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IMF downgrades world economic growth outlook in 2019 to 3 per cent

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, its weakest rate since 2008.

The forecast is also 0.3 per cent points below the fund’s April world growth estimate for the year.

The IMF said in its World Economic Outlook, a semi-annual report by the fund that the slowdown was caused largely by trade disputes.

The IMF also cited other risks, including a potentially disruptive Brexit.

The IMF’s chief economist, Gita Gopinath, said if there was no agreement on Brexit by the Oct. 31 deadline, it expected the British economy to turn down 3 to 5 per cent over three years, depending on Brexit.

However, it primarily reflected an expectation of improvement in the economic performance of emerging markets in Latin America, the Middle East and emerging and developing markets in Europe.

The IMF warned that a much more subdued pace of global activity could well materialise given uncertainty about the prospects for several of those countries coupled with a projected slowdown in China and the U.S.

It, however, urged policy makers to take steps to defuse trade tensions and avoid mistakes to prevent the outcome.

“With a synchronised slowdown and uncertain recovery, the global outlook remains precarious.

“At three per cent growth, there is no room for policy mistakes and an urgent need for policymakers to cooperatively de-escalate trade and geopolitical tensions,“ Gopinath said.


YI/SN

Edited by Yahaya Isah/Silas Nwoha

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Egypt, IMF reach 5.2-bln-USD credit deal to help Egypt against COVID-19 consequences

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Egypt and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached a deal to provide the Egyptian government with a 12-month credit agreement worth 5.2 billion United States dollars to help the North African country deal with economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Egyptian finance ministry announced Friday.

This agreement would be presented to the IMF Executive Board for final approval on the requested financing amount, the ministry said in a statement.

The agreement proves the continued confidence of international institutions, especially the IMF, in Egypt‘s economic, monetary and financial policies as well as the country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the ministry added.

It will help preserve the gains Egypt has achieved in recent years by implementing the economic reform program, according to the finance ministry.

On May 11, the IMF Executive Board approved Egypt‘s request for emergency financial assistance of 2.772 billion dollars over the COVID-19 outbreak.

Prior to the COVID-19 shock, Egypt carried out a successful economic reform supported by the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility to correct large external and domestic imbalances.

Egypt announced its first confirmed COVID-19 case on Feb. 14 and the first death from the highly infectious virus on March 8, both foreigners.

Until Friday night, Egypt‘s total coronavirus cases reached 31,115, including 1,166 deaths and 8,158 recoveries.

In mid-March, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi allocated 100 billion Egyptian pounds (6.35 billion United States dollars) to finance an anti-coronavirus plan.

Since March 25, the Egyptian government has been imposing a nighttime curfew, which varied between nine and 13 hours, to curb the spread of the virus.

The current nine-hour curfew will continue until mid-June, when the government will consider easing restrictions amid a coexistence plan to maintain anti-coronavirus precautionary measures while resuming economic activities.

(XINHUA)

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Bangladesh’s forex reserves hit all-time high of over 34 bln USD on remittance, IMF COVID-19 emergency assistance

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Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves hit an all-time high of over 34 billion U.S. dollars on the back of an increase in inflow of remittances, said a senior central bank spokesman Thursday.

Md. Serajul Islam, executive director of the Bangladesh Bank (BB), told Xinhua that foreign exchange reserves touched the 34 billion U.S. dollars mark for the first time Wednesday, reflecting the country’s strength from the economical and financial point of view.

“Reserve reached a record amount of 34.23 billion United States dollars Wednesday evening. “

He said an emergency assistance of 732 million U.S. dollars, which was deposited Wednesday from the International Monetary Fund to help Bangladesh deal with the COVID-19 impacts following Bangladesh’s appeal for support, drove up the reserves after the month of remittance boom following Eid festival.

Bangladesh celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the two big religious festivals, on May 25. Muslims majority Bangladesh sees remittance boom every year during this festival from millions of non-resident Bangladeshis.

No exception was this time in inflows of remittances despite the COVID-19 outbreak in home and abroad, said the official.

According to BB, inward remittances increased by over 38 percent to 1.50 billion U.S. dollars last month from 1.09 billion U.S. dollars a month earlier following the Eid festival.

With the last month’s hefty inflows, the BB data showed, the inward remittances in the first 11 months of this 2019-20 fiscal (July 2019-June 2020) grew by about 9 percent to 16.36 billion U.S. dollars against 15.05 billion U.S. dollars in the same period of the last fiscal.

Another official with the Bangladesh Bank (BB) Forex Reserve and Treasury Management Department told Xinhua that the current reserve level is good enough to support Bangladesh’s resilience to external odds, as well as to maintain macroeconomic stability in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The official, who declined to be named, attributed to some extent the robust rise in foreign currency reserves to the slump in import bills due to COVID-19 that made businesses in the country sluggish in the recent months.

For a growing economy like Bangladesh, he said forex reserves equivalent to about seven months’ import bills are considered adequate.

Bangladesh is in a position now to pay around eight months’ import bills with the existing reserves, which are also enough to help the central bank’s efforts in keeping the foreign exchange market stable, said the official.

