IMF has given $31 billion to 76 countries to respond to COVID-19, including over $10 billion to 47 low income nations

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has given $31 billion in emergency financing to 76 countries in the world to respond to COVID-19 pandemic, including over $10 billion to 47 low income nations.

“The Fund and its response to the Covid-19 crisis. As of today, we have given emergency financing to 76 countries, that’s totaling around $31 billion at this point. This includes assistance to 47 low income countries, the poorest countries, and that total is for over $10 billion to those countries,” Gerry Rice, the director of communication at the IMF said on Thursday during his regular press briefing in Washington DC.

The IMF has also provided immediate debt service relief in the form of grants to all 29 of its poorest member countries which were eligible under the catastrophe containment and relief trust.

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“Our total lending commitments at this point for the IMF are now around $270 billion, with about one third of that having been approved since the end of March,” Mr. Rice said.

IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice
IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice

The managing director of the IMF Miss Kristalina Georgieva argued recently that much help would be needed, especially for low income countries and nations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Even after the novel coronavirus pandemic had been successfully defeated, or at least brought under control, low-income countries, many in Sub-Saharan Africa, will require continued financial support from the international community to overcome the economic turmoil left by the deadly bug, Georgieva and Economic Counsellor Gita Gopinath argued in a joint column published on September 9.

“Many countries will face daunting fiscal challenges in trying to reconcile the spending required to fight the crisis with the constraints imposed by higher debt and declining revenues. Low-income countries will require continued financial support from the international community,” they wrote.

The economists argued that a full recovery from the pre-pandemic level would remain a mirage without a permanent medical solution.

Gita Gopinath, chief economist and director of the Research Department at the International Monetary Fund. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
Gita Gopinath, chief economist and director of the Research Department at the International Monetary Fund. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

“Though the world has learned to live with the virus, a full recovery is unlikely without a permanent medical solution. Lingering uncertainty about the virus and the fear of recurring outbreaks are weighing on mobility and the confidence of consumers and businesses. The availability of a vaccine, or therapies with proven success in treating COVID-19, will materially lift the global outlook,” they wrote.

You can read, below, the full transcript of Gerry Rice’s press briefing on September 24, 2020, as released by the IMF.

MR. RICE: Well, good morning everyone and welcome to this press briefing on behalf of the International Monetary Fund. I’m Gerry Rice of the Communication Department, and as usual everything this morning will be embargoed until 10:30 a.m., that’s Washington time. Also, as usual, let me begin with a few announcements and then I will take your questions, both online, several have come in advance, and live. Hopefully, colleagues are able to join us via WebEx as we did last time.

So just a quick update on the Fund and its response to the Covid-19 crisis. As of today, we have given emergency financing to 76 countries, that’s totaling around $31 billion at this point. This includes assistance to 47 low income countries, the poorest countries, and that total is for over $10 billion to those countries.

We have provided immediate debt relief in the form of grants to all 29 of our poorest member countries which were eligible under the catastrophe containment and relief trust. Our total lending commitments at this point for the IMF are now around $270 billion — 270, with about one third of that having been approved since the end of March, since the crisis began, so roughly about 90 billion of that approved since the crisis began. You can find more details, more numbers if you would like to have them on IMF.org. Very easy to find on our Covid policy tracker, and our lending tracker as well.

A couple of announcements about upcoming events. The managing director, Kristalina Georgieva is, of course, representing the IMF at this year’s UN General Assembly, which, as I think you all know is virtual this year. And she will be participating in a number of events. I’ll point to just a couple of them. She has already taken part in the climate week event that happened on Monday.

Ravi Agrawal, Editor of Foreign Policy Magazine leads a one-on-one conversation with Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Women, Work and Leadership at the IMF Headquarters during the 2019 IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings, October 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. IMF Photograph/Cory Hancock
Ravi Agrawal, Editor of Foreign Policy Magazine leads a one-on-one conversation with Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Women, Work and Leadership at the IMF Headquarters during the 2019 IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings, October 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. IMF Photograph/Cory Hancock

She will be taking place –- taking part in the financing for development session with heads of state on September 29, and on that same day there will be an event with Barron’s, the news outlet Barron’s, on inequality. And that’s open to everyone; that will be a question and answer session, and you will find details of these things on IMF.org.

