with China earlier this week, will be in Japan, June 18 to 20 for the 2016 Article IV Consultation of Japan.

Let me also mention that our Deputy Managing Director, Min Zhu, will be in China for the famous Summer Davos in June also, June 26. So quite a busy travel and even schedule there.

And let me also point out that, you know, those of you who watch us closely know this, but for those who don’t, let me just mention, we are in the peak period of our annual surveillance activity, and you see now coming from the Fund a stream of reports and statements about the most systemic countries and regions being published.

So, you'll see, as I mentioned, we had the concluding Article IV Statement for China last Tuesday. We will be publishing the Article IV Staff Report for the United Kingdom, along with the Financial Sector Assessment Program, later today, and that has in fact been released to you already under embargo, and will be published today.

So that’s China, the U.K., later today, as I said earlier, there will be the concluding statement from the Euro Area Article IV, that that’s meeting in Luxembourg, that Madam Lagarde is attending. Okay?

And then I also mentioned that on Monday, June 20, David Lipton will be doing Japan, and the concluding statement, again, of the Article IV. And then next Wednesday, June 22nd, will be here in Washington for the Article IV, again, concluding statement on the United States.

There are others. I won't go into detail but, again, just to say, I mean, this is the IMF's core business, this is us -- and this is our peak period, especially for what we call, again, the systemic countries. Happy to follow up with you, and the team happy to follow up with you with any questions people may have about publications, dates, releases, all of that.

So, with that, let me -- thank you for your patience by the way. Let me turn to your questions. Let me begin with you.

QUESTIONER: (Inaudible), but then by the end of the year, and given the repayments that Greece has made to the IMF's -- the kind of work for the other level. And my question is, if that will affect that criteria in order to participate.

MR. RICE: Yes. And any other questions on Greece, or just? All right. So, on that one, whether exceptional access not exceptional access which would be something that would be determined closer to the timing of the decision on financial participation in the program, we would continue to apply the same rules to Greece as we do to other countries that request funded programs.

In particular, and on your question, that means ensuring that debt sustainability is an essential requirement, and that is, again, whether access falls below exceptional access or not. Our DSA would still need to ensure that the debt relief measures being proposed are consistent with debt sustainability.

QUESTIONER: Now that the first of the (inaudible) has been completed, and the first payment will be given in a few days, we hope, how are you planning to deal with the Greek issue from now on? What's next in the negotiations, and are you going to participate?

MR. RICE: Okay. Maybe then, just to give people the status. We are not -- the IMF is not participating in the financing of the program at this point, but we remain fully engaged in the policy discussions with the Greek authorities and the European partners.

In terms of next steps, and I think, you know, this came out of the discussions several weeks ago now, we will continue to discuss the quantification of debt relief measures with Greece's European partners, and on this basis, again, we will update our DSA later this year and, again, I reiterate, an assessment that debt can be made sustainable is essential for staff to make a recommendation to the Board on a potential program before the end of the year. That’s what I have.

QUESTIONER: If I can follow up on that. So, the discussions have begun on the European's debt measures?

MR. RICE: Well, as you know it was discussed even several weeks ago, in terms of parameters and principles, and now the more detailed discussions will be following in this period that we are in, and in the period ahead. And, again, I don’t think that’s news, that’s what we had several weeks ago, that there needs to be the quantification of the debt relief in order for the IMF to make a decision on its participation in the program in terms of financing. So that’s the discussion that’s going to take place.

On Greece?


MR. RICE: Oh. Shall we just finish on Greece -- let me take one more on Greece, and then --

QUESTIONER: Okay, I have another one. There is this idea that some people have that lowering the level of the debt to the IMF will mean a significant change. How do you answer to these people?

MR. RICE: Significant change in?


MR. RICE: I'm sorry, could you elaborate?

QUESTIONER: They think that lowering the level of the debt to the IMF is going to be a significant change. This is what they say in Athens, and some people Russia.

MR. RICE: Yes. I mean, I don’t really have a comment on that, because it's kind of a hypothetical at this point. You know, as I said, we are fully engaged in the discussions, we have made clear that the need for the reforms and debt relief so that Greek debt can be sustainable.

