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Somalia Months Away From Having New Currency

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https://www.voanews.com/a/somalia-months-away-from-new-currency/4059086.html............

Somalia Months Away From Having New Currency

October 06, 2017 10:55 AM

FILE - A money changer counts local currency notes at a local bureau where $100 US dollar exchanges for 750,000 Somaliland shillings in Hargeysa.
FILE - A money changer counts local currency notes at a local bureau where $100 US dollar exchanges for 750,000 Somaliland shillings in Hargeysa.
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WASHINGTON — 

The Somali Minister of Finance says the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is taking the lead in helping Somalia with a grant to print new currency before the end of this year.

Abdirahman Duale Beileh says the IMF will work with the Somali government.

“IMF is ready, from wherever they going to get that money, to help us,” he said. “There are other sources, but we are going to go through IMF.”

In an exclusive interview with VOA Somali, Beileh said the Somali government needs $100 million, half of which will go directly toward printing the new money, and the other half to keep the value of the currency when it circulates.

“The cost of printing the money is about $50 million, and I think there is also about same amount, same quantity will be necessary to deposit and keep it as a reserve to monitor the movements of supply and demand to keep the value,” he said.

He said the cost was the only outstanding issue before printing the money. Strengthening governance issues, accountability issues, skills available in the central bank, the rules and regulations, the monetary systems, the policies, all of these prerequisites have been concluded, Beileh said.

“We are now discussing the timing,” he said.

The Somali central bank has not properly functioned since 1991. The country’s old currency has almost disappeared or is worn out and was replaced by U.S. dollars, or privately printed notes, most of which are worthless fakes.

FILE - A money changer waits for customers at a local bureau where $100 U.S. dollars exchange for 750,000 Somaliland shillings in Hargeysa.
FILE - A money changer waits for customers at a local bureau where $100 U.S. dollars exchange for 750,000 Somaliland shillings in Hargeysa.


Coins, paper money

The government plans to issue both coins and paper money. The only banknote that is still used is the 1,000 Somali Shilling, which buys a cup of tea or a packet of chewing gum. Beileh said this will be the starting number for the new money.

The “1,000 Somali shilling will be the smallest denomination of coin. The biggest bank note of the new currency will be either 10,000 shilling or 20,000 shilling … there is still discussion on this and is yet to be finalized,” he said.

Reliable sources tell VOA Somali that the government plans to print several billion shillings, but Beileh refused to specify the amount.

“I’m not privy to the numbers but it will be adequate for the economy of Somalia,” he said.

Beileh said the target has always been to print the money toward the end of the year. The money will be released to the market during the second quarter of next year, he said.

Big challenges

One of the biggest challenges will be implementing the mechanism for replacing the old currency and more importantly what to do with the counterfeit money that has been in the markets for many years.

“That really will be the test,” Beileh said. “The counterfeit will be difficult to give good money against bad. It came by exchange of their own funds or their own goods and services but on the other side we need to control that counterfeit money, there will be some decisions that needs to be made as to how much of this bad money should get good money, a lot of talk has to go into that.”

He said the positive thing is that the amount of counterfeit money circulating may not be a lot.

“It’s not a lot when you look at the whole economy, I think it’s around may be 10 percent or 20 percent of the total money circulating.”

FILE - An internally displaced woman from drought hit area reacts after she complains about the lack of food at makeshift settlement area in Dollow, Somalia.
FILE - An internally displaced woman from drought hit area reacts after she complains about the lack of food at makeshift settlement area in Dollow, Somalia.


Poverty profile

Meanwhile the World Bank has released a new report about poverty in Somalia. The survey finds poverty in Somalia is widespread, with every second Somali living in poverty. The survey was conducted last year and is representative of 4.9 million Somali. Somalis are estimated to be 12 million. The areas it does not cover are nomadic people and inaccessible zones because of the conflict.

Utz Pape is a poverty economist for the World Bank. He told VOA Somali that the survey was the first comprehensive snapshot of the welfare conditions of the Somali population.

“What reports finds and states very clearly is that every second Somali lives in poverty, and by poverty we mean living below $1.90 per day, that is the 2011 power purchasing parity estimate,” Pape said. “This means large part of the population is poor, but we also see there are very large disparity between different groups and geographical areas. Household that were displaced tend to be much poorer than everybody else. But also we see a divide between rural household, which tend to be poorer than urban household.”

The report says poverty is high among the internally displaced people with 7 out of 10 poor. It says more than 1.1 million Somalis, or roughly 9 percent of the population, are considered to be internally displaced.

Pape says there are other non-monetary poverty indicators in Somalia, such as lack of access to infrastructure, clean water, poor sanitation facilities, lack of electricity and limited access to roads. Limited access to education and health and the other indicators is also highlighted in the report.