Just this morning we published a blog on how the European Union can meet its climate mitigation goals. This blog was written by the European department’s new director, Alfred Kammer, along with the economist colleagues Dora Iakova and James Roaf.

We are now looking ahead to the Annual Meetings, of course, which are formally help that week of October 11 to 16 is the formal week of the annual meetings which this year, I think everyone knows, will be virtual. A couple of events related to the annual meetings, just for your calendar. On Tuesday, October 6 the Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, will be making what we call the curtain raiser speech for the annual meetings. That’s where we preview what’s coming up at the Meetings and our perspective on the global economy. And Kristalina will be doing that this year in conjunction and partnership with the London School of Economics; that’s on October 6th.

And then, I mentioned the week of the annual meetings itself is 11 to 16 of October. On Tuesday the 13th of October, The World Economic Outlook and the Global Financial Stability report will be released. I know that’s of great interest to many of you so the WEO, the GSFR coming on Tuesday the 13th. And then, the following day the Fiscal Monitor on Wednesday the 14th will be coming.

During that week of the annual meetings you will find a number of major seminars. For example, Kristalina Georgieva will be in conversation one on one with Melinda Gates on one day. Another day there will be our Global Debate with the Managing Director, also with Christine Lagarde, the President of the European Central Bank, of course. Sri Mulyani, the Finance Minister of Indonesia. And Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Managing Director of the World Bank, Finance Minister of Nigeria, and so on. So a number of really, I think, very interesting seminars.

And then, around the meetings both before and after, several conferences that I think will be of interest to you. We will be doing our second Mobilizing with Africa conference on October 9th. And there’s a very interesting cross boarder payments seminar on Monday the 19th of October. We will also have regional press briefings for all the areas covered by the IMF, in that week of the 19th of October, virtually every day we will have access to a regional press briefing and be able to ask your questions on those regions.

And finally, let me say just again on the annual meetings, related to these flagship documents, the WEO, the GFRS, and the Fiscal Monitor, we always have what we call analytical chapters which look at the specific issues in the global economy. And the WEO analytical chapters will be released the week before the meetings so that’s that week of October 5th. You can look out for them. And that’s the WEO and Fiscal Monitor chapters, and the global financial stability report chapters will be released the week after the annual meeting. So again, that’s that week of the 19th.

That’s a lot of dates to throw at you. Apologies for that. You will find them all on IMF.org in more detail and you can take note.

One more housekeeping item for me. We are, as I said at the top of the meeting — the top of the briefing, we’re taking life questions via WebEx so please raise your hand on WebEx, use the chat function. We will look at that and you will find if you go to the IMF press center, to which, if you are a journalist you have access, and you will find the instructions there how to do this. It’s fairly simple, even I can do it, so it’s fairly straightforward. And we will continue to take questions online.

So just to give you an opportunity to get on WebEx and ask your questions, let me begin with a couple of questions that have already come in online. And I’m going to start with India, thanks to Lalit Jha of the Press Trust of India. Lalit is asking a couple of questions.

First, what steps can India take to prevent a freefall of the economy from any future pandemic like coronavirus?

Certainly the pandemic has highlighted the need to increase investment in the healthcare sector. Of course that’s true for India, true for virtually all countries. Our joint study with the NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Finance shows that to achieve high performance in health related sustainable development goals, India would need to gradually increase total spending in the healthcare sector from the current 3.7 percent of GDP. More generally beyond the health sector, comprehensive structural reforms are needed to achieve more inclusive and sustainable medium-term growth. We’ve talked about those reforms before; infrastructure, land reform, product market, and labor market reform, increasing female labor force participation, access to finance and better jobs. As I say, we’ve talked about these things before.

Lalit has a second question about Prime Minister Modi’s “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” initiative, or “self-reliant India”, and what’s our view on that? To which I would say the economic package under this self-reliant India initiative, which was announced in the aftermath of the coronavirus shock has supported the Indian economy and mitigated significant downside risks, so we do see that initiative as having been important.