We hope to support Greece's adjustment program, not only in an advisory capacity but also with new financing, but for us to do that, again, in line with our rules, and this is something we've talked about many times here, our DSA would need to show that debt relief measures, that European partners are willing to commit to, are consistent with what we think is needed to ensure debt sustainability.

So, you know, there are different scenarios as to how that can be done, but that’s where we stand right now.

QUESTIONER: We are now one week away from the referendum in the U.K. I think that’s probably a couple of documents now on embargo today, today, but I was wondering, it seems that the strategy of sounding the alarm about, you know, the economic consequences of the Brexit, it didn’t prove to be successful, to say yes, it's leading in the polls. So I was wondering, can you give me -- can you give us maybe a sense, or do you really think that Brexit could slow down the pace of economic integration in the EU, and maybe even revert it. And can you maybe elaborate for us, what's at stake over there?

MR. RICE: So, you know, maybe just stepping back a little bit. As you mentioned, we have given to the press on am embargoed basis, a comprehensive set of reports today actually. The Article IV on the U.K. that I mentioned. The Financial Sector Assessment Program, and then there's a special report on the issue of the potential implications of a Leave vote by the British people.

So, given that we are going to release that today, I am not going to get into a great deal of technical detail on what's in those reports, because you can obviously be reading them yourselves, and they speak for themselves. And, you know, for those of you in the press, there's also going to be a backgrounder on that a bit later today I think.

So all of that just to say, I'm not going to get into details but, you know, what the Fund has said, in short, is that our assessment is that a vote for exit of the EU, and clearly that vote is the prerogative of the British people, we fully respect that. But that a vote for the exit of the EU would precipitate a protracted period of heightened uncertainty, financial market volatility, and slower growth as the U.K. negotiates its new relationship with the EU.

So we have said that fairly consistently. Today we are supporting that assessment with a great deal of technical detail, and that’s what, you know, you’ve been given, that’s what's going to be released later today. I would not characterize it as sounding the alarm. I would characterize it as the IMF doing its job. This is what we do. Our mandate is to look at the risks facing an economy, including the spillover risks and, you know, to explain them and to communicate them.

That, again, that is our job. So that’s what we've been doing in this case. Again, a lot of people who may not follow the Fund as closely as you do, they may not appreciate that this is something that we do for 189 countries. We have 189 member countries, and for each of them, we do this kind of assessment via what we call our Article IV Surveillance Process.

So, again, this is the IMF doing its job, in an objective way, in an impartial way, and trying to lay out the economic risks as we see them.

QUESTIONER: What do you make of the agreements of the people who are advocating for Brexit? And you say, actually, that leaving the EU would result for like stronger growth for the country actually. So what do you make of these arguments?

MR. RICE: Again, I'm going to be fair to the reports. They are fulsome, they are comprehensive reports. I'm going to defer to them because they are being released later today, and I don’t want to preempt what is in those reports, so I'm going to leave it there.

QUESTIONER: A quick follow up on Brexit, not related to reports, and then a question about Nigeria, actually.

MR. RICE: Yes.

QUESTIONER: First of all, on Brexit, and setting aside the content of these reports, and the substance of the risks, what can you say about any contingency plans the Fund has to deal with the Leave vote? Are you stepping up surveillance somehow? Are you working central banks? What type of actions are you taking to deal with that outcome?

MR. RICE: Well, again, you know, the decision is clearly the prerogative of the British people. We fully respect that. In terms of, you know, planning I think it's a core -- again, a core element of our agreement to think about various risks to the global outlook, and about policy measures to reduce or respond to them. So, you know, we think about these risks all the time. Again, that’s our job, and you know, we do that in a routine way.

So, we look at various scenarios on how they might play out with a view helping our membership safeguard their economic and financial systems against the risk.

QUESTIONER: And on Nigeria they recently eliminated the currency peg. Do you have anything to offer on that? And more broadly for commodities, producers that are facing balance of payment issues? Would it be desirable for them to float their currencies to allow them to devalue?

MR. RICE: You know, just on your latter point, clearly there is no blanket policy recommendation to groups of countries. I think it's case-by-case. In general, we think exchange rate flexibility is something beneficial to an economy, but I wouldn’t want to make any generalizations about what groups of countries should do.