The World Bank says only 58 percent of Somalis have access to an improved source of water and 10 percent to an improved sanitation, compared with an average of 69 percent and 25 percent in low-income sub-Saharan countries.

Asked about what could be done in Somalia to reduce poverty, Pape said “resilience.”

“Resilience is important to avoid deepening poverty and to avoid additional household falling into poverty,” he said.

Remittances and entry points for different policies and programs, such as social safety net programs or other programs that build up resilience in poor households, access to education and access to health care can improve the conditions, Pape said.

 

 

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http://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Policy-Papers/Issues/2018/05/11/pp031618somalia-currency-reform-assessment-letter-for-the-central-bank-of-somalia...................

Somalia: Currency Reform Assessment Letter for the Central Bank of Somalia

Publication Date:

May 11, 2018

Electronic Access:

Free Full Text. Use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this PDF file

Summary:

This letter provides IMF staff’s assessment on the readiness of the Central Bank of Somalia (CBS) to issue a new national currency under Phase I which will be limited to exchanging the counterfeit Somali shilling notes currently in circulation with new currency. Over the past two years the IMF has provided the CBS with extensive technical assistance (TA) to support the currency reform project. All preparatory measures agreed on between the authorities and IMF staff have been implemented and IMF staff views that the CBS is ready to introduce the new national currency under Phase I. This assessment letter has been requested by the CBS with the objective to share it with donors to mobilize the needed funding for the currency reform project. It is estimated by IMF staff that this project under Phase I will cost about $41 million.

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Policy Papers

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Publication Date:

March 16, 2018

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http://www.innercitypress.com/imf2somaliasri051718.html......

IMF on Somalia Tells Inner City Press All Systems Go On New Currency, Defends Lanka Price Rise