And looking ahead, as the Prime Minister has said, for India to become a bigger and more important part of the global economy, pursuing policies that stimulate by improving efficiency and the competitiveness of the economy are critical. And to achieve the stated “Make for The World” goal in India the priority is to remain focused on policies that can help further integrate India in the global value chain including through trade, investment and technology.

So thank you, Lalit for those questions.

One more online on Lebanon from Maurice Matta, MTV. What’s the status of the IMF’s discussions with the Lebanese authorities and what impact will a longer delay in government formation have on the Lebanese economy? To which I can say to Maurice, the IMF stands ready to engage with the new government in Lebanon after its formation is completed. And as Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director has said we stand ready to redouble our efforts to help Lebanon and the Lebanese people to overcome the social and economic crisis that Lebanon is facing.

In the meantime, we have been in touch with the Lebanese authorities on technical issues. We have offered technical assistance in areas that can help them face some of the challenges following that terrible explosion at the port. There’s a need to embark again, on comprehensive reforms, to restore confidence and address challenges in many areas so as to bring back stability and enhance investment prospects. And these will help with putting the economy back on a growth path. That’s it on Lebanon.

Let me turn to WebEx and place our trust in the technology that we can take some live questions. And I’m going to go first to Reuters and I believe Andrea Shalal is on the line. Andrea, are you there?

QUESTIONER: Hey, good morning, Gerry. Thank you for doing this.

MR. RICE: Good morning, Andrea, nice to hear from you. I’m not seeing you but I’m hearing you loud and clear.

QUESTIONER: I can start my video. I can’t see you on this WebEx but I can see you on the other feed.

MR. RICE: There you are.

QUESTIONER: I’m wondering whether you have —

MR. RICE: There you are, now I’m seeing you, Andrea. Hi.

QUESTIONER: Hello. Yeah, long hair. Yeah, I was wondering, do you have an updated assessment of the precedence for a second wave of COVID infections and what that will mean for the global economy and especially the emerging market and developing economies. Jeffrey Okamoto spoke yesterday and said the crisis is lasting longer than expected and some countries will take years to return to growth. How many countries and which regions and then I have a quick follow up after that.

MR. RICE: Thank you, Andrea. As you know, the last WEO update we published on June 24th and that gave our latest formal assessment of the global outlook. And, of course, we’ll have the WEO itself coming as I mentioned in several weeks’ time on October 13th. What I can say today is that recent incoming data suggests that the outlook may be somewhat less dire than at the time of the WEO update on June 24th with parts of the global economy beginning to turn the corner.

Second quarter performance in China and in a number of other advanced economies was better than anticipated. Again, that at the time of the WEO update as activity began to improve after those stringent lockdowns were eased. And we’re also seeing signs of global trade slowly beginning to recover.

But, you know, I’d really, I would emphasize we are not out of the woods and that the outlook remains very challenging, especially for many emerging markets and developing countries. The emerging markets other than China, the situation remains precarious.

Why, we’re seeing the strains continue in terms of domestic demand which has been plunging coupled with additional pressures in many cases from commodity price drops, lower export demand, sharp declines in tourism in many countries and shrinking remittances. Small, you asked, Andrea, about which particular countries, small developing states have been hit particularly hard by this pandemic especially, again, those dependent on tourism. And they now face sharp contractions and large financing needs.

So, taken together, we are very concerned that this crisis will reverse the gains in poverty reduction that have been made in recent years and rollback the progress that has been made toward the Sustainable Development Goals. But again, more granularity, more detail and our updated forecasts and assessment coming October 13th.

QUESTIONER: Thanks, Gerry. I just want to follow up. Actually, I wanted to ask about the U.S. It looks like the process for a stimulus package, you know, have stalled). What are the consequences for the global economy if the world’s largest economy is unable to continue pumping money into support workers and prevent bankruptcies?

And then secondly, you were talking about the financing needs of those developing countries. I’m wondering if you can say anything? I mean, the IMF has been very strong in calling for an extension of the DSSI and also to provide additional aid for middle income countries or countries that are not currently eligible for the DSSI. What are the consequences if that kind of aid doesn’t come through? And what can you do for those countries that are sort of in that in between place? It looks not great.