On Nigeria, however, I think the announcement yesterday, to revise the guidelines for the operation of the Nigerian interbank foreign exchange market, is an important and welcome step to allow greater flexibility in that market, in the foreign exchange market.

The new system comes into effect on Monday, and we need to wait and see how effectively the market functions going forward. As we have said before, the significant macroeconomic adjustment that Nigeria urgently needs to eliminate existing imbalances, and support the competitiveness of the economy is best achieved through a credible package of policies involving fiscal discipline, monetary tightening, a flexible exchange rate regime, and structural reform, allowing the exchange rate to better reflect market forces is an integral part of that adjustment.

QUESTIONER: So, let's head to Africa. I've got a couple of questions on Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa.

MR. RICE: Okay.

QUESTIONER: To start with Angola. Yes, the IMF just finished the mission in Angola to define the terms of the financial systems program. It's already said for the $5 billion, why done the -- Under which conditions that Angola might receive this financial assistance? Which measures are recommended by IMF that the Angolan Government should put into practice probably public sector reform. If you could talk a little bit more on this? The country is supposed to hold general elections by August 2017. So to what extent this might influence or impact the financial assistance? And more or less a question on Angola?

The Brazilian, Ricardo Velloso who headed the IMF Mission, he recommended a couple of months ago, that the Government of Angola should create a fiscal stabilization fund to sort of save some money off the income generated by oil exportation, and help the country to overcome future crisis. Is this measure -- I wonder if this measure is being taking -- undertaken by the Angolan Government? If they agreed, creating such fund, and if this recommendation to be effective as a tool to survive future crisis?

MR. RICE: Okay --

QUESTIONER: I've got other questions but --

MR. RICE: On Angola?

QUESTIONER: No. Angola, I'm done. Yeah.

MR. RICE: Okay. And then I think you said Mozambique, right?

QUESTIONER: And then Mozambique, and then, you know, Brazil.

MR. RICE: All right. I'm going to give you one more on Mozambique after I take your Angola.


MR. RICE: So, you probably saw the press release just a day ago, which the IMF team led by Ricardo Velloso, whom you mentioned, you know, it's a fairly comprehensive press statement, so I don’t want to repeat for people who have seen that, because they can read it for themselves, but it did touch on, I think, a number of the questions that you were asking, and in particular about what kinds of policies are needed. So, again, unless you want me to, I won't read from the press statement, but they are there and they are pretty clear. I'm just looking at paragraph 3 there, it touches on many of the things that you were asking about. What I don’t see there is the mention -- and I'm just, you know, glancing at it myself right now. I don’t see the mention of the stabilization -- the fiscal stabilization fund that you mentioned. Sure. So, maybe we can follow-up with you on that if that’s helpful. I mean, there are references to the fiscal dimension, but not particularly on that. So, we could come back to you on that.

So, just to say, so the team was in Rwanda. They just finished. We just published this and the discussions then, will continue on the key components of the reform program laid out in that press release to help -- I mean, the goal is to help diversify the economy, and what I can tell you is the team will go back to Rwanda in the second half of the year for additional discussions and all of this, of course, is to respond to Angola’s request for an IMF reform program. So, the team will go back for that and in the process, the 2016 Article IV consultation with Angola. You want to ask me about Mozambique?

QUESTIONER: So, IMF is about to start -- is starting now, right, our mission in the country. I do not have exactly the dates. If you could, just remember me that.

MR. RICE: Yep.

QUESTIONER: I think they are starting today or yesterday.

MR. RICE: Yep.

QUESTIONER: Are you ready to give a financial -- is IMF ready to give a financial assistance to Mozambique in case the country request, just like did Angola? The hidden low ones, Mozambique has more than one billion hidden lowest. How much does it impact in the IMF’s decision to provide financial aid and what will be the most urgent measures? The government Mozambique to take so as to regain the confidence of international partners, and so as to avoid situations like EMATUM, repeat again?

MR. RICE: Okay, so a couple of things then, thank you. The team -- the Fund’s Mozambique team will be in Maputo from today to June 24 and that will be to continue the fact-finding process linked to the previously undisclosed borrowing and to assess the macroeconomic situation. That will be the objective of that mission. So, it will not be discussing at this point further financial support. First of all, it’s the fact-finding and the assessment.