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 – The International Monetary Fund offered some praise and support to Somalia on May 15, after conducting a visit not to the country but to next door Kenya. On May 17 for the IMF's embargoed media briefing, Inner City Press asked among other things, "In Somalia, the Central Bank says it has requested from the IMF an Assessment Letter needed in order to issue a new currency. Please describe the process, and status. And, IMF gives go-ahead to source $41m to issue new bank notes, but how can printing of counterfeit notes be stopped before this time?" IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question then said Somalia debt relief is a priority for the IMF, that all preparatory steps for the new currency have been taken, with the first step being replacing the counterfeit shillings. But what if new counterfeit is created in the meantime? Rice said the IMF would revert bilatally; Inner City Press also asked about price rises of the metro in Egypt, and of fuel in Sri Lanka. The latter, Rice defended as an attempt to eliminate subsidies that benefit the rich and not the poor - like the reported 130% rise in the price of kerosene? Most of the May 17 briefing was devoted to Argentina, on which the IMF Executive Board has a May 18 informal meeting on what Rice called Macri's request for a "high access stand by arrangement." Watch this site. On Somalia the IMF on May 15 said, "An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team, led by Mohamad Elhage, visited Nairobi, Kenya, from May 7—14, to conduct discussions on the second review of the second Staff-Monitored Program (SMP II) and to agree on SMP III. The team met with the Somali authorities to discuss recent economic developments, review progress on the implementation of reforms under SMP II, and discuss a follow-up SMP to consolidate reforms. At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Elhage issued the following statement: 'The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) successfully completed the third Article IV Consultations with the IMF and first review under its second SMP (SMP II) in February 2018... Performance under SMP II was satisfactory.  However, despite the important reforms implemented since the first SMP I (May 2016-April 2017), significant challenges remain. Growth is too low to make a significant dent in Somalia’s widespread poverty, high youth unemployment, and large social needs. The economy is vulnerable to shocks and lacks buffers needed to develop resilience. The external public debt is high, and there is no capacity to service public debt obligations. Without proper compliance with the AML/CFT international standards, Somalia will continue to suffer from pressures related to the reduction in correspondent banking relationships. This could result in lower and volatile remittances inflows, which are Somalia’s lifeline. SMP III will help maintain reform the momentum and macroeconomic stability. It will also continue to support the authorities’ broad reform agenda. In particular, it will focus on (1) enhancing public financial management and revenue mobilization; (2) completing Phase I of the currency reform, which consists of exchanging all Somali Shilling currently in circulation with a new national currency; (3) putting the foundation of financial sector reforms to foster financial development, inclusion, and stability, while strengthening compliance with the anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT); and (4) improving data reporting. Strengthening the procurement framework and improving governance and transparency are important features of SMP III, which will be support by technical assistance from the IMF... During the visit, the team met with Finance Minister, Mr. Abdirahman Duale Beileh; the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Mr. Abdirahman M. Abdi Hashi; Central Bank Governor, Mr. Bashir Issa Ali; Assistant to the President and Special Advisor, Hussein A. Gendisch; Representative of the Prime Minister’s office, Mr. Abdi Abdullahi; and other officials. The team also met representatives from development partners." Who might that be? By contrast when the IMF reviews developed countries' banking sectors, particularly in Europe, some banks' participation in predatory lending gets over looked. Consider Deutsche Bank, and today's IMF assessment of the Germany banking sector, just out from under embargo as of this publication: "The German banking and life insurance sectors should accelerate their restructuring to bolster profitability and reduce risks. In the banking sector, the regulatory capital ratio has increased, but the cost-to-income ratio and leverage remain high. The high cost structure, alongside low net interest margins, provisions for compliance violations, and the need to adjust to the new regulatory environment, continue to weigh on profitability. Restructuring is ongoing in the banking sector, but the process must be accelerated through faster implementation of restructuring plans, continued development of fee-based income, and further consolidation. In the life insurance sector, low interest rates have dented solvency ratios, and further progress is needed to reduce reliance on guaranteed return products. In this context, supervisory attention to interest rate risk and progress in implementing restructuring plans both in banking and insurance should continue." What about abuse of consumers, participation in predatory lending schemes and other abuses? What about Greece? What about Deutsche bank as the riskiest bank? The IMF announced a press conference, but apparently no live stream: "At the conclusion of the 2018 IMF Article IV mission to Germany, the mission chief Julie Kozack will hold a press conference at the Bundesbank offices in Berlin to present the missions’ Concluding Statement and answer questions from media.
When: Monday, May 14, 2018 at 1 pm CET.
Where: Deutsche Bundesbank, Hauptverwaltung in Berlin und Brandenburg Leibnizstr. 10, Berlin-Charlottenburg
Participants:  Julie Kozack, Assistant Director, European Department
How: Journalists interested in participating should register with Bundesbank e-mail christiane.engellandt-kranen."We'll have more on this.
 When the IMF held its Middle East press conference at its Spring Meetings on April 20, Inner City Press submitted this question: "On Yemen, what are the IMF's predictions and what are its current actions, for example in ensuring the payment of public servants? Relatedly, what is the impact of the war on Yemen on the Saudi economy? -Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press." Spokesperson Wafa Amr read the question, from Matthew Lee, to Jihad Azour, the Director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia Department, who said (full audio here), "The situation in Yemen has inflicted a big humanitarian toll. The Fund is helping the Yemeni authorities, the Central Bank, in designing and managing the financial framework to distribute salaries... and import goods and medicines. With the government, we try to help them preserve the Central Bank and the ministry of finance. We are in dialogue with global community, providing assessment of the challenges and the best instruments that could help." Afterward, the IMF sent Inner City Press an email that "Yemen is suffering deep humanitarian and economic crisis. Outlook is very uncertain and will be dependent on security developments. Recession in Yemen continued in 2017 and GDP fell by 14 percent. We