Transcript of IMF Press Briefing

September 15, 2022

MR. RICE: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this press briefing on behalf of the International Monetary Fund. I'm Gerry Rice of the Communication Department. As usual, this will be embargoed until 10:30 a.m. this morning. That's Washington time.

Nice to see everybody on screen there, and looking at some questions coming in online as well. We'll try and get to them all today.

You haven't seen me at this podium since, you know, July, middle of July, something like that. But the IMF has been active in communication, and you might have just noted over the last several days, the managing director herself, quite active with a number of interviews coming off her trip to India last week. And then she did a very comprehensive interview with the Center for Global Development, and yesterday we had the Camdessus Lecture, and I know many of you tuned into that. I saw Eric -- met with Eric there in person, which was great.

So, just to say, you know, we've been fairly active, and all that material is on our website available to you. That's the context, and for next week, where the Managing Director will be in New York City for the U.N. General Assembly and related events. I'm going to spare you going into all the details of those events. But media relations, my team will be very, very happy to give you all the necessary detail of the events, including quite a number of those events are public.

And then of course, coming up very, very quickly on the inside track are the annual meetings now in October, which essentially kick off for us October the 6th, with our traditional curtain-raiser speech from the Managing Director, where she'll set the table for the annual meetings, and she'll be doing her curtain-raiser speech this year at Georgetown University on October the 6th. And again, more details forthcoming on that.

And then the annual meetings we'll be bringing to you our latest forecasts, our assessments, country by country, the WEO, the World Economic Outlook, the GFSR, the fiscal monitor, all those things coming your way. And again, we can give you as much detail as we have on that now, so you can make your plans.

So, I haven't been here since July, but as I said, you know, the IMF's been very active supporting our members in this unprecedented time of crisis, and, you know, just a couple of -- a couple of factoids. We are deploying all elements of our -- of our toolkit to support the membership.

Since the beginning of the pandemic -- I think Andrea and others reported this, but since the beginning of the pandemic, we have lent over $268 billion to 93 countries. That includes $27 billion to low-income countries. A subset of that, just since the beginning of the -- the war in Ukraine, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, just since then, 16 member countries have made 20 requests for financing, and that totals about 87.2 billion.

So, just to give you a sense of the work has not stopped, the support has not stopped in any way. And of course, this comes on top of what we did with the $650 billion SDR allocation just about a year ago. Now it comes on top of the establishment of the resilience and sustainability trust, the RST, many of you familiar with that, which we expect will begin with an initial capital of about $45 billion, and we're very close to that, and we expect to operationalize that at these annual meetings.

And just this week, again, I referred to the managing director her -- her interviews. She talked about a potential new instrument called the food shock window, and again, I know Andrea, Eric, and others have reported on that, but this is another potential element of the fund support to our membership via emergency financing. We have begun the discussions with our executive board on this -- this new window, and of course, it's contingent on our executive board approval. But we are hopeful, hopeful that we will have good news on that food shock window also, certainly by the time at the annual meetings.

So, I say all this not to blow our trumpet. This is certainly not a time for that given what's going on in the world and facing our member countries. I only say it to note that the work of the IMF continues very actively in support of membership.

Thanks for bearing with me on that. Let's turn to your questions. I'm going to start with Andrea. Andrea, welcome back from Kiev and other places. Good to see you safe and well.

QUESTIONER: Thank you so much Gerry, I really appreciate it. I wanted to ask you indeed about Ukraine, but first, just a broad a question about the overall economy. You know, inflation is high, it's not coming down as much, there was an unexpected increase. Kristalina spoke about that yesterday, and she warned about the importance of remaining stubborn in terms of addressing inflation, but there is growing concern that interest rate increases will actually slow economic growth. How concerned is the IMF at this point that there -- you know, about an increasing risk of global recession?

And on the Ukraine front, I wanted to ask, the Prime Minister of Ukraine yesterday said that the country is looking for a $12 billion program. So, I'm curious. I realize that there are meetings going on this week in Sarajevo with IMF officials and Ukrainian officials. Is that the kind of scope that you think is reasonable, and how difficult would it be to get to that kind of an amount, given the circumstances of a country at war?