As you know, the IMF, during our spring meetings, had drawn attention to this issue of the undisclosed borrowing that was discovered. And we’ve been following up with the authorities on that. Yes, it is very important to us and we have advised the authorities that any undisclosed debt-related transactions, irrespective of their purpose, need to be reported transparently and publicly. So, you know, we’ve welcomed -- I think I did standing here a few weeks ago, several weeks ago, the authorities’ subsequent disclosure. We said that was an important first step toward full restoration of trust and confidence, but as I say now, those discussions will continue.

QUESTIONER: (Speaking in Portuguese) I like to follow-up on the IMF support to this country. It was to post the remaining installments of 90 million Euros would be paid this year, but it seems the Fund’s support to the country is at stake right now. Why is that? Is it due to political instability that left the country without any budget this year? And the country is accumulating some uncertainties that anyway, are undermining external support, I guess. So, if you have a follow-up on -- give (inaudible).

MR. RICE: You know, I don’t. It’s a very important set of questions that you’ve raised and I don’t have an update with me on Guinea-Bissau, but the IMF team will follow-up with you immediately following the briefing. It’s an important set of questions. Thank you.

[An IMF Spokesperson later offered this line: “As you might be aware, the current IMF Extended Credit Facility program with Guinea-Bissau if off track, but corrective measures related to the bank bailouts in 2015 and an agreement on the fiscal stance for the remainder of 2016 could bring the program back on track. If the program continues to remain off track, the IMF will not disburse any outstanding credit tranches as previously envisaged under the ECF approved by the IMF Executive Board on July 10, 2015. The IMF support envisaged for 2016 amounts to CFA 6.1 billion.

“The bailouts implied an immense overrun in net credit to the government (CFA34 billion, 5.5 percent of GDP), the key performance indicator under the IMF program. Discussions for corrective measures were initiated under Correia’s government and could resume as soon as a new Government is in place. Furthermore, the Bissau-Guinean authorities need to identify and agree with Fund staff modalities to close the newly emerged financing gap in the 2016 budget as development partners no longer intend to grant budget support to Guinea-Bissau this year. So far, development partners have already cancelled CFA 15.2 billion in budget support for 2016.

“Regardless of the program status, IMF staff will continue to provide policy advice and technical assistance to the Bissau-Guinean authorities”.]

QUESTIONER: Just a quick question on Africa -- debt transparency in Africa, specifically, Ghana. I believe that there were some questions after they announced recent plans to issue bonds about whether they had adequately disclosed all of their outstanding debt to the IMF. Do you have anything on that as yet? IMF satisfied with their debt disclosure?

MR. RICE: What I can tell you on Ghana is that, you know, the mission was there April to May. We’ve reached a general understanding with the authorities on the main elements that would support the third review under the IMF support to EFF. The authorities are in the process of finalizing that work in a few areas, including a new public financial management law, an amended Bank of Ghana Act, and a strategy to address the debt of state-owned enterprises, subject to this work being completed and in line with our own procedures, of course. IMF staff will finalize the preparation for the required documentation of the Board’s consideration of this review. That’s what I have on Ghana.

QUESTIONER: Authorities in Brazil have just sent out to limit in public spending, so how do you see those measures? Or do you really expect the new government to take further, tougher different measures in cutting even more public expenditure? And, yeah, what does IMF recommend Brazilian authorities should pursue so as to put the economy right on track again, yeah, just a follow-up, please.

MR. RICE: Okay, yes, I think you’re referring to the recent announcements from Minister Meirelles, that he was announcing to the overall objectives of the fiscal strategy and that more elements would be forthcoming soon. Look on that, as we said, we welcome the emphasis on addressing the unsustainable trajectory of debt and the decision to act on the spending side where many of the sources of budgetary disequilibrium can be found and we look forward to more details on other elements in this fiscal consolidation strategy.