expect zero growth in 2018, under the assumption that the conflict will end end of the year." It's appreciated, but there was no answer about the impact on the Saudi economy. On May 7, the IMF issuedthis, on vicious censor Sisi of Egypt: "Following a meeting with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Cairo today, Mr. David Lipton, First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued the following statement: ;President El Sisi and I discussed Egypt’s economic outlook and progress in Egypt’s reform program supported by the IMF. The reforms have started to reap results, especially with regard to Egypt’s macroeconomic stabilization: growth is at the highest rate since 2008, inflation has rapidly declined, foreign exchange reserves are at record levels, exports are growing and unemployment has declined. We also discussed the outcome of the Inclusive Growth and Job Creation Conference [link to the PR announcing the conference], co-organized by the Egyptian authorities and the IMF in Cairo May 5-6. I was encouraged by the determination, shared by policy makers, the private sector, members of the parliament and civil society. There was consensus that Egypt needs to lock in the gains in macroeconomic stabilization and shift gears towards the implementation of a home-grown structural reform agenda to achieve more inclusive and private sector-led growth. This will help create jobs, which is the best way to reduce poverty and improve living standards. In this context, the conference also benefited from the participation of former senior policymakers from Korea, India and Malaysia who shared their reform experiences. I thanked President El Sisi, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Governor of the Central Bank of Egypt Tarek Amer and the Minister of Finance Amr El Garhy for co-hosting the conference. As we continue our partnership, we stand ready to help Egypt achieve a better future for its people.” Watch this site. When the IMF held its biweekly embargoed briefing on March 29, Inner City Press submitted questions about South Korea, Myanmar and Jamaica, see below. Spokesman Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' South Korea question. From the IMF transcript: "on South Korea. This is from Matthew Lee. The U.S. says it's Treasury Department is finalizing an understanding with South Korea to avoid practices that provide an unfair competitive advantage. What does the IMF think of such bilateral forex arrangements? There are other questions on trade, so let me just take that. On the U.S.-Korea discussions on trade, I don't have the details of that. So, you know, I wouldn't speculate on that. What I would say more generally is that we believe bilateral and regional agreements can bring important benefits by building on a strong multilateral trade system that promotes transparency and includes well-enforced trade rules that promote even-handed competition, is what I would say on that one." Rice spent much of the briefing trying to correct "commentary" - that is, coverage - of Madame Lagarde's CFC proposal; he added as the final online question that an IMF team will be in Brazzaville in early April. This comes after the IMF praised another long time family run government in Gabon. He promised very "products and events" for the upcoming Spring meetings. Inner City Press asked: 1) "In the IMF's Myanmar statement it is said that “the direct economic impacts of the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state have been largely localized.” Can you explain? How local? 2) In Jamaica, the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) says it was following the orders of the IMF when it cut off funding to the Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica Campaign implemented by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), leaving its future in doubt. What is the IMF's response?" Watch this site - the IMF has yet to respond on some previous questions. On Cameroon, with the government continuing to cut and/or slow the Internet in the Anglophone parts of the country amid border incursions into Nigeria and "refoulement" of refugees there, what is the IMF's estimate of the costs, and comment on continuing to support and this government and its actions? 
On March 7 Inner City Press asked an IMF press conference about the Nigerian economy this question: "What does the IMF think the economic impact will be of CITES' inquiry into the irregular export of endangered rosewood to China, and new restrictions imposed on such exports from Nigeria?" We'll have more on this. (Inner City Press also asked Amine Mati, Senior Resident Representative and Mission Chief for Nigeria and Lucie Mboto Fouda, "On the Nigerian banking sector, did the IMF consider the allegations of fraud, from the account in First Bank Nigeria Plc of NNPC and Agip, to the non-payment of interest by Standard Chartered Bank, Fidelity Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Access Bank, FCMB, Skye Bank, Sterling Bank, Zenith Bank and Unity Bank after the sale of  Power Holding Company of Nigeria?   Separately, what about Nigerian banks' service to SMEs?" Back in February, Inner City Press asked the IMF of Zimbabwe, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Hungary. Spokesman Gerry Rice took Inner City Press' Zimbabwe question, including the word usurious, then provided assurances that Madame Lagarde met the new president in Davos and the IMF stands ready to help - when other arrears are paid off. The IMF did not (yet?) answer these Inner City Press questions: On Iraq, please comment and clarify: MP Abbas Bayati has rejected reports that the IMF has said loans to the central government will be issued on the condition Baghdad guarantees a minimum portion of the national budget for the Kurdistan Region. He said IMF does “not investigate the details of the loans [spent] by Iraq.” True? In Hungary, Norbert Maxin and Bela Bukta have been cleared of handing over damaging information to, or spying for, the IMF. What is the IMF's comment, and its interactions with the two, now that the case is over and the IMF can (and should) speak? Follow up on Sierra Leone, where it's said the IMF instead of using the word “stop” used a softer diplomatic word “delay” of payments... what the Minister of Finance and Baratay are doing is spin the fact. If they win the elections, they will now begin to implement the IMF conditions at the detriment of the ordinary people. In the first place, they agreed on the conditions at the detriment of the ordinary people of this country; their only motive was to receive the money for themselves and use the remainder to fund the elections so that they can stay in power." Back on February 1 on Sierra Leone, Inner City Press asked: "please specify the status of IMF's payments under the $224 million program to the government as relates to the upcoming elections and conditions such as cutting subsidies on rice and fuel." Deputy IMF Spokesman William Murray replied that a review that had been slated to be concluded in December has not been; he dodged on the relation to the election but it definitely calls into question the denials of Sierra Leone's finance minister and his demand that Africa Confidential get fact checkers. On Zimbabwe, Inner City Press asked, "On Zimbabwe, please specify the IMF's advice for clearing foreign debt. Is it, as reported, cuts to public sector wages, reducing farm subsidies, improving transparency in the mining sector & reaching an agreement on compensating