Transcript of IMF Press Briefing

June 13, 2019

MR. RICE: Welcome to this Press Briefing. On behalf of the International Monetary Fund, I'm Gerry Rice, of the Communications Department. And as usual, this morning this briefing will be embargoed until 10:30 a.m., that's Washington Time.

I'll make a few brief announcements, and then turn to questions in the room and online. It's a rainy day here in Washington this morning, which I think has prevented some people from arriving, but I know we have many colleagues online this morning. So, as I said, we'll get to your questions there.

So, as we speak, the Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, herself has just completed a press briefing in Luxemburg where she was presenting the results of the Euro Area Article IV Consultation. So, I say, Madam Lagarde made a statement there a few minutes ago and took a number of questions on the Euro Area. And, indeed, we've just published that Staff Concluding Statement, and that's being made available to you, I believe, already online. So, a bit of breaking news there.

Tomorrow, the Managing Director will actually be in Geneva, where she will be attending the Centenary of the International Labor Organization. She'll be with Guy Ryder, the Head of the ILO, the International Labor Organization in Geneva. And, an important event for the ILO, obviously, celebrating their hundred years, and congratulations to them on that. But an important event also for the IMF because we will be launching our paper on the issue of social spending, this was a paper, a policy paper recently discussed by our Executive Board, and approved, and we are publishing that paper tomorrow. It's formerly titled: A Strategy for IMF Engagement on Social Spending and, I think it speaks to the importance that we attach to this issue that Madam Lagarde herself will be launching that paper tomorrow in Geneva. And we will make that available to you in the media pretty much as soon as my briefing ends this morning, we'll get that to you under embargo. And hopefully give you some time to take a look, again, that's tomorrow.

And then on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., Madam Lagarde will be in New York City for the opening of the Forbes Women's Summit, and Madam Lagarde will be in conversation with Moira Forbes, actually, there. And that's opened to the media, and you'll be able to cover that.

And then just about a week later, or five or six days later, Madam Lagarde will be heading to Malaysia, to Kuala Lumpur to visit that member country and meet with the authorities, and students, and civil society, and others.

So, that's what engagements look like in the near future. And of course, we're just coming off this period where, for the IMF, we have these major country Article IV Consultations. So in the past, week to 10 days, we've had the Article IV for China, we've had he Article IV for the United States. And as I just mentioned, we've just done the Article IV for the Euro Area with Madam Lagarde in Luxemburg, and her press briefing on that concluded just a few minutes ago. Thank you for your patience on those announcements. And let me turn to any questions in the room. And I'm seeing some questions pop up online, I'll turn to those as well. Good morning.

QUESTIONER: I wonder if you have any views on the choice of an Opposition Party Leader as Vice President in the Macri ticket for next elections.

MR. RICE: I think as you know by now we don't really comment on political developments, we leave that to others. Our focus continues to be on the economics and on Argentina's program.

And for those -- I know you’ve followed this closely -- for those who haven't followed it, Christine Lagarde did meet with the Finance Minister, Mr. Dujovne, and the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Sandleris, of Argentina, just a few days ago, they had a meeting in Japan actually, on the sidelines of the G20 Meeting there.

And Madam Lagarde spoke about that, and she repeated that we believe the authorities continued policy efforts on the program have led to important progress, was how she characterized it, including on the fiscal and the current accounts; so important progress on the macroeconomic front.

And she also said, and I'm just looking at her statement, that we continue to work on the Fourth Review of the program, of the Stand-By Arrangement. And she reiterated the Fund's commitment to support Argentina's program and policy efforts, and continued to encourage the steadfast implementation of that program which, again, we believe is yielding important results, a long way to go of course, and difficult challenges, we've talked about that before. But we believe the program is yielding important results. So, I don't have a comment on the political development, but –

QUESTIONER: Yes; but just a follow-up.

MR. RICE: Sure, of course.

QUESTIONER: The markets have reacted very positively, and I wonder if the IMF shares that optimism.

MR. RICE: I'd say a couple of things on that. One, as I just said, difficult challenges remain, but we believe Argentina has the right program to meet those challenges and that the Argentine authorities and people are making great efforts in that regard.

What I would also say secondly, is that, again, important progress on the macroeconomic front, on the external and the fiscal side, we are also seeing signs that the recession may be easing, and a gradual recovery is expected to take hold in the coming quarters.

Inflation, as you know, has been a persistent challenge. On that front we expect inflation to continue to decline as the authority's strong monetary policy continues to yield results. So, the way I put it is that I think we are looking to support the Argentine Government in building on these positive developments, which we think will help to bring back confidence and lay the foundation for recovery. So, that's kind of our perspective on it. Good morning.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Good morning, Gerry. Yesterday an European official in Brussels said, told reporters that Greece has not yet submitted the following request, for the early repayment of the IMF. Can you please enlighten us on this issue? And also, have you received a formal request from Greece?