And then if you'll just a really quick one on Egypt. We're hearing that Egypt may soon be in a position of having a program, or reaching an agreement with you before the end of the month. But if you could just say where that stands. Thanks.

MR. RICE: Okay, Andrea. Thank you very much. I'll take all your questions.

I want to recognize Yaroslav Dovgopol of UKRINFORM online here, because he's also asking about Ukraine, and it's broadly in the same vicinity as Andrea's question. He's asking, after the recent phone conversation with Kristalina Georgieva and President Zelenskyy, President Zelenskyy said the IMF allocated 1.4 billion of additional support, could you please give us more details? So, it's broadly same question.

Is there anything else on Ukraine that I can take, and we can just deal with Ukraine and move on? Anyone else got a Ukraine?

QUESTIONER: I have a Ukraine question.

MR. RICE: Oh, I'm not seeing you on screen. Oksana, hi.

QUESTIONER: Yes, Voice of America. It's broadly the same question, but also Kristalina Georgieva told that there can be food shock mechanism support for Ukraine, there can be a larger program, could you comment on the parameters what goes into the emergency, what can be larger program? And also, we noticed that the new IMF mission head was adopted for Ukraine, Gavin Gray. Is this an indication that he will use his experience in a Iraq reconstruction, for Ukraine as well?

MR. RICE: Oksana, thanks. Nice to have you with us. Look, maybe I'll take Ukraine, and then Andrea, I'll come to your other questions.

So, let me back up. So, Kristalina Georgieva did have this conversation with President Zelenskyy a few days ago, and she described it in some detail in that conversation with the Center for Global Development that I mentioned. And of course, the topic is, how can we do more to support Ukraine?

Just to recall, the IMF has already provided significant financial support to Ukraine through emergency financing, $1.4 billion right to the beginning of the -- almost right to the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And we set up an Administered Account, remember, also, where donors can contribute resources, and that is progressing. In the meantime, of course, given what's been happening with the war in Ukraine, the needs of Ukraine have grown.

So, that was really the -- the topic of discussion for the Managing Director and President Zelenskyy. So, I can confirm -- and Kristalina confirmed it already in that public conversation -- that they did talk about the potential use of this new food shock window coming online, again, contingent on our Board approval, the discussions are ongoing, and what could be the potential timeline on that. We would want it to be as soon as possible, again contingent on Board approval. And they also discussed the likely size. And the way Kristalina described that, she said that it would be in the ballpark of what we had done last time around. Okay, so I just mentioned the 1.4billion -- so, that's what she was referring to.

So, this would be pretty much immediate, very, very short term. Again, provided the Board approves the new instrument.

So, that would be additional support. Second, they also discussed a longer term potential support for Ukraine. And that is how we can build toward a full-fledged IMF program with Ukraine. And how we build up to that. So, they agreed that a Fund staff mission would begin that process. We'd engage with the Ukraine counterparts in the coming weeks. Andrea referred to also discussions taking place in Sarajevo on the sidelines. And again, create this pathway for potential additional support from the IMF. So, beyond the food shock window potentially full-fledged program, but again, we've just begun to build the pathway to that, is how I would describe it.

Thirdly, a President Zelensky was very interested in how the Fund can work with other institutions on the whole question of support for Ukraine, and how we can help Ukraine transition to a better future. Perhaps one little bit more detail I can give you on that, if it's useful, is that I can confirm that there will be, I think, Oksana was asking about this, I can confirm that there will be an in person mission from the IMF for discussions with our counterparts on the Ukraine side. It's likely to be in Vienna and that's going to happen in the near future. I do not have the date for that mission, but that's going to happen in the near future. And again, that would be the beginning of these technical discussions on budget and revenues, resource needs, all of that. And with a view to building the path to a full-fledged program. I hope that's helpful.

I'm wondering if -- David is our follow-up on Ukraine. Matthew, are you following up on Ukraine or something different?