farmers?" Murray talked up Managing Director Lagarde's meeting(s) in Davos but said the country still has a ways to go. Transcript and video soon. Back on January 18, Inner City Press asked the IMF about Yemen, Somalia, Tunisia and Cameroon. On Yemen, it asked "With continuing holes in the Yemeni Central Bank, what if anything is the IMF doing?" IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question and then said that the IMF is helping to build the Central Bank's capacity amid the humanitarian crisis. Transcript to come. On Somalia, Inner City Press asked of reports that “Somalia owes around $4bn making it almost impossible for Mogadishu to access new funds from the IMF.” The IMF puts the figure at $5.1 billion. What explains the difference, and how could Somalia access new IMF funds?" Rice replied that records were lost in the war and are being reconstructed; for now $5.1 billion is the figure. Again, transcript to come,  - and more on Cameroon and the continued undermining of the Internet and the economy by this big IMF recipient, Paul Biya's government. Before Rice's long Tunisia answer, Inner City Press had asked: "On Tunisia, what is the IMF's comments on its role in imposing austerity on the country since the popular uprising of January 2011? Did the IMF exerted sustained pressure on the Tunisian Central Bank to stop intervening in the currency markets to defend the value of the Tunisian dinar, increasing imports?" The IMF was prepared for this, emphasizing for example that cooking oil will not be subject to the VAT, but sweets and alcohol will. Video and transcript to come. Back on November 30, Inner City Press asked about critiques of the IMF from the Caribbean, about Yemen, Zambia and Kenya. The first three of these were answered. IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question: "Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has said of the IMF, 'If you care about the Caribbean, you must change the rules of engagement and allow us to help ourselves.' He's said the billions of dollars in Caribbean loans should be reclassified by the IMF. What is the IMF's response?" Rice said Managing Director Lagarde is aware of the criticism from the Caribbean forum a few weeks ago and that a study is underway including of catastrophe bonds but, he said, the IMF cannot currently do the requested reclassifications to make countries eligible forconcessionary financing. On Zambia, Rice notes that Inner City Press at the UN had asked, "Treasury Secretary Fredson Yamba has said Zambia expects to host an IMF mission before the end of the year and hopes to have a $1.3 billion loan deal in place in early 2018. 'Come 2018, we must have a final (IMF) programme. It has taken a long time because the parameters have been changing.' What is the IMF's status with Zambia?" Rice said after the pause in August, progress has been made, the interest is there, but some information and clarifications are still awaited. "We are waiting for further data and details on the government's external borrowing plans," he said. On Inner City Press' Yemen question, Rice said the IMF "donor grants will be needed" for the payment of wages and social assistance and that the IMF is willing to help with macro-stability once the conflict is over. But when will that be? Here was and is Inner City Press' Kenya question: In Kenya, IMF rep Jan Mikkelsen is quoted that “discussions about the current programme and what will follow after the expiration in March are expected to begin soon, with the new government taking office. The authorities have indicated that they are interested to continue a programme relationship with the IMF."Has the IMF taken note of, and what is its comment on, the critique of the election by Raila Odinga and the NASA Coalition? Would the IMF also confer with the opposition?" We'll have more on this.  Back on September 28, Inner City Press asked among other things about the IMF negotiating with a reputed money launder in Congo-Brazzaville, and about corruption charges against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar of Pakistan, also in IMF talks. On the former, IMF Deputy Spokesman William Murray said the IMF is again in Brazzaville, for the third time, having a “series of contacts” on financial assessment. He declined to confirm or deny the IMF is talking with Orion Oil's Lucien Ebata, but this is widely known, as is his dealings in cash, via the Panama Papers. We'll have more on this. Inner City Press' Pakistan question was and is: “On Pakistan, it is reported that “the IMF said it had been told by Pakistani officials that the restrictions [on luxury imports] would be removed within a year but Mr Abbasi now says his government was planning to impose more.” Also, what is the IMF comment on the corruption charges against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar?” But when re-submitting through the IMF's online form, with allows only 300 characters, Inner City Press took out “[on luxury imports]” thinking the IMF would know what restrictions were being referred to, since they imposed them. They did not, and did not address the Ishaq Dar corruption allegations. Yet. Watch this site. When the International Monetary Fund re-started its biweekly embargoed press briefings on September 14, Inner City Press submitted questions about Hurricane Irma and moratoria, Mozambique, DR Congo and Ghana: "what is the IMF's response to civil society saying 'the Finance Minister, in particular, is facing conflict of interest investigation with USA SEC, Ghanaian SEC and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in Ghana... We are losing hope as the IMF seems not concerned about all these developments”? The first two got answered, during the briefing, then this on Ghana, from an IMF Spokesperson: "We are aware of the allegations raised in Parliament and the related debates that have been reported on by the media. The Minister of Finance testified before Parliament to clarify the issue. Since the approval of the ECF arrangement we have been working with the authorities on strengthening debt management and improving governance and transparency of government operations. The enactment and ongoing implementation of the Public Financial Management Act, along with the implementation of the debt management strategy, indicate progress in these areas." Inner City Press asked: "On Antigua and Barbuda, and Hurricane Irma impacted countries more generally... will there be no moratoria? What is the IMF doing?" IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said, "There's a question from Matthew Lee on moratorium... on that, I would refer to what Mme Lagarde said a few days ago, of course the IMF has tremendous sympathy. She also said we stand ready to help. There are a number of options we can look at in that context. At the moment we are still trying to make an assessment. As a factual member, none of our members including Antigua and Barbuda have formally requested assistance from the Fund." Oh. On Mozambique, he called again for the publication of the full audit. Inner City Press also asked, "On the DR Congo, what is the IMF's response to civil society requests it has received that the Fund end its dealings with the National Petroleum Company of the Congo (SNPC), specifically that “if the IMF obtained the dissolution of Cotrade, a subsidiary of the SNPC, it can also demand and obtain the dissolution of the SNPC and the major works”? Watch this site and see IMF's July 20, 2017transcript: , with Inner City Press' question at that time: "Ghana President, Nana Akufo-Addo, on Tuesday said the country will not extend its three-year aid program with the IMF beyond April 2018. The IMF had urged it to do so to give it time to complete the program’s goals. Did the IMF so urge? A step back real quick for some context. Right now, we’re in the process of completing the fourth review of Ghana’s ECF program. We’ve made significant progress in program discussions, and we expect to reach understandings in all remaining issues in the coming days. The discussions are going to continue and as a result of these continuing discussions, a Board discussion to complete the fourth review probably won’t take place until late August. Again, Media Relations will get back to everyone on the exact timing. But it’s probably late August when Ghana’s fourth review will be taken up by the Executive Board.