(XINHUA)

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BiH authorities greenlight distribution plan of IMF loan

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Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) state-level authorities have agreed on how to distribute 330 million euros (371 million U.S. dollars) loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) more than a month ago to fight coronavirus pandemic and cushion its impacts, the state-owned news agency FENA reported on Wednesday.

The Central Bank (CB) of BiH has received the decision of the Council of Ministers of BiH and immediately distributed the loan to the two entities of BiH, the Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation of BiH (FBiH), as well as to the Brcko District (BD) in northeast BiH, CB Governor Senad Softic said on Wednesday.

The RS received 37.5 percent of the loan, the FBiH received 61.5 percent and 1 percent went to the BD. This distribution ratio was agreed by the delegation of EU in BiH in early April.

The country’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the tourism sector which directly accounts for 2.3 percent of the GDP. According to the official statistics of BiH, the value-added tax (VAT) revenue in BiH dropped by more than 10 percent in the first five months of 2020, compared with the same period last year.

So far, BiH has reported 2,551 COVID-19 cases and 157 deaths.

(XINHUA)

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Ukraine expects $5bn IMF loan approval on June 5 — PM

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Prime Minister Denys Shmygal says Ukraine expects the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to approve a 5 billion dollars (4.05 billion pounds) loan package at a board meeting on June 5, Reuters reported on Friday.

Shmygal added that the first tranche of 1.9 billion dollars would be disbursed the following day.

“Ukraine needs the loans to weather an economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Gross domestic product could fall by 12 per cent in the second quarter of this year, according to a preliminary estimate,’’ Shmygal said in an interview with Reuters.

He also said that the government would allow wheat exporters to export freely for the next two months.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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COVID-19 worsens pre-existing financial vulnerabilities: IMF

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Friday that pandemic-triggered economic crisis is “exposing and worsening financial vulnerabilities” that have built up during the past decade, warning of more instability and a new financial crisis.

After a decade of “extremely low rates and volatility,” there are three potential weak spots in the global financial system: risky segments in global credit markets, emerging markets, and banks, two IMF officials wrote in a blog.

“Should the ongoing economic contraction last longer or be deeper than currently expected, the resulting tightening of financial conditions may be amplified by these vulnerabilities, causing more instability or even a financial crisis,” the officials said.

The blog, part of a special IMF series on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was authored by Tobias Adrian, financial counsellor and director of the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, and Fabio Natalucci, deputy director of department.

Noting that risky segments of credit markets have expanded rapidly since the global financial crisis, they said potential fragilities include borrowers’ weaker credit quality, looser underwriting standards, liquidity risks at investment funds, and increased interconnectedness.

Policymakers should act decisively to contain COVID-19‘s fallout and support the flow of credit to firms, the IMF officials said, urging regulators to encourage asset managers to be prudent and use all available liquidity management tools to address risks.

“Once the crisis is over, a comprehensive assessment of the sources of market dislocations and underlying vulnerabilities it unmasked should be conducted,” they said, highlighting that policymakers should consider whether including nonbanks in the regulatory and supervisory perimeter is warranted, given their expanded role in risky credit markets.

On emerging markets, the IMF officials noted that they saw capital outflows of over 100 billion U.S. dollars since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly twice as big (relative to GDP) as those experienced during the global financial crisis.

Noting that the prolonged period of low interest rates encouraged both borrowers and creditors to take more risks, they said the resulting surge of portfolio inflows into riskier asset markets contributed to the buildup of debt and in some cases resulted in stretched valuations in emerging and frontier markets.

The IMF officials said emerging markets should manage external pressures by allowing their exchange rate to depreciate. “If exchange-rate movements become disorderly, authorities should consider intervening in foreign exchange markets,” they said.

They also suggested temporary capital flow management measures may have to be used in the face of substantial outflows.

On banks, the officials said profitability has been a persistent challenge for banks in several advanced economies since the global financial crisis, noting that extremely low interest rates have compressed banks‘ net interest margins.

A simulation exercise conducted for a group of nine advanced economies indicates that a large fraction of their banks, by assets, may fail to generate profits above their cost of equity in 2025, according to the blog.

Various strategies to preserve and strengthen capital should be considered, including restricting dividend payouts and share buybacks, they continued, echoing recent remarks by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, who urged halting bank dividends and buybacks in light of the COVID-19-induced economic contraction.

In the coming years, authorities will need to take on some of the structural challenges banks face, the two IMF officials said. For example, financial sector authorities should incorporate the potential impact of low interest rates in their decisions and risk assessments.

(XINHUA)

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Ukraine, IMF agree on 5-bln-USD aid program to battle COVID-19

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Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have reached an agreement on a new 5-billion-U.S.-dollar aid program to help the country cope with impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, the Interfax-Ukraine News Agency reported Friday.

The deal was based on the so-called Stand-By Arrangement, an economic program of the IMF involving financial aid to help countries in need during an economic crisis.

The program will ensure Ukraine’s ability to continue moving along the growth path and resume wider reforms when the crisis ends, said Ivanna Vladkova Hollar, mission chief for the Ukraine IMF office.

Kiev expects to receive the first funds before the end of this month or in early June.

(XINHUA)

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IMF says China’s experience in combating COVID-19 offers valuable lessons

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China was the first