QUESTIONER: Something different.

MR. RICE: David, the same for you?

QUESTIONER: Something different.

MR. RICE: All right, good, thanks. Sorry. Okay, then Eric, Ukraine?

QUESTIONER: Yes. Thank you, Gerry. I wanted to, sorry, can you hear me?

MR. RICE: Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: I wanted to ask you about the status of the -- if you could give an update on the Ukraine Administered Account; how many countries have donated contributed to that; what the count is in terms of the dollar amount that, or SDR amount that you have tallied up or has been pledged there thus far?

MR. RICE: Yes. Eric, I can. So far, we have Canada, and we have Germany, the Netherlands has also signaled that it would make a commitment and we are expecting further commitments in the run up to, and during the Annual Meetings.

Eric, I don't have the total amount in front of me here, but we'll get that to you after the meeting, but good progress is being made including from those donor countries that I just mentioned.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

MR. RICE: Let me then -- thanks for your questions on Ukraine. And let me move on from Ukraine. Andrea asked the big question about the global economy and where we are, and, of course, that's going to be front and center heading into the Annual Meetings now. Clearly, what we had characterized as a global economic slowdown has only intensified in recent weeks and months. You will recall that our July World Economic Outlook revised down global growth to 3.2 percent in 2022 and 2.9 percent in 2023.

And again, since then, with the war in Ukraine continuing, the issues of supply chains broadly, the gas supply issue, from Russia to Europe, commodity prices generally remain elevated. Financial market conditions have tightened. We also have the continuing COVID-19 lockdown in China and other issues, real estate weighing on economic activity. There, we have the strong dollar, which has implications for many countries, I should say, the strengthening dollar. So, all of that to say that our most recent high frequency indicators point to a further loss of momentum in the third quarter. And, of course, on everyone's mind right now is the issue of inflation, which Kristalina talked about yesterday. Andrea used the word stubborn. That's certainly right. It has certainly consistently risen faster than expected. And again, Kristalina talked about that yesterday, so I'm not going to prolong it.

The way I would then characterize it is that downside risks continue to dominate the outlook with just a tremendous amount of uncertainty that needs to be taken into account, and will be taken into account, when we come back to you with the new world economic outlook.

Andrea, on recession, I would only paraphrase what Kristalina said about it, which you may have noted. She said that we expect the slowdown to translate into recession in some countries. She said '23 is going to be tougher than '22, and '22 is already pretty tough. So, we do expect some countries to face recession in '23. It's too early to say whether that would be a widespread global recession. So, we're not saying that. But I thought the line that she gave was interesting and conveyed I think where many people are right now. Because she said that even if some countries are not technically in recession and they're still in positive growth, for many people all over the world, it will feel like recession. And I thought that was a good way to characterize it.

You might have seen the blog that we issued today on Africa. And just one factoid from that. We said that by our estimation, hunger in Africa has soared by a third in the last two years. Behind that number is 123 million people, real people. So, is that recession? Whatever you want to call it, it's a horrendous situation for those people. They cannot meet their minimum food consumption needs. We're talking about malnutrition. So, anyway, Andrea that's where I'll leave it on our characterization of that. But you will get to ask that question again to Pierre Olivier, Gita, Kristalina, herself in a, in a few weeks' time at the Meetings.

Andrea, I can be brief on your question about Egypt. Recall the Egyptian authorities have requested a program from the IMF to support their comprehensive economic program. Egypt, like most other countries actually has been hit hard by the global environment, which I just described and the spillover effects, including relating to the war in Ukraine. And we are now working closely with the Egyptian authorities with a view to how we can do more to support our shared goals of economic stability and sustainable job reach medium-term growth for Egypt. I don't have the details on that. The discussions are ongoing with Egypt, but we're fully committed and that's where we stand.

Okay. I see David's hand. I see Matthew's hand. So, David over -- well, actually, David, if you don't mind, let me take Matthew because I just took Reuters, but David, I will come to you. Matthew?