Now, the question that was just posed was regarding a comment about extension of the ECF next year when it’s scheduled to expire. The President made it clear that he would like to move Ghana beyond aid. And successful completion of the IMF-supported program could be instrumental in achieving this goal by restoring macroeconomic stability in Ghana. A request for program extension is essential for our ability to complete the review of this program overall. And given the significant fiscal slippages from last year, it will also take longer to bring debt onto a clearly declining path, which explains the need for the program to cover performance into later next year. This was something that was outlined in a press release issued by the finance minister on July 18th. Mozambique: the IMF’s Mr. Lazare, our mission chief, has said that, quote, “critical information gaps remain unaddressed regarding the use of loans, proceeds”, close quote. Please be more specific about what the IMF sees as the information gaps, and how they can be filled, with what information and in what detail? First of all, we welcomed and continue to welcome the fact that the delivery of an international forensic audit on three companies to the office of the public prosecutor of Mozambique has taken place. We commend Mozambique public prosecutor for undertaking this important audit and for releasing the summary of the report. Transparency and good governance are key conditions for sustainable, inclusive growth, and that applies to all countries. Now we look forward to the publication of the entire audit report in due course. At that point, we will be able to provide an informed view on the audit and its implication
s. Still UNanswered: "
On Zambia, Fitch has “said the key risk stemming from the current political tension if it escalated could jeopardize an IMF aid package as well as other lender's willingness to provide the southern African nation with external financing” and that “progress towards an IMF program has remained slow and may be delayed further by domestic political events, adding that expectation of an IMF program was key to Zambia's B/negative sovereign rating.” Please comment on if progress is slow and on these risks. In Sri Lanka, Joint Opposition’s Parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardana on July said that the country's Inland Revenue Act, in accord with the agreement arrived at with the IMF, is “an attempt to sabotage all forms of tax relief provided by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his tenure as the Finance Minister, and clarified that state-sponsored relief was also included under the new Act.” Is that the IMF's understanding of the Inland Revenue Act? Please comment. If there is an updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring “Silicon Mountain." Back on June 22 Inner City Press submitted questions about Zambia, Cameroon and Haiti, where it was. During the embargoed briefing, IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' Zambia question and said, "implementation of the remaining actions in the next few weeks will enable us to present the authority's request for an Extended Credit Facility arrangement to the Board, and we expect that to be in August of this year." But this Haiti question has yet to be answered: "Chris Walker said reconstruction from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, and investments in health, education, and social services... will be achieved in part through the elimination of excessive subsidies, including subsidies for retail fuel sales. Please specify the IMF's thinking on time timing and range of subsidy elimination and ideas for EDH utility." On this and Cameroon (see below), we'll have more.  On Cameroon, Inner City Press has repeatedly asked for the IMF's "updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring 'Silicon Mountain.'" Watch this site: we'll stay on this. The next IMF briefing is July 13. From the IMF's May 11 transcript, of its Deputy Spokesperson Willam Murray: "I’ve got a question from Inner City Press on Sri Lanka. Do recent government moves on the Inland Revenue Act make it more likely the IMF Board will act on the request for completion of the second loan review in June and make a third disbursement? Again, it’s a question about Sri Lanka and the Inland Revenue Act and the likelihood of completing the second review. We had a staff level agreement in Sri Lanka on May 3rd, last week. We noted in announcing that agreement that it’s subject to completion of a prior action by the authorities, which is submission of the Inland Revenue Act to Parliament. And that was a prior action that was agreed earlier this year. Our legal experts are still analyzing the content of the new draft bill, and are in discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities. That’s where we stand at the moment on Sri Lanka." The answer's appreciated.  Back on April 12when at its Spring Meetings the IMF held its Middle East and Central Asia press conference, Inner City Press submitted this question: "Please describe the IMF's view and possible plans on Yemen, given the crisis there, including on President Hadi's proposed moving of the Central Bank out of the capital to Aden. What is the IMF's view of and any assistance to the Central Bank's performance?" After the briefing, the IMF provided this answer: "The humanitarian and economic impact of the conflict has been devastating; it has caused many deaths, depressed economic activity, and destroyed much of Yemen’s infrastructure. There is now even a tangible risk that the conflict could lead to famine in some parts of Yemen. Yemenis food supply relies largely on imported staples, like wheat and rice. Yemen needs urgently foreign exchange grants from donors to pay for imported food. But Yemenis also need to be able to buy the food that is imported. Resuming paying public salaries and social assistance grants in all of Yemen is therefore also urgently needed. Given these needs, the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) could be the pivotal player for facilitating food imports and for resuming paying public salaries and social assistance grants in all of Yemen.But to play this humanitarian role, the central banks in Aden and Sana’a need urgently to find a way to cooperate in the interest of providing sufficient food to all Yemenis.  Fund engagement is currently limited. We support the Yemeni authorities and the international community to the best of our abilities.The Fund stands ready to re-engage more fully as soon as the conflict is resolved to help rebuild economic institutions, jumpstart growth, and stabilize the economy."