MR. RICE: Okay, lots of questions there, Andrea. Let me just try and take them. On the U.S., what I would say is we support the broad scope of the legislation that’s been signed into law in the United States. We’re confident it will help ease the burden of the global pandemic on both corporations and households. And, of course, the steps taken by the Federal Reserve on the monetary policy side, very welcome and very supportive. They’ve had an important impact in the United States and in the global economy.

On your specific question on the stimulus, we released our recent Article IV report some weeks ago, middle of July or so forth. And in that, you know, the difficult situation faced by U.S. households and businesses, we said, does argue for a further round of fiscal measures to be quickly put in place to boost demand, increase health preparedness and support the most vulnerable. So, you’ll find more on that issue in the Article IV and that remains our position.

On the question of debt and, you know, the debt sustainability initiative, the DSSI, of course, during the process of IMF providing this emergency financing to countries, we’ve seen a significant increase in the debt vulnerabilities of many countries. And we are advising countries to take steps to try and ensure the debt remains sustainable such as appropriate fiscal consolidation. In the years after the pandemic, countries need to spend right now to help mitigate the pandemic but we are also trying to advise them and work with them looking toward the medium term needs.

On the DSSI itself, well over half of potentially eligible countries have applied for participation. At the Annual Meetings, there will be further discussions of the DSSI and next steps required. I think there will be discussions both by the G20 and by our International Monetary and Financial Committee, the governing body for the IMF.

A couple of issues that I would expect to feature and I think that relate to your questions. Participation by the private sector, by commercial lenders in the DSSI would provide much welcome additional breathing space to the poorest countries as they cope with the pandemic. And even as private sector participation in the initiative remains voluntary, the Fund and the World Bank support efforts by the G20 and other creditor countries to encourage their private sector creditors to participate in the DSSI.

So, private sector participation, I think, will be one issue. The second issue, I think, will be whether this initiative should be extended beyond 2020. And where we stand right now is that official bilateral creditors have agreed to provide relief until the end of this year. Again, the IMF together with the World Bank, we have already expressed our support for extending the DSSI. We will report to the G20 on this issue of possible extension beyond end of 2020 and, of course, we stand ready to help support the potential extension.

And, you know, I would expect the issue of how countries beyond the poorest countries, Andrea, can be helped also to be a focus of discussion at the Annual Meetings, so stay tuned for that. Thank you for those questions, Andrea and very nice to see you. Haven’t seen you in ages.

Let me turn to CCTV. Gabriel, I think I see you there. Please.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Gerry. Can you hear me?

MR. RICE: Yes, Gabriel and I can see you.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Great, hi Gerry, thank you for doing this and good that we’re seeing each other although virtually. My question is regarding to the UN’s 75th anniversary and now we’re at a moment where multilateralism has both been called for and been challenged. I wonder how does the IMF see the role of multilateral organizations such as the UN and the IMF itself and how does the IMF see the role of China in this current mechanism? Thank you.

MR. RICE: Well, thank you very much, Gabriel. Maybe just a couple of points. Indeed, the UN is marking its 75th anniversary as we speak. And it has a critical role to play in maintaining peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, and promoting sustainable development. Next week at the UN General Assembly, Kristalina Georgieva the Managing Director of the IMF will be taking part in the important high-level meeting at the UN that brings together heads of state from across the world. And we will be focusing on the issue of how to finance the agenda for sustainable development, how to fight this terrible pandemic and beyond, and how to secure the financing to do that.

That’s just one example of, I think, a very concrete example of why international cooperation continues to be very important, especially in our increasingly interconnected world. And I think given the pandemic, I think this actually has brought to light, brought into sharper focus why international cooperation is needed, perhaps, more than ever. If you think about vaccines, their production and distribution, if you think about resolving trade issues, if you think about technology issues, and, you know, something like climate change, clearly issues like that, challenges that face the world, they face individual countries, but they don’t recognize borders. They face the world and cannot be resolved without international cooperation, without us working together, in essence.

