Transcript of a Press Briefing with Thomas Dawson, Director of External Relations Department, IMF
August 3, 2005
Director of External Relations Department
International Monetary Fund
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Please note: a power failure occurred at the start of the briefing, preventing an audio recording of the first part of the briefing. Mr. Dawson's opening remarks are as prepared for delivery.
MR. DAWSON: Good morning and welcome to another of our regular press briefings. I am Tom Dawson, Director of External Relations.
I have several announcements before I take questions:
The Managing Director will visit Singapore and Korea in early September. This will be his third visit to the region since assuming office in June 2004.
In Singapore, Mr. de Rato will participate in a high-level seminar on regional financial integration jointly organized by the Singapore Government and the Fund. This is scheduled for September 3. Finance Ministers and central bank Governors from the region will participate in the closed-door seminar. The Fund fully supports regional financial and trade integration initiatives in Asia. The high-level seminar is a sign of our continued commitment to this process.
The Managing Director will be in Seoul, Korea, on September 7 for bilateral meetings with the authorities. He will then travel to Jeju to attend the APEC Finance Ministers meeting which will be held on September 8.
As some of you may recall, the Managing Director will be in Ukraine Thursday and Friday of this week for a series of meetings with the authorities, including the President. The visit is part of the Managing Director's ongoing missions to member countries.
On August 16, there will be a press briefing here on Iraq's Article IV review at 9:00 a.m. The Public Information Notice and Staff Report will be posted on www.imf.org. A transcript of the press briefing will also be published on the external website. Again, that briefing will be August 16.
Michael Deppler, Director of the European Department, briefed the press this morning via conference call on euro-area policies. The transcript and Public Information Notice will be posted on the website later today.
I would also like to remind everyone that the Executive Board informal recess starts the week of August 8th. The last day of Board meetings will be this Friday, August the 5th.
And, finally, on-line press registration for the 2005 Annual Meetings of the World Bank and IMF are now open at http://www.imf.org. The deadline for submitting on-line requests for credentials is September 16. Journalists who need U.S. visas are urged to register soon to avoid delays or possible entry problems. The Annual Meetings are scheduled for September 24th and 25th here in Washington.
[Mr. Dawson concluded by reading the following statement on Niger]
In the past few weeks, the world's attention has been focused on the extremely difficult situation in Niger, where food shortages have become critical. We are all well aware of the confluence of natural causes--drought and locusts--that has brought about this turn of events. It is heartening to see that the international community is responding with food, medicines, and other aid, just as it has so often before. The IMF stands ready to assist in any way that it can. Our team is working closely with the authorities to enable maximum resources to be freed within the budget to address the short-term and long-term problems arising from the drought.
All that said, I think it is important to respond to some allegations about the Fund that have been raised in response to the crisis. We have seen this before. A humanitarian crisis erupts, and soon the IMF is accused of bringing it about because of policies supposedly forced upon a country. Only later do the allegations die down as the facts come to light. We have heard various accusations in the past few weeks related to our advice on a range of issues, some that have never even been included in IMF-supported programs or even discussed with the government.
We will address these issues as they arise, but it is most important that everybody who truly cares about the crisis in Niger does not lose sight of the primary objective, which is providing all possible assistance as quickly as possible, and that is what we intend to do.
[Power restored. From this point on, transcript is based on audio tape]
Now I will be happy to take your questions.
QUESTIONER: Will the August 16th press conference be only focused on Iraq?
MR. DAWSON: Yes, it is a briefing on Iraq. It is analogous to what we just did today on the euro area. QUESTIONER: Which other countries will participate of the Singapore meeting?
MR. DAWSON: The Singapore meeting includes many of the ASEAN countries. I don't have a precise list here. You can go to website of the Singaporean authorities, but it is a wide grouping of countries at the ministerial and central bank Governor level. And, of course, many of the same will be meeting again a week later.
QUESTIONER: Tom, is the Board considering the G-8 debt proposal?
MR. DAWSON: As we speak, they are speaking.
QUESTIONER: Are we getting a statement?