 Back on April 6 when the IMF held its biweekly embargoed press briefing, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Gerry Rice about South Africa, Zambia, Bosnia, Nigeria and the UN, Cameroon and other issues. On Zambia, Inner City Press asked, "On Zambia, please state if a sale / privatization of Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) is no longer a condition for an IMF program with the country, as inferred from the recent list of conditions issued by the IMF's Tsidi Tsikata."  After the briefing, an IMF Spokesperson replied to Inner City Press that "We have made progress towards reaching understandings on an economic program that could be supported by an IMF arrangement. There is broad agreement on key objectives, targets, and policies. We have agreed to continue discussions at the forthcoming April 2017 Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank here in Washington D.C. At this stage, it is premature for us to get into specifics on policy actions such as sales of parastatals."

  On South Africa, Inner City Press asked "does the IMF have any comment on the recent firing of the finance minister? Separately, have there been any discussions of a possible program with South Africa?" Rice said that no request for a program has been received -- "the South African authorities have not requested a program from the IMF" -- and that the IMF normally does not comment on "domestic politics." He went ont to say, "it's important that institutions remain strong and the government can be united on policies for inclusive growth for all South Africans." We'll have more on this.

  On Bosnia, Inner City Press asked the IMF, among other things: "what the IMF's comment on opposition, from farmers and the Republika Srpska to the excise tax on fuel which it is reported is a condition for the IMF's program?" Early on April 6, prior to the embargoed briefing but there reiterated at it, the IMF's mission chief for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Mr. Nadeem Ilahi, said: "The IMF took note that the BiH parliament did not adopt the amendments to the law on excise tax and the new law on deposit insurance during a session held on April 5, 2017. This will have implications for mobilizing external financing for much needed infrastructure projects and for the authorities’ efforts to modernize banking sector legislation. Both are key requirements of the authorities’ program, supported by the IMF under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). We now expect a significant delay in completion of the first review of the program.   In recent months, the authorities have made good progress in implementing economic reforms supported by the EFF, particularly by strengthening fiscal discipline, safeguarding financial stability, and improving business environment. We stand ready to assist the authorities in continuing the implementation of structural reforms to unlock growth potential and maintain macroeconomic stability, including through IMF advice and technical assistance.The authorities need more time to make further progress in a number of key areas of their program, such as securing financing for key infrastructure project, modernizing banking sector legislations, and improving corporate governance of state owned enterprises. In the period ahead, we will maintain close dialogue with the authorities and remain committed to assist them in their efforts.” We'll have more on this.