Now clearly, there are areas where multilateralism can do better. We need to be alive to that. Amongst other things, I think we can do a better job explaining and making clear just how much the world has to lose if we do not support international cooperation and allow it to decline.

On China, I would say that along with other countries around the world, China has an important role to play and can make a difference in terms of international cooperation. Speaking for the IMF, we welcome China’s support and partnership. Let me just mention again very concretely, China’s recent contributions to this Catastrophe and Containment Relief Trust which I mentioned at the top of the meeting which helps to provide debt relief to the poorest countries.

We appreciate China’s support, and China’s participation in the debt initiative that we just discussed to suspend a debt service for the low-income countries. Going forward, we would expect that China will continue to play a leadership role in international efforts, and perhaps, especially in helping the low-income countries so they can navigate this crisis. The biggest crisis that has faced the world, probably since World War II, and we need all hands-on deck. We need international cooperation to resolve that crisis. I will leave it there, Gabriel.

I’m going to turn to Eric Martin of Bloomberg. Eric, if you’re there?

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Gerry.

MR. RICE: Having a little bit of trouble hearing you, Eric. Could you turn up your volume, if you can?

QUESTIONER: Yes. Can you hear me better now?

MR. RICE: I can hear you. It’s a bit faint, but I can hear you. Please go ahead.

QUESTIONER: Okay. Sorry. So several questions, first of which involving Argentina and central bank chief Miguel Pesce, and since the last (inaudible) the IMF before, announcing stricter currency controls. But I was curious on Argentina, has the IMF been dialoguing with Argentine official since the currency controls were put into place? And just kind of the characterization of how constructive can dialogue be if the IMF and Argentina, or if Argentina, rather, is not giving the IMF notice about the policy measures it is taking.

And on Africa, Zambia, bondholders suspending payments for six months this week. Chad has asked Glencore and other private creditors to delay payments. Angola said that it may have to seek relief from a broader group of creditors if economic risks materialize. I’m just wondering about whether The Fund is concerned that we’ll see a wave of defaults in Sub-Saharan Africa? But what can be done to bring private creditors all into the DSSI? And specifically what you’re looking for from the DSSI in terms of an extension to, you know, middle of 2021? What would be the exact recommendation or request of the IMF there? Thank you.

MR. RICE: Okay, Eric. Thanks very much. Good to see you. Just on your last point, Eric, I’m following up on the discussion with Andrea. I won’t put detail on the extension aspect of DSSI. I’m going to leave that for the shareholders, the membership of the IMF to discuss at the Annual Meetings, but I do believe it will be on the table.

On your other questions, Eric, on debt. You know, I covered that a bit with Andrea. We are working closely with member countries on their debt issues. You know, clearly there will be some cases where debt restricting will be required to help the countries recover from the crisis and restore debt sustainability. But currently, our main goal is to support the international community in working together to help countries avoid such scenarios wherever possible. But clearly, the costs of the pandemic have led to increasing debt burdens for a number of countries, and as I say, we are working with them closely to try and resolve those issues.

What can I say more on DSSI beyond my comments to Andrea? We’re pushing hard for private sector participation. We are pushing for extension. I don’t really have much to add beyond that, Eric.

On Zambia which you asked about, what I can say is discussions with Zambian authorities on how we can best support Zambia in the current environment are, indeed, ongoing. I don’t have a date on when those discussions may come to fruition. So what I can say is that given Zambia’s complex creditor base, the debt restricting there is expected to take some time.

So let me leave those questions on debt there. On your question on Argentina, Eric. What I would say is we have a very fluid and constructive dialogue with the Argentine authorities. It’s ongoing and it’s very fluid. We look forward to continuing to deepen that dialogue, including discussions on those latest foreign exchange control measures that you mentioned in the context of the authority’s request of request for a new IMF supported program.

Of course, our ultimate objective, our shared objective with the authorities is to help with their objective to strengthen macroeconomic stability and growth, create jobs for the Argentine people, and reduce poverty, and overcome this difficult social/economic crisis which, of course, has been compounded by the pandemic.

I imagine that there may be more questions on Argentina, so let me leave it there and turn to colleagues from Argentina if they are on the line and they would like to ask a question. Let me turn to them. I’m wondering, is Rafael Mathus on the line?