MR. DAWSON: We will have a report on today's discussions later today. Their meeting started this morning and I suspect will go on at least until lunch. But we will have a summary of the discussion. Clearly the Board is actively looking at the G-8 proposal and seeing how the Fund can work to implement the debt relief that is so critically needed by these countries. And we remain on the time frame that was initially indicated by us and we are trying to have something more concrete by the Annual Meetings. I would expect in our case we will have an additional Board meeting early-ish in September following on this discussion, which is the first formal discussion that we have had. We have had an informal Board discussion and exchanges of view, but this will sort of clarify what further details need to be looked into that we can then present, and as I say, I expect within the first part of September. In fact, I know it will be in the first part of September.
QUESTIONER: A delegation from Argentina, including Secretary Nielsen, has had meetings with some members of the staff.
MR. DAWSON: That is right, and Mr. Nielsen even came by to see me and wish me farewell. That was very nice of him.
QUESTIONER: Can you tell us something more?
Are they going to discuss something more during the next few weeks in Buenos Aires, in Washington?
MR. DAWSON: With regard to the discussions with the Argentine authorities, productive discussions were held with Secretary Nielsen in late July, and we had an exchange of views on a wide range of issues. We are now discussing with the Argentine authorities the steps for the next few months, which may, as is normal with any member, involve staff visits to Argentina. When we have dates for that, we will let you know, and if it is not at the time of a press briefing, you know, within a day or two of a press briefing, we will let you know that as well, particularly since we are now in a situation where we will be essentially three weeks until the next briefing.
QUESTIONER: Is there any indications whether the talks are going well or not?
MR. DAWSON: Well, Secretary Nielsen's visit to Washington was the first discussion on the elements for what a program might be with the authorities, following up, of course, on the June discussion that is required under enlarged access by the Executive Board. So I think we expect that we will be having further discussions in the near future. That is certainly progress but I think it is rather early to be characterizing it beyond that. It is known that these discussions do tend to require some time.
QUESTIONER: In an interview last Friday Mr. Rato admitted that it may not be necessary to reopen the debt exchange, in order to reach an agreement. Do you have any kind of--
MR. DAWSON: I would reiterate, of course, what the Managing Director said, which is that--and the Fund has indicated this previously--that the issue of the outstanding hold-out creditors is something that will need to be addressed by the authorities, and I think they understand that, and they are looking at how to do that.
QUESTIONER: You said that you are going to have another statement on the Board discussion of the debt--
MR. DAWSON: We will have a report on today's discussion, yes. A brief report. This is the first formal discussion of the G-8 debt proposal. There has been an informal Board seminar, a discussion, several weeks ago, but this is the first one where the staff has presented an analysis of the proposal, and the Board now has a chance to take a look at the proposal and see how the Fund can make it work.
QUESTIONER: To what extent [inaudible]?
MR. DAWSON: Well, I know there have been news stories recently on the financing issue regarding our sister institution. It will, of course, not address that. That would be inappropriate. The Fund financing issue is quite a different issue. In that sense, I would not expect you will be seeing [inaudible]. That is not the nature of what our discussion is.
QUESTIONER: The Fund must have had time to digest the issue of the revaluation of the Chinese Yuan. Is there anything you can tell us about it?
MR. DAWSON: Well, I think it is well known that the Fund has been indicating for some time that an adjustment, a change in the foreign exchange regime was appropriate and that we thought that the technical conditions existed and that the authorities essentially needed to make a political decision. They did so. The Managing Director welcomed the decision in a press statement and has also had a couple of interviews on this. He has welcomed it as an important step that is part of the process of moving to a more market-oriented system, and it is, as I say, part of the process.
So I think clearly we welcomed it, and at this point I don't think there's much more for us to say, but you can be sure, particularly with the travel schedule that I just indicated, that the Managing Director will be available [inaudible] either prior to his Asian trip or during it.
QUESTIONER: What do you make of the Chinese statement that this is it for now and do not expect--
MR. DAWSON: I do not want to characterize the Chinese statement.