  Back on March 23 when the International Monetary Fund held its previous biweekly embargoed press briefing, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Gerry Rice about Dominica, Belarus, Cameroon and other issues. On Dominica, Inner City Press asked: "the IMF's Mr. Guerson has referred to 'high Citizenship-By-Investment (CBI) revenues.' What is the IMF's view of fraud and / or AML dangers in that CBI program? Mr Guerson also called for the 'operationalization of the Eastern Caribbean Asset Management Company.” Can you say more: by when, and on what assets?" Shortly after the briefing, an IMF spokesperson responded to Inner City Press that "seaking more generally and not on Dominica specifically, the IMF has conducted extensive research on citizenship programs in the Caribbean including on the regulatory and governance challenges related to these programs. As a general principle, the Fund has stressed the importance of transparency in the design and implementation of these programs. When properly run, these programs can be an important source of additional revenue. Generally speaking we have called for receipts to be held for future generations, debt repayments and not to be used for regular operating expenses." Some in Domenica have asked if the Skerrit government's program is meeting this standard, for example with regard to Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng now facing a UN-related bribery trial in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. But to emphasize: the IMF's answer is general.

  On Cameroon, Inner City Press asked: "the IMF's Mr. Selassie said: 'there will be significant fiscal reforms that need to be effected as well as reforms to promote growth and we are working on developing those with a number of the CEMAC countries.' Please provide further specifics, particularly regarding Cameroon and the continuing financial impact of the now 65-day Internet shut down to the Anglophone areas including “Silicon Mountain” in Buea." We hope to have more on this.

Earlier in March, Inner City Press asked both the International Monetary Fund and the UN Security Council's president about the crisis in Cameroon's Anglophone areas on March 9 and heard that while the IMF acknowledges the financial risk, the Security Council does not see it as a threat to international peace and security. But the UN's Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi has said nothing about the crisis, and blocks on Twitter the Press which asks about it. Is the UN system failing, in its new Secretary General's promise of increased preventative diplomacy?

 When the IMF's spokesperson Gerry Rice took questions on March 9, Inner City Press asked about Cameroon, specifically the crackdown in the northwest and southwest of the country. Inner City Press asked, "On Cameroon, after the mission led by Corinne Delechat, what is the status of talks for a program, and since the IMF cited “civil unrest in the neighboring Central African Republic,” please state the IMF's awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon, also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact." Rice read out the question and then said, among other things, that the risk factors for 2017 include a continuation of the "social and political events" in the "so-called Anglophone" areas of Cameroon. Interim video here.  On IMF site, here, from 34:56. IMF transcript below.

  But a few hours later when Inner City Press asked the month's UN Security Council president Matthew Rycroft of the UK, who had just been in Cameroon, about the crisis, he said it is not a threat to international peace and security. From the UK transcript:

Inner City Press: In Cameroon there’s an issue that has been existing since November in Anglophone areas which have no internet for 52 days, there’s been teachers arrested, no schools. So I’m wondering as one Council member said, it did somehow come up in meetings, but was the issue raised at all, and what response was given by the government to this ongoing cut off of internet and abuse in this area?
 
Amb Rycroft: It came up informally in our contacts with members of the Government of Cameron but as far as I recall it did not come up in any formal meeting, and I think that makes sense because we were going there to look at the threat to international peace and security, and Boko Haram, and related issues, but in private, informal discussions with ministers in the Government of Cameroon it came up and they gave us the benefit of their perspective on the issue.
 
Inner City Press: Is there any Security Council role that can be played in trying to preventively deal with this issue?
 
Amb Rycroft: I don’t think it’s an issue on our agenda per se, we keep our eye on our radar across the world, but we have to make a judgement about whether something is a threat to international peace and security, and at the moment, I think our judgement would be that issue is an issue that is confined within Cameroon without international aspects.

  This is a project for the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info. Watch these sites and feeds.

From the IMF's March 9 transcript:

"There is a question of Cameroon, from Matthew Lee, "After the Mission what is the status of talks for a program; and since the IMF cited civil unrest in the neighboring Central African Republic, please state the IMF's awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon? And also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact?"

So, the background here is, I think important the context. So, the Fund's engagement here in the CEMAC Region, CEMAC is the six Central African Economic nations that comprise the Central African Economic and monetary community. They met in Yaoundé on December 23rd. The Managing Director was there. And in that meeting, heads of state discussed the economic situation, the severe shocks that have hit that CEMAC region in recent years, including the sharp decline in oil prices, and decided to act collectively and in a concerted manner. And the heads of state requested the assistance of the IMF to design economic reforms needed to reestablish macroeconomic stability in each country and in the region as a whole.

So, again, context: I can tell you that the funders already sent missions to Gabon, Republic of Congo. And a reminder to you, that we already have programs with Central African Republic and Chad. Okay?

Now, we also have sent a mission to Cameroon, which is the question. And we did issue a press statement, which the question referred to, just on Tuesday. That was the Corrine Delechat reference.

So, the specific question, to turn to that. We are indeed aware of the events in the so-called Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The macroeconomic impact of any event that could affect production and/or consumption, is typically felt with a certain lag. So, these events started in November last year, and thus are likely to have not had a significant impact on production in 2016.

For 2017, the risks to our growth outlook include a combination of external and domestic factors, including continuation of the sociopolitical events in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon. And as our press release the other day indicated, our view is that the medium-term outlook for the Cameroonian economy remains positive, subject to the implementation of appropriate policies."

We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

***

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