MR. RICE: I don't have an update beyond what I've said here before on this issue of the prepayment. And, as I've said before, it's our understanding that Greece needs to get the agreement of the European partners before this can advance further. So, I think that's where it stands, and that would relate to the comment that you referenced.

QUESTIONER: And one little question on Greece. Given the fact that the reelections in Greece will take place on July 7, when we can expect the IMF mission to visit Athens for the Article IV consultation?

MR. RICE: I don’t have an answer for you on that in terms of a specific date so I'll try and come back to you with a bit more information. But clearly as you suggest, we would want to wait for the elections now to take place so the Greek government has made that decision on the election. So we will wait for the elections to happen and then we will, you know, put a time table in place for the next Article IV.

I'm going to, since we have quite a number of questions online, and obviously a lot of people looking at this online today, I'm going to try and run through these quickly.

There is a question on Egypt: “When will the IMF's executive board vote on Egypt's fifth economic review?” And on that I can say that we expect the board to meet in the next couple of months. This is the final review under the program that IMF, the IMF is supporting with Egypt.

There is a question on Pakistan, from our friend Matthew Lee in New York, asking in summary what is the IMF's response to the criticism of the Pakistani budget which was recently announced that the IMF is purely concentrating on increasing taxes and prices and doesn’t care about reducing the problems of the common man. Again, stepping back, Pakistan has requested a program from the IMF. Last month we reached a staff level agreement on that program so that’s now under discussion. So, I don’t really have a specific comment on the budget.

But in terms of our discussions, I can say that we are talking about broadly how to restore stronger, more balanced growth by reducing domestic and external imbalances, improving the business environment, strengthening institutions, increasing transparency and importantly protecting social spending. So that last part does indeed speak broadly to the point that Matthew is raising, that social spending is and protecting social spending is in fact an important part of the discussion that we are having on a program with Pakistan.

There is a question on Kenya. “Please give the status of the IMF program with Kenya given reports that it's on course to renew its standby credit facility.” And on that about all I can say is that negotiations indeed are ongoing on a Fund supported program. I don't have a timetable on that but with the negotiations are underway.

And there is a question also on, staying with Africa, on Liberia and can I give an update there. Just for those who haven't followed it, on Liberia, the Liberian government did request a program from, a financial program from the IMF and going back in April. And an IMF team is on the ground as we speak. So, we will keep you posted on developments there. There has been incidents of people on the streets and protests and so on. We're clearly monitoring developments along with everyone else. We have a res rep in Monrovia and we are monitoring that. So, again, we will, we have a team on the ground in Liberia and we will keep you posted on developments.

There is a final question online that I want to take which is on Haiti and asking about developments there and the status of IMF discussions on a program. And again, this is a case where recently there have been protests on the streets and some violence I'm sad to say. So, on that front of course as always, we express our condolences for the loss of life there in Sunday's demonstrations in particular. And, what I can also say is that of course we hope that the dialogue can go forward there and, you know, eliminate the violence that’s taking place and that we can have some consensus around a reform agenda.

On the program and discussions around the program, given the time that has now elapsed since the IMF team reached a staff level agreement, that was back in March. And given the changes in Haiti's' economic situation a reassessment of the economic framework and of the measures needed to stabilize and support the economy is going to be needed before we would be in the position to propose a program to our executive board. That said, we look forward to engaging with Haiti's new government as soon as feasible to find the best way forward and to protect the most vulnerable groups, improve governance and secure macroeconomic stability. So that’s where we are on Haiti.

There is one more question that just popped up on Ukraine from Tass, asking about the possible launch of a new three four year -- a new three or four year program -- in cooperation with the IMF. There has been some talk of that happening from some Ukrainian officials at the end of 2019. And where we are on Ukraine, is again elections are about to be held there and, we are waiting for the end of the elections before we will be able to move forward with further discussions. We did have a staff visit there and we did have some initial discussions, but we want to wait for the elections before we will be moving forward.

I have taken everything that’s online and unless there something else in the room, I am going to -- Do you have anything?

QUESTIONER: Just one more on Argentina.

MR. RICE: Yeah.

QUESTIONER: Do you have any date for the board meeting in which they should consider the last revision?

MR. RICE: I don't have specific date. This is the fourth review that we talked about earlier. I know that Madame Lagarde discussed this with the minister and the central bank governor and again she described the discussions in terms of important progress. So I don’t have a date for you when the board will meet on the fourth review. The discussions on that continue.

But let me just contextualize it a little bit for those who may not follow. It is not at all unusual that the deeper we go into a program, and we are almost a year in at this point on the Argentina program, as you know. It's not at all usual that the dates of the board review, of the board discussions of a particular review, are not fixed long in advance. But as I said, the discussions continue, including Madame Lagarde's discussions with the Argentine senior officials and progress is being made and we will get that date to you as soon as we have it.

I will leave it at that, thank you very much.

IMF Communications Department

PRESS OFFICER: Andreas Adriano

Phone: +1 202 623-7100Email: