Transcript of a press briefing by Caroline Atkinson, Director of External Relations Department, IMF

November 19, 2009

Washington, D.C.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Webcast of the press briefing Webcast

MS. ATKINSON: Good morning. I am Caroline Atkinson, the director of the External Relations Department at the IMF. Welcome to you and journalists participating online. This is our regular biweekly press briefing.

First, a couple of announcements. Next week, along with much of the U.S., the Fund will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was in Asia last week, and you saw various news reports and speeches on that. He will be going to Europe over the weekend to make the opening presentation at the conference of the Confederation of British Industry, the CBI, on Monday November 23. We plan to have speech text available ahead of time under embargo.

The following day, he is speaking at the Future of Banking Conference, which is sponsored by The Economist in Paris. And again, we will plan to have a speech available, his remarks available, under embargo ahead of time.

Right now, the First Deputy Managing Director John Lipsky is in Dubai participating in the Summit on the Global Agenda sponsored by the World Economic Forum.

And finally, I have some good news. The IMF has become the first international financial organization and the first U.N. affiliate organization to receive what is called the LEED Gold Standard for green buildings, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.. It is given out by the U.S. Green Building Council. We have received a gold rating on their rating system. Just four other buildings in Washington, D.C., so far have received this award. Both this building and our new HQ2 building have just received it.

Let me now turn to your questions and to journalists participating online.

QUESTION ONLINE: Could you provide any update on an IMF loan for Angola?

MS. ATKINSON: The IMF Executive Board will be considering a loan for Angola next Monday the 23rd of November. I think we reported when the mission had come back. And we will, of course, announce after the Board meeting on the details of that, if it’s approved. Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Could you give us also an update on Jamaica and on Ukraine given that they rejected the budget bill today in Ukraine?

MS. ATKINSON: On Jamaica, we’ve been having discussions, as you know; those continue. And we’ve—there’s been a mission there and back. And I can get back to you on the precise details of—we’re in the—I think there may be a mission either just going or just having discussions now with the authorities, but we’re in close discussion with the authorities on their program.

On Ukraine, from our point of view, the most—you know, I can point you to we had a Q&A survey on our website that’s still there from the mission chief, Ceyla Pazarbasioglu. And that pointed out the need, the importance of having a sustainable budget position and that was connected with the budget law. So from our point of view, that’s the same situation. We need to have a full consensus behind a sustainable budget position that will avoid inflation or any increase in unemployment.

ONLINE QUESTION: The Managing Director reportedly said in China that the world can no longer rely on a currency issued by a single country and a new global currency might evolve out of the Special Drawing Rights. Does the IMF plan to launch a formal study leading to such a transition?”

MS. ATKINSON: The Managing Director has said in China that he expects the dollar to be the leading reserve currency for many years or decades. So that’s the first point. Of course, as part of a study of what’s happening with the international monetary system we have looked—you know, we look at this issue all the time as do many other economists, and we’re not launching a formal study of the kind that the questioner refers to. We’re always considering how—what ideas there might be for improving the workings of the international monetary system. And I think the Managing Director commented on the fact that a number of different currencies are used in global transactions.

QUESTIONER: The Managing Director has been speaking a lot about making the IMF the lender of last resort. Is it being studied? Is it being thought of in terms of feasibility?

MS. ATKINSON: Well, as you know, there were four Istanbul decisions after the Annual Meetings there. And one of the issues that our governing council, the International Monetary and Financial Council, asked the Fund to look at was the issue of our lending facilities and whether we were in a position or how to move towards providing more certainty for the world that there would be financing available if countries needed it. And that is certainly something where work will be continuing, work inside the Fund and others outside.

And we have, as you know, the Flexible Credit Line, which is a very different kind of instrument and has been used by three countries so far, but also help more generally to support emerging markets and potential countries that the markets might have thought would be needing money because of global volatility. That instrument evolved over time and we expect that it may evolve further. So that is an issue that we look at.

QUESTIONER: But will you present something, a report, or study?

MS. ATKINSON: Yes. The work program discussion in the Board and the Managing Director’s statement to the Board on the work program will be released shortly and that will lay out the work. We’ve got a lot of work to do because we’re also working on a mutual assessment program and other things. But we will be laying out the kind of work that we’re expecting to do going forward on Fund lending and so on. And the Managing Director also talked a little bit about that in his speeches in Asia.

QUESTION ONLINE: “How long does the IMF expect the U.S. dollar will remain the world’s principal reserve currency, years or decades? Can you be more specific?”

MS. ATKINSON: I can’t really be more specific because I think what we know is that it is now the major reserve currency and that it has been for a long time. We also know that during this last financial crisis people actually found the dollar a safe haven and preferred to move into dollar assets when risk aversion was very high. So that suggests there is a very solid demand for—based on the U.S. economy’s strength and size and liquidity of its financial markets and so on.

QUESTION ONLINE: Does the Managing Director’s November the 5th statement ‘regardless of one’s opinion of the human rights situation’ mean that the IMF never considers human rights?”

MS. ATKINSON: That’s another question where the premise is a bit misleading. The point that the Managing Director was making in his response to a letter from Human Rights Watch was—and as you know, the text of that letter talks quite directly about the Managing Director’s own feelings about the importance of human rights. And the point of that quote was that he was saying whatever you think about what rights and wrongs of what’s happening in Sri Lanka now, what is true is that an economic collapse would make lives worse for everybody. And, of course, usually the most vulnerable are most hurt by any economic collapse. So it was in that context he was explaining the reasoning behind the Fund’s economic support for Sri Lanka.

Thank you all very much and have a good Thanksgiving. And we’ll be back with a press briefing the week after that. Thank you.


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