QUESTIONER: Yes, I’m here Gerry.

MR. RICE: Rafael —

QUESTIONER: Can you hear me?

MR. RICE: I can hear you. Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: Good morning. It’s good to hear you. Gerry, regarding Argentina, you know, after the government implemented the latest round of a couple of controls, you know, Argentine currency has been under more pressure, and there have been the new Argentine bonds, the risk premiums (inaudible).

I wanted to ask you if this changed the calculus on this schedule that the staff and the Argentine government has been discussing for the new program, and if there has been any talks about some emergency funding during the negotiations to, you know, reprogram all the payments from the current SBA. Thanks.

MR. RICE: Okay. Thank you very much, Rafael, for those questions. Let me just mention that I’m seeing Mara Elizabeth Ladonia (phonetic) of Tel Am also asking a similar set of questions. Your questions cover Mara’s questions, Rafael. Eric already had a question and there may be others but let me turn to yours.

What I would begin by saying, Rafael, is clearly Argentina is facing a very difficult economic/social situation, and that’s been the case for some time. As I said, this has been aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic. Argentina is experiencing a deep recession and it has led to increased levels of unemployment and poverty and growing economic imbalances, high fiscal deficit, inflation, large gap between the official and unofficial exchange rate. We, the IMF recognizes that the Argentine Government has been actively trying to address these very challenging circumstances and it has adopted a set of policies to tackle the immediate needs arising from the pandemic, completed its important restructuring of its foreign exchange denominated debt. From also starting to work on a more comprehensive economic agenda to contend with economic imbalances. So, as I said, our objective is to support the Argentine authorities in that objective and that’s the context for our ongoing dialogue, as I said previously.

So, in terms of the status, Rafael, and others where we stand, we are — the IMF staff team is currently working on plans to hold what we call a staff visit to Argentina, with Argentina, starting in early October. You had asked about that, Rafael. Now, I say staff visit. I can’t tell you yet if it will be physical or virtual. That depends as we all know on the nature of the pandemic at the time but, the staff visit as we call it will begin in early October.

And as I said here the last time we talked about Argentina, the goal of that mission would be to learn more, firsthand, about the Argentine authorities’ plans and priorities which could underpin the IMF’s supported program which it has requested. So, I characterized this last time as the IMF being in listening mode. And I would repeat that again, seeking to gain a greater understanding of the authorities’ economic agenda.

Again, it’s a milestone in the sense of having this staff visit, it’s you know the beginning of the process and again, I want to stress, we don’t know whether physical or virtual, we will keep you posted on that as the plans are finalized. So again, this is the start of the process. It will take time. There is no fixed deadline to reach a conclusion and again, our focus and that of the authorities, is to work toward policies that can ensure sustainable and inclusive growth and address the economic imbalances.

And you know, on the measures taken last week, you mentioned, Rafael, I would just repeat what I had said to Eric, that you know, we have a very fluid and constructive dialogue with the authorities and that is ongoing. I think your last question related to repayments to the IMF. What I can say is the financing associated with a new IMF supported program, which of course, as always, would be subject to approval of our Executive Board, would help Argentina meet its balance of payments needs, including those related to its official sector obligations. And you know, that’s a general principle that applies beyond the specific case of Argentina.

And let me leave it there, Rafael, except to say you had asked about discussions around emergency financing and so on, and I’m not aware of any such discussions at the moment.

Are you okay, Rafael, and Argentina?

QUESTIONER: Yeah, that’s great, thank you, Gerry.

MR. RICE: Good, thank you, Rafael, and thanks to others who had also asked on Argentina.

I am going to turn to Matthew Lee, in New York. Matthew, if you are with us?

QUESTIONER: Sure, I’m here, thanks a lot. I was going to ask three but now I am going to ask two. I know we are getting short on time.

MR. RICE: Hey, Matthew.

QUESTIONER: In Costa Rica, they are talking about or, the Presidency has been saying that it is going to apply to the IMF for like, I don’t know, 1.75 billion dollar program. But there seems to be some push back from the legislative assembly. But I just wanted — could you describe what the status is between the IMF and Costa Rica?