QUESTIONER: Many people in the United States have said that the revaluation is insufficient, what do you think--
MR. DAWSON: I am not going to comment on what individual commentators, whether they are public or private, in individual countries are talking about. I think I will just leave it with what the Fund view is, which is this is a move that we welcomed, that we think is appropriate, and it will help China in its important development efforts.
QUESTIONER: Is there a date yet for the Executive Board Meeting on Zimbabwe?
MR. DAWSON: I believe there is a tentative date, but I do not want to say it because I cannot quite remember it. But the answer is yes, but I do not have it for you right now. Again, it fits in--early September is going to be a busy time.
QUESTIONER: Do you have any comments on Ecuador? It seems that the authorities are angry with the IMF, the World Bank, and the IDB.
MR. DAWSON: Actually, I do not have anything for you in that regard. I am aware of some of the news reports, but I am not aware of anything actually being presented to us. We well have to get back to you with any comment we may have.
QUESTIONER: Do you have any comment on the Italian banking sector and are you aware of the developments there?
MR. DAWSON: The Fund, of course, as part of the surveillance process does follow developments in individual countries, but I do not think it would be appropriate for me to talk about that particular one.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Rato has been criticized recently in some press reports because he allegedly travels too much. Could comment on that?
MR. DAWSON: You can read newspaper articles and draw your own conclusion. As an institution-and it was not so long ago and this is probably still happening now-we are accused of following a Washington consensus where everyone sits here in Washington and tells the rest of the world what to do. And now we are being criticized for actually going out to the region and meeting governments and authorities. There seems to be a little tension between those two views.
As a major wire service story reports, the Managing Director indicated that the days are gone when you could sit in Washington and issue recommendations and have people just come see you. The idea of having an open, transparent institution that communicates with its membership, with its broader public, I think is the way the world is going, and the range of issues in the Fund's mandate is a broad range of macro stability, macroeconomic issues that requires maintaining close contact with our 184 members.
So I think that this is the way to look at it, and as I noted in one conversation I had with some journalists, at times people criticize Fund activities because they do not like what we are doing, in the sense that we may have taken or not taken a position on particular issues. And it is not our job to find the lowest common denominator. It is our job to call the shots as we see them. So there are people who may have wanted us to take different positions, and that itself leads to some of the criticism, which shows that people are, in fact, paying attention to what we are doing and that what we are doing is important. And we certainly feel that the membership wants an institution that is in touch with its members.
QUESTIONER: When is the actual review of Iraq happening?
MR. DAWSON: It happened on Monday. It was in the Board Monday. There is always a time lag of paper preparation, summing up and so on. It will be therefore released on the 16th.
QUESTIONER: What exactly will be released on the 16th?
MR. DAWSON: Everything will be released, but some material will be released on an embargoed basis, so that you can ask, as you naturally would anyway, intelligent questions.
QUESTIONER: [inaudible] Is there any sort of plan to--
MR. DAWSON: Remember, Article IVs do not come out the day of the discussion, so it will be a few days, typically. And it will be coming out--therefore, virtually by necessity, during the Board recess, unless it gets out Friday, which would be highly unusual. But when we know it is coming out, we will let you know. We do not call it here "bunching season," as they do at the Bank, but this is very much a crunch season for the Board. The Board even started at 9 o'clock this morning.
QUESTIONER: Is there any update on Turkey?
MR. DAWSON: My understanding, as I recall, is that the authorities--parliament adjourned, and the authorities had a number of measures that needed to be taken, and that is sort of pending the return of parliament, which is on its scheduled recess. That is essentially it. You know, I would note, though, that the economic reform program remains strong but the review is postponed until the parliament comes back and addresses the unsettled issues.
QUESTIONER: One last question on Argentina : a few days ago the IMF staff highlighted the necessity of the utilities to come up in order to further advance the discussions on a new agreement. Is that correct?
MR. DAWSON: I am not aware of that. I would just suggest you take a look at the Article IV paper, which the authorities published. I would imagine the issue was addressed, but beyond that I have nothing.
Thank you very much.
[Whereupon, the press briefing was concluded.]