Let me just take a couple of things that are online, and I’ll come back in the room if there’s one or two more. There is a question on Belarus and asking about the -- asking all the preliminary conditions that were discussed by the government have been implemented. We expect an appropriate response from the IMF and the start of a new program, does the IMF agree? And on that, I can say that an IMF mission led by Mr. Peter Dohlman will visit Minsk from June 21 to 30. The mission will assess recent policies and conduct the Annual Article IV Consultation. With the authorities, the mission will meet with government, Central Bank officials and represent some private sector universities, professional organizations, et cetera, and we will be communicating further at the end of that mission.

There is a question on Argentina, and it’s asking, yesterday Argentina published inflation data for the first time under a new index. Will the IMF now remove censor motion it had declared on Argentina’s data? First, I’d like to say that the authority’s strong commitment to improving transparency regarding official data is to be commended. Transparency is a key ingredient toward improving confidence in official data. As regards the specific data point released yesterday, which -- and the underlying methodology. We are still in the process of assessing that, and in this context, as we’ve indicated before, a technical team from the IMF will visit Buenos Aires in the second half of June, this month to participate in technical and methodological discussions with the authority’s statistical counterparts regarding the GDP and the CPI data.

Just to give you a bit more, if it’s useful. Those IMF staff findings and recommendation will form the basis for the Managing Director’s report to the Board on the progress regarding Argentina’s data by July 15. Then, the Board is expected to review this issue in late August and September. Okay? So that’s the sequencing. I think that responds to the question.

Let me also mention, just to clarify, we are also ready to move ahead with the Article IV Consultation with Argentina and are planning on a mission in late September. So, that’s separate from the data mission in July, okay? Just to be clear about that.

Now, I am happy to say there is one more question here, and it’s on Ukraine. So, I hate to scoop you (laughs), but there’s a question from UNIAN, the news agency in Ukraine, asking, "Did you have -- did you, the IMF, have meetings with Ukrainian Prime Minister? Is it clear when the Ukrainian issue will be discussed by the Board?" So, let me give a little status update. Actually, we met with the Finance Minister yesterday -- not the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister, Oleksandr Danylyuk, who visited the Fund yesterday, met with staff to discuss recent developments, as well as the remaining issued to be addressed before the Board consideration of the second review of the program.

When can we expect the Board to discuss that? We expect the Board to consider that in July, following implementation of actions to entrench fiscal and financial stability. So, I think that’s that question. Let me keep back in the room if there’s one or two.

QUESTIONER: (off mic) --

MR. RICE: Yes, why don’t you speak into your mic, please?

QUESTIONER: inaudible). The fact that all the senior management is on travel, as the Prime Minister -- Ukrainian Prime Minister is visiting, does it indicate that the talks on all the outstanding issues that you mentioned, that they’re basically finished that? Everything is resolved, and now it’s, like, a technical ramp-up?

MR. RICE: No. And, again, it was the Finance Minister who was here. Those -- I mean, those discussions continue in terms of the remaining benchmarks, if you will. On that, what I’d say is while much is being achieved in terms of macroeconomic stabilization, the overarching challenge of advancing reforms to make Ukraine a place where companies want to invest and create jobs is an area where much of the work still lies ahead, and this includes important steps to tackle corruption, reform SOEs for the rehabilitate the financial system and strengthen public finances. So, the discussions around those issues are still continuing.

QUESTIONER: And are issues, like, land-ownership reform, like, pension reform -- are those issues among those outstanding things?

MR. RICE: You know, I’m just going to refer you back to the -- what we published, at the time of the staff level agreement. I don’t have more detail on that, at this point. Last question, (inaudible), first and last.

QUESTIONER: Okay, thank you. Do you have very specific expectations or requirements for the labor market reforms that will be discussed in the context of the second (inaudible)?

MR. RICE: What I can tell you on that is that a labor market review has recently started. So, this is Greece we’re talking about. On this basis, additional reforms will be defined and discussed in the context of the second review of the ESM Program with the aim to bring Greece’s labor market framework in line with international best practices. While we do not want to preclude the findings of the review, we expect the upcoming measures to build on previous labor market reforms while protecting the competitiveness gains achieved so far. So, let me leave it there, and thank you very much for your attention and patience today. And the embargo will end at 10:30 and we will be seeing you very soon. Thanks very much.


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