QUESTIONER: Okay. Thanks a lot. I wanted to -- I'll do these fast and I'm sure, hopefully, you'll have answers on it. Since we last met this, the IMF announced its program in Zambia. There's some controversy there. Civil society groups have said there's a lack of transparency, they've called for sort of the IMF to urge the passing of something called the Access to Information Bill. I wanted to know if you can speak to what conditions are to make sure that people there know, yes, there are a lot of problems with where the money is going. And then also on, on Ghana, same thing, only there's criticism by former President Mahama of the IMF seeming to praise, to say that the economic problems there are entirely results of COVID and the Ukraine war, and seeming to praise the Government. I guess maybe that's just diplomacy, but can you address that criticism and then, finally smaller country, but Suriname says it wants a program, and it's hoping that the Netherlands, which you mentioned earlier, in connection with Ukraine, that the Netherlands will somehow help at the Board for them to get that one. What I wanted to know, what's the status with Suriname and two, what is the role of Board members in sort of shepherding smaller countries programs through? Thanks a lot.

MR. RICE: Okay. Thank you, Matthew. Nice to see you there in New York. I'm just trying to look at what questions may overlap. I think Alex Saeedy wanted to also ask about Ghana. Is that right, Alex? Are you there? Wall Street Journal?

QUESTIONER: Hello. So, yeah, I had a more general question on Ghana. Just wanted to get an update on talks between the Fund and the Government.

And I also had a question on Serbia. Saw reports that Government has requested a Stand-By facility and wondered if you could provide us more context on that?

MR. RICE: Yeah. Thanks very much, Alex. Nice to have you with us today. So, let me try and run through those questions quickly, if I can.

Matthew, on Zambia, so, again, over the summer, in case you missed it, the IMF, our Board approved $1.3 billion of support for Zambia, for Zambia’s program of economic reform. And the next steps on that is, you know, implementation of the program will be contingent on securing timely debt restructuring agreements with external creditors. There’s been progress there. I won’t go into the detail because you didn’t ask about it. But there’s been progress there. And we expect to see that progress continue and the support for Zambia to take effect.

Matthew, on your question, specific question about transparency and accountability and so on, strengthening governance and reducing the risk of corruption, including by improving public financial management, are in fact the priority of the program I just referred to, because it’s critical to address the root causes of the economic issues that Zambia faces, and that are at the root cause of the debt crisis that Zambia faces, in many ways.

So, the authorities in that context have emphasized a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, and more specifically, at their request, a comprehensive IMF-supported, what we call Governance Diagnostic Assessment. Sorry about the jargon, but it is important. That was launched earlier this year. And we will publish that final report by the end of the year on that Governance Diagnostic. We’re also supporting accountability and transparency via our capacity development.

Matthew, you had asked about Suriname. We don’t often get asked about Suriname, so, thank you, and let me take that question. The Government, the country is facing a very difficult economic and political situation. The IMF has a program with Suriname. It will require, you know, a lot of determination and hard work to get it back on track. We are very cognizant of the burden on the population from high food and energy prices. Again, we see these ramifications of the war in Ukraine for many countries. And we are hopeful we’ll find ways to provide greater support in a way that’s consistent with the goals of the authorities’ program.

But as I said, further work will be needed, including in securing a debt restructuring agreement with those external donors, who include China, India, and other creditors, and building on the progress that’s been made with the Paris club.

So, bottom line, we continue to work with Suriname to get that program back on track.

On Ghana, Matthew, which you asked about, and then Alex asked about as well, Ghana has, as you probably know, requested a program from the IMF. We had an IMF staff team in Accra in July to begin initial discussions with the Ghanaian authorities. And we characterized that mission as constructive, kickstarted the process, and laid the groundwork for engagement, which now continues.

Our Mission Chief for the IMF also recently visited Accra, again, to meet with key counterparts. And we’re hopeful for another visit in the coming weeks, I don’t have a date for you, but in the coming weeks.

