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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Greece : I’m not going to speculate on timing or set unrealistic expectations - that’s not helpful. But we are working as hard as we can .- Gerry Rice - IMF

NEWS Release -  Transcript of IMF Press Briefing

MR. RICE: Good morning, everyone. And welcome to this press briefing on behalf of the International Monetary Fund. I am Gerry Rice of the Communications Department.

And as usual, this morning our briefing will be embargoed until 9:30 a.m., that’s Washington time. I'm going to make a few announcements and then get to your questions in the room. Take a couple online as well.

So, beginning with events, I can tell you that tomorrow, March 24, at 9:30 a.m., our Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, will give the opening remarks at a conference on Gender and Macroeconomics, being held here at the Fund. You are welcome to attend.

And then on April 3rd, Madame Lagarde will speak at the American Enterprise Institute here in Washington. And interestingly, I think presenting a new study from IMF staff on the issue of productivity growth, big issue. And as I say, she will be -- we'll be releasing that report that day, and Christine Lagarde will be at the American Enterprise Institute, and it starts at 11:00 o'clock, April 3rd.

On April 5 to 7, our First Deputy Managing Director, David Lipton, will be in Argentina. And he'll be attending the World Economic Forum’s, Latin America Summit, in Buenos Aires. Our director for the Western Hemisphere Department, Alejandro Werner, will also be there.

Also, around that time, April 6 and 7, our Deputy Managing Director, Mitsuhiro Furusawa, will be in the Philippines attending the ASEAN+3, Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

And then -- I'll keep this short -- but as you know around April 6, we head into the Spring Meetings Agenda, and we can give you much more detail on that, as you wish. But that will be the time of the next -- my next briefing here. And we will be releasing various analytical chapters of the Global Financial Stability Report, the World Economic Outlook, and those of you who follow the Fund are very familiar with that. So, around April 6, we'll be heading into that.

Just one date, just throw out one date for you, April 12th, the Managing Director will be giving what we call here, our Curtain Raiser Speech for the Spring Meetings, and she's going to be doing that this year in Brussels. In fact, at the Bruegel Institute; you know, we try and move this thing around the world. But she will be essentially, at that point, April 12th, laying out how we see the main issues for the Spring Meetings, so that’s something to look out for.

With that, let me turn to your questions in the room. Good morning.


Questioner: Good morning, Gerry. I have a question on Greece and the Greek program. It was reported or actually, the European officials said that the IMF is seeking assurances from the Greek opposition for the measures in order to consider re-entering the Greek program. I understand you had something out that was actually denying that, but can you please explain your rationale in what you would expect what you would like to see Greece given -- as regarding the support of the program, given that this program is considering measures, you know, for a long period of time --

Questioner: -- up to 2019, 2020. Thank you.
MR. RICE: Okay, I’m not sure I have a great deal for you on that, but maybe clarifying if I can. You know strong ownership of -- of a program is, without doubt, essential to its effectiveness, to its success and, you know, the government in Greece, it’s true for all our programs actually, is encouraged to build that strong support around the -- around the program. What I can do now is reconfirm that we have not had contact with opposition parties. As we have said previously, so I’m just reconfirming that for you. How else can I help you?

Questioner: Well, we know in the past that the opposition has been required to sign letter of agreement or understanding that the measures of previous government, of the current government will -- will --

MR. RICE: Yeah.

Questioner: -- be effective --

MR. RICE: Yeah.

Questioner: -- for another possible government. Is that something we might expect in this case as well?

MR. RICE: Yeah, that’s -- what you said is true and it’s true also, again, not just in Greece, but in other programs, but I think it really depends on when we get to the stage of beginning to agree that we would be moving forward with a program, and we’re not there yet, clearly. In fact, maybe I’ll just give you the status, because I see a few other Greek colleagues in the room, that the discussions are continuing in Brussels between the authorities and the institutions. The IMF is there and looking at some of the key policy issues, in particular, pension and labor market reforms. And what I can tell you is that progress is being made, but more work will be needed to narrow remaining differences, so those discussions are live. They are ongoing now. I don’t have the detailed agenda for you, but that’s the status. Yes.

Questioner: Thank you. Is there any chance that the second review can be completed without the Fund’s agreement, I mean, the same way that happened with the first -- the first review?

MR. RICE: You know, that’s a question really, I think for the European partners, to ask them, but what they have said until now, as you know, is that they would like and would -- to have the IMF involved and more than that, the Greek authorities have also indicated that they would like to have the IMF involved, so we’re engaged, we’re discussing, and we’re trying to, along with our partners and with the Greek authorities, move this as quickly as we can. Okay, -- why don’t I take her and him, so that I can bundle this up and we can move on given the shortage of time.

Questioner: Given the Greek economic situation with Secretary Mnuchin when they might -- weeks ago, and do you think the new administration has a different approach to the Greek issue?

MR. RICE: Yes, as I’ve said, before here, you know, I’m not aware of -- of any change in view of the -- of the U.S. Administration, but it’s really again, something that you should -- that you should put to them. The discussion with Secretary Mnuchin, as I said, at the time, I think covered a wide range of topics. I believe that Greece was one of those topics, so this is a conversation that took place now, several weeks ago, but yes, I think --

MR. RICE: Yes, in their meeting, I believe that, you know, they covered a wide range of topics, including -- including Greece. Again, it was a number of weeks ago now. What else? Let’s take one more on Greece from him, and then we move on up.

Questioner: What they are accusing you of - not you personally, of course, the IMF --

MR. RICE: Thank you.

Questioner: -- is that -- they say that the question is if you really want to stay on this program, and they say this is the case, actually, if you decide to stay or go, and also they, say according to the report, that the finance minister of Greece exchanged harsh words with the head of the mission recently in Athens. And he’s accusing IMF that it’s stopping the completion of the review. So do you see any possibility for the IMF to stay on this problem?

MR. RICE: You know, I said it before, so maybe just repeating here, we’re working with all the partners as hard as we can toward reaching an agreement. We are fully engaged and trying to be as helpful as we can. And I’ve just characterized the discussions in Brussels as, you know, we think there’s progress being made. But at the same time, there’s more work needed to be done to narrow the remaining differences, so I’m not going to speculate on timing or set unrealistic expectations - that’s not helpful. But we are working as hard as we can, as I just said. Can we move on from Greece, please? Let me move on from Greece. Yeah?

MR. RICE: So you’re not going to ask about Greece?

Questioner: No, no, not at all.

MR. RICE: Thank you.

Questioner: We’re trying to get out of a very, very deep recession, and we are discussing pension reform, and we already excluded the militaries from the reform, the congressmen from the reform, and this week we also excluded the public servants in the states of our pension reform. So maybe our government will be forced to raise taxes. So I wonder if the IMF would comment on that. What happened with those that are already in this very difficult challenge of discussing perks in their spending, but can be forced in the future to discuss all these reforms again?

MR. RICE: Yeah, I don’t really have anything on this new these new measures that have been discussed in recent days, so it’s something we’ll look at, I think once we have the full details and some time to look at it. Sorry about that.

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