Another question is about Angola, saw the announcement that you know, that they, we reached a deal on debt and the IMF is going to disburse funds. There is some talk that one of the big debtors, $20 billion creditor China, either as a condition or in connection therewith, is moving to take an equity stake in some of the oil fields, if you have any comment on that? It seemed like there was a lot of applause around it but if you have — is there anything more you can say about the way that Angola is seeking to get out of its debt problem? Thanks, a lot.

MR. RICE: Thank you very much, Matthew. I should have mentioned, Matthew neglected to — that you also had a question on Zambia, I hope we covered that in the previous —

QUESTIONER: Yes, yes, that was fine. That was one of the reasons that I was able to — my —

MR. RICE: — previous comments. Appreciate, appreciate that, thank you.

On Costa Rica, what I can tell you is that, well, you know this, but others may not be following it so closely, that our Board has already approved Costa Rica’s request for emergency financial assistance of about $504 million to help fight the pandemic, to direct resources to the health sector and social spending. Following up on that emergency financing, which was ratified by the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly at the end of August, Costa Rica, the government has formally requested the Fund’s support through an extended Fund facility. So, this is additional to that emergency financing and indeed, it would be in the region as you said, Matthew, of around $1.75 billion to help with the authorities’ broader economic plans to restore sustainable, inclusive growth while protecting the most vulnerable.

So, where are we? IMF staff and the Costa Rican authorities are in the initial stages of engagement on discussions around this extended Fund facility. We commend the authorities’ commitment to build consensus around that economic reform program through a broad based political and social dialogue and we look forward to deepening our discussions as the authorities continue to work on their policy plans. Let me add, Matthew, that the forthcoming Article IV consultation and program discussions will focus, our priority will be protecting lives and livelihoods during this pandemic and working toward macro-stability and the authorities’ reform agenda. That’s my update on Costa Rica.

On Angola, again, for those that don’t follow it just as closely as you do, Matthew, on September the 16th, a few weeks ago, or a few days ago, actually, the IMF Executive Board completed the third review of Angola’s program with the Fund under an extended Fund facility and approved disbursal of a billion dollars. This will help Angola sustain itself in the current crisis and unlock budget support from others including the World Bank and other development partners.

On your specific question on China and its efforts in Angola, Matthew, I am going to refer you to China on those ones, to the Chinese authorities, because I think they are the best placed to address those. On a general note, and as I said earlier in a different context, we welcome China’s support for the CCRT, this Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, that’s debt relief, immediate debt relief, for the poorest countries in grant form and we again, welcome China’s support for that, as well as other countries, of course. And we welcome China’s support and participation in the debt, the DSSI initiative that I mentioned earlier, and we expect China to continue to play a leadership role in these issues and helping the low-income countries. I am going to leave it there. Thank you very much, Matthew, looks like you are back in the office.

QUESTIONER: You may say so, it’s not, this is on my mind, but I am here. I’m scheduled to do something at 10:30, but thanks for the answers.

MR. RICE: Yeah, because I don’t see the colleague you had with us, with you the last time.

QUESTIONER: I wish, I — if only, no, but thanks, this is great.

MR. RICE: Okay, good. Thanks to you, thanks to everyone online, thanks to everyone who plugged in via Webex. Again, we have a ton of events, outreach, and public information and communication coming your way over the next several weeks, in the context of the Annual Meetings. I referred to that at the top of the meeting, you can find all that information on IMF.org and there are many, many press briefings amongst other things, coming your way and trying to keep you informed on how the IMF is trying to help our membership deal with this biggest challenge we are facing in our lifetimes.

So, we will see you then, until then, please stay safe and well and I thank you very much for joining us today. Bye-bye.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Based in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, Simon leads a brilliant team of reporters, freelance journalists, analysts, researchers and contributors from around the world to run TODAY NEWS AFRICA as editor-in-chief. Simon Ateba's journalistic experience spans over 10 years and covers many beats, including business and investment, information technology, politics, diplomacy, human rights, science reporting and much more. Write him: simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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