And I mean on your point, Matthew,I would say, as just to repeat, the war in Ukraine has triggered a global economic shock that’s hitting Ghana and, as I said, many other countries, and all at a time when, for many of these countries, their room for fiscal maneuver, if I could put it that way, is already extremely limited because they’ve used a lot of fiscal power already, firepower already in the pandemic. So, the shock coming from the war in Ukraine compounds other pressing policy challenges. And we’re very cognizant of that. And that’s why we are, as I described at the beginning, stepping up to help countries where we can, and that includes Ghana.

Alex asked about Ghana and he asked about Serbia. On Serbia, Alex, what I can tell you is that -- again, this is becoming a repeated refrain -- the authorities in Serbia have expressed interest in a Stan-Bby arrangement, you know, a program with the IMF. And you know, as is always the case, we’re following that up. We’ll be holding discussions with the Government to assess the situation, the financing needs, and, you know, the appropriate policy response, all the usual things that go into an IMF program. And then once we’ve reached some kind of Staff-Level agreement, we will go to our Board for the final approval. As always is the case, our Board makes the final decision.

That’s about all I have at the moment on Serbia. Stay tuned, Alex.

Eric, let me go to you, and then I’ll come back to others.

QUESTIONER: Sure thing. Thank you, Gerry. I wanted to ask you about the situation in Malawi. And this is on behalf of my colleague, Matthew Hill, was asking about the external debt situation there, what the government needs to do to get program talks back on track, which creditors specifically the Government needs to restructure loans with. Is it China, the African Export-Import bank, or who?

MR. RICE: I’m sorry. Eric, did you cut out there at the end?

QUESTIONER: Sorry. Yeah, just with Malawi, any comments about the progress of talks with Malawi or work with Malawi and the Fund?

MR. RICE: Yes. Let me give you what I’ve got, Eric, which is that, well of course, and again, Malawi is facing these significant challenges that we’ve talked about, including poverty, high poverty incidence in the case of Malawi, despite the reforms that have been attempted by the authorities there.

So, over the last several months, we’ve been having what I’d characterize as very productive discussions with the Malawi Government on their request for a program with the IMF. Again, it’s becoming a very continuing refrain. Their request was for an Extended Credit Facility Arrangement, actually. So, those discussions are ongoing. They’ve been happening remotely and, again, with a view to supporting Malawi.

Eric, I don’t have a breakdown of creditors for you right now. I’m sure we’ll get there. But what I would say is that Malawi’s public debt is unsustainable. And the authorities have engaged debt advisors to restore debt sustainability. We don’t, as is the case with all countries, we don’t get involved in those detailed discussions between authorities and creditors. We try to play a helpful role but we don’t get directly involved. Those are facilitated by the authorities and by the debt advisors.

So, that’s kind of where we are. We’re seized of the seriousness of the situation. We’re concerned. We want to help. And we’re now watching this situation very closely on the debt front to see what progress can be made.

Let me take colleagues from Argentina, and then David, I’ll come to you. Sorry to keep you waiting, David.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Gerry. Good morning. How are you? Nice to see you again.

MR. RICE: Likewise, Liliana. Thank you.

QUESTIONER: My first question is related to when the Board is going to analyze the Staff report from Argentina? When is the date if there is any date? And when the Staff Agreement is going to release to the press. And the second question is related to the Argentina economy is worse and the Government's still the same, but instead -- I was surprised, quite surprised, Kristalina Georgieva after meeting Massa (phonetic) said, and I quote, "I came out with the sense that we have a partner that we can work well." My question is why is that? Why now the IMF believes that the goals like, fiscal deficit, reserves, inflation rates are going to accomplish. Thank you, Gerry.

MR. RICE: Hey, Liliana, thank you. Rafael, do you want to come in now on Argentina and anyone else on Argentina, Rafael?

QUESTIONER: I had some of the same questions Liliana just asked. I wanted to ask if you can give us an update on the sustainability funds; if you can tell us when is that going to be ready for country members to ask for the financing to the IMF. Thanks.

MR. RICE: Yep. I can do that. Anyone else coming in on Argentina?

QUESTIONER: Hi, how are you, Gerry and everyone? Well, I would like to ask about the third revision. I think like, the second one is almost over, or it's going to be approved. And I would like to talk about the next revision. What are the biggest challenges the Government has for the next review, the third one? Thank you.

MR. RICE: Okay, Paula, you're getting ahead of us because we're still waiting for the final approval on the second one, but let me try and get to your --

MR. RICE: -- questions. Thank you, everyone. So, as Liliana said, Minister Massa and his team were here in Washington in recent days and Kristalina, herself, met with the Minister on I believe it was Monday. And she issued a statement after that, which Liliana quoted from. I don't have a lot to add to that, so, you've thank me for not repeating it all. It was a fairly substantial statement, but the nature of it was that she said a very positive meeting with the Minister after a week really of very professional and again, productive discussions between the two technical teams. Then Kristalina and Minister Massa met on top of that.

And as she, again, she talked about what she characterized as pro-conclusive progress, actually in the critical areas that you were asking about, the macroeconomic framework, the fiscal parameters, the primary deficit targets, the monetary policy framework, which, of course, is so important to tackle the inflation issue and a number of other issues that are there in that statement.

So, on Tuesday Kristalina spoke again about Argentina, so additional to what she said on Monday. And again, she highlighted what she felt was a very strong sense of commitment from Minister Massa and his team to Argentina's program, which the IMF is supporting. She actually said she was very impressed with the composition of the team. And the Central Bank Governor was there too. And I think that's what she was referring to, Liliana that we have a partner with whom we can work well. And that's an important statement. That's very important to make progress.

So, very productive discussions at the highest level on our side with Minister Massa. And on the timing, the teams continue to discuss as we speak and that's happening virtually, with the aim of concluding the Staff Level Agreement, I would say very soon in the coming days. Okay. I don't have a day for you right now, but we will communicate as soon as possible. I know you are keenly interested and we will communicate as always as soon as possible.

And then, of course, our Board, as always the case, I just talked about that in another context, the Board will meet on that, and I don't have a date on that, but I mean, you've Liliana you, Rafael and others, Paula have followed the Fund long enough. You know it's usually can be a two-week to a four-week period, but we're all looking to get this done as soon as possible.

And Paula, I hope what I've said helps you, but I'm not going to bring out my crystal ball for the third review. I can tell you my crystal ball is not very good. So, I'm not going to -- I won't do that, but I hope what I've said helps to give you an update on the status. Thanks on Argentina.

QUESTIONER: Follow-up.

MR. RICE: Follow up on our Argentina? Yes.

QUESTIONER:I wondered if there's an upcoming payment due next week to the Fund. So, mostly we were asking about the Board, I think, because we are thinking of Wednesday next disbursement from the IMF going to arrive. And if there's going to be some sort of -- it can be arranged for the payments to be delayed, or if Argentina's going to be compromised next week when it has to pay back to the Fund.

MR. RICE: I don't have anything on that Patricia. So far as I know, everything on the payments side is being handled and managed by the Argentine authorities in an orderly way. So, I don't have anything to counter that. So, that's what I would say, look, I neglected part of Rafael's question --

QUESTIONER: Yes, thanks, Gerry, I was trying to say.

MR. RICE: -- which was about it was about the RST, Rafael, right?

QUESTIONER: Yes. When is it going to be ready for me mber countries to use it?

MR. RICE: Right so quickly, I touched on it at the top of the meeting Rafael, but very quickly, we are looking to secure initially a capitalization of about 45 billion. We are very close to that. We are at about 40 billion in terms of pledges at this point. So, we're in the process of legal contribution agreements, all of that. And as I said, at the top of the meeting, Rafael, we expect to operationalize the RST around the Annual Meetings. So, we're talking about a matter of weeks now for the operationalization of the RST. Very great -- we are very grateful to Spain, by the way, we issued a little statement on this, because Spain has led the way with its contribution, its money in the bank, so to speak to the RST. So, we're very thankful for the generous contribution from Spain and the pledges that have been made by many others for this new tool. Okay.

Mr. Lauder has been extremely patient.

QUESTIONER: Hey, Gerry. Thank you. So, I just had a couple of follow ups on some of the African countries and also on Lebanon. Let me just do Lebanon first. It's been about five months that the Fund and Lebanon have been talking about a potential program, but things seems to have stalled. I'm just wondering if the Fund's view is that there's just not the political will to make the reforms that Lebanon needs to make to secure a program. What is happening? Do you anticipate anything being presented to the Board in October? That's Lebanon.

Then on Ghana, I just wanted to clarify, does Ghana's debt need restructuring, if so, will that need to include local debt? Then on Ethiopia, there had been an IMF visit planned for mid-September. Is that going ahead, given there's renewed fighting there. Can the IMF to agree on a program with Ethiopia while the civil war is still going on?

And then some of the technical question on Zambia, the debt sustainability in most of Zambia. We talked about a 140 percent threshold for debt-to-export ratio. But then there's also an 84 percent ratio by 2027 needed to withstand substantial shocks. Which number should we really be focusing on? Is it the 84 percent or the 140?

MR. RICE: Okay. So, it was Ghana, Ethiopia and Zambia, was that right, David?

QUESTIONER: Yes, yes, sir.

MR. RICE: Okay. All right.

QUESTIONER: And Lebanon.

MR. RICE: And let me begin with Lebanon and let me note that on Lebanon, online colleagues Lara (phonetic) from LBC, Kathwar from L-Nashua, Maurice Matta from MTV, all asking about Lebanon, all kind of in the same ballpark as David, what are the actions; what's still pending; dates of the next mission. And a specific question actually from Morris Matter about our view on the Bank’s secrecy law which, well what’s the IMF view on the decision to send the newly Parliament approved Bank secrecy law back to Parliament for further changes.

So let me try and pick up on Lebanon and then get to Matthew’s good questions on African countries. Just noting them down so I don’t forget. Okay.

So on Lebanon, you know, as David indicated, we have been in an ongoing engagement with Lebanon for some time. We are looking to support Lebanon as strongly as we can. It’s a difficult situation. Colleagues ask about what’s been done, what’s still pending. There’s been slow progress in implementing some of the critical actions that we think are required to move forward with program support and delaying the implementation of these reforms only increases the costs to Lebanon and the Lebanese people.

So timely implementation of pending prior actions, as we call them at the Fund, and reforms is critical to end the crises and, you know, prevent what is of most concern, which is the deterioration of living conditions for the Lebanese people.

That said, I can tell you that an IMF staff team will visit Beirut from September 19 to discuss recent developments and to help speed up the implementation of these actions that I talked about. And, you know, these were all agreed under the April Staff Level Agreement, that’s what I think David was referring to, months back we had the Staff Level Agreement. So these actions were agreed but have not been implemented as yet, at least to the extent that we require to move forward. So the team will go to Beirut, we will meet with our Lebanese counterparts and prepare the ground for a full mission after a new government is formed in Lebanon. I hope that takes on board your questions.

On Ghana, what I can say on, well, you know, David, when a country requests financing from the IMF, we assess whether the country’s policies are consistent with debt sustainability as one of our requirements. And we still need to conduct a thorough update of the debt situation in Ghana through our Debt Sustainability Analysis. It will be a new DSA, David, I know you’re familiar with the DSA.

So not yet in a position to comment on that. Hopefully able to update you in the context of the discussions that are ongoing.

The last, I don’t know if it’s useful, I have here the last DSA, Debt Sustainability Analysis, that we published as part of the 2021 Article IV Staff Report with Ghana, I’m just going to quote from it. Said public debt was sustainable conditional on a rigorous and credible implementation of the authority’s medium term consolidation plan to put debt on a declining trajectory and ensure continued market access.

Of course, this was ’21, you know, we all know what has happened in the world since then for every country. I mentioned previously Ghana’s been affected by what’s been happening in the world as well as many other countries. So I would say stay tuned, David, and we’ll be coming with an update on the debt situation on Ghana. I don’t have that right now.

Nor do I have much for you, David, I apologize, on Ethiopia. We had been hoping, as you know, we talked about it here I know the last time I was here. That Ethiopia would be moving forward with its, you know, debt restructuring process under the Common Framework. I don’t have an update on that, nor do I have a date on the timing of the mission. If we have that, David, we will come back to you immediately after this press briefing, okay? But I don’t have it in front of me right now.

And then you had a question on Zambia, right? Could you just remind me of the question? Sorry.

QUESTIONER: Yeah, it’s about there’s sort of two figures in the sustainability in the house, sort of 140 percent exports to debt versus an 85 percent. And obviously one’s going to be harder than the other to achieve. And we’re just wondering sort of which one we needed to really focus on as the true target. Technical question.

MR. RICE: Yeah, David, again, let’s see if we can come back to you after this meeting.

MR. RICE: We did, you might have seen it, David, we did issue a statement overnight on, you know, there had been this story about the bondholders and they were, let me say asking questions also about our Debt Sustainability Analysis and what we felt needed to be done.

They had raised a, well it was a criticism actually, let me just call a spade a spade. It was a criticism that some of Zambia’s bondholders had raised. And what we said overnight was the debt restructuring negotiations in specific terms of the debt restructuring as well as the decision on what debt to include in the restructuring are decisions to be made by the authorities in cooperation with their legal and financial advisors. So, you know, again that’s always our position on these things.

Our role is to determine the financing envelope, I think you know this, David, that needs to be filled with debt relief as well as the relief needed to restore debt sustainability based on a realistic DSA, Debt Sustainability Analysis.

So in that regard the target of reaching a present value of 84 percent of export, we do not see that as an arbitrary target. We think that’s realistic and firmly grounded in our, in fact it’s a joint Debt Sustainability Analysis with the World Bank. We think that’s firmly grounded in that framework, again we do jointly with the World Bank. And it’s consistent with the level of external debt to exports for a country having space to absorb shocks.

So I don’t know if that’s helpful to you but that’s what I have on Zambia.

I am conscious of the time, we started a bit late and we’ve run a bit late. So unless I see an urgent two-hander, I’m going to draw a line under this press briefing.

QUESTIONER: Gerry, Gerry, sorry, one more thing. This is less a question than I suppose a comment. Just it’s been brought to the attention of some of us in the IMF press pool that this maybe is either your ultimate, your final or penultimate briefing, bi-weekly briefing. So just wanted to take an opportunity to thank you for all of your years of keeping us informed and answering our questions early in the morning and late at night. And just thank you. And I think that some of my colleagues may want to jump in here as well.

QUESTIONER: I’ll second that. I mean Gerry you’ve always told us that the IMF expects clear communication, clear and consistent communications from central banks and you’ve delivered that to us consistently and clearly, so thank you for that. We’re going to miss you.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Gerry, I want to weigh in too. It’s been an absolute delight working with you. You are a consummate professional and we will miss you greatly. We really appreciate the specificity and the details and the care with which you answer our never-ending questions.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Gerry, so much, we will miss you.

MR. RICE: Hey, guys, thank you so much. This means the world to me coming from you.

QUESTIONER: Gerry, I just want to add one thing. I’ve spared with a lot of spokespeople but you really are a delight. So thank you, you’ve done a great job.

MR. RICE: Look, thank you so much, Matthew, everybody. This means the world to me, I could not wish for any better support or validation than comes from you because you are at the center of what we’re trying to do here at the IMF. You help us, we try and help you because you help us to clarify and explain what the IMF is trying to do to help our member countries, and you have been such a fantastic group of professionals to work with. I hold you in the highest esteem. And you have my greatest respect. I look forward to seeing you all under other circumstances in the period ahead.

This will be my last gig as doing these bi-weekly regular press briefings. And it’s really been a pleasure to work with you all, you are a consummate group of professionals and I’ve been fortunate to work with you. I say that on behalf of my entire team in the Communication Department. Thank you so much.

And with that, good bye, good luck.

IMF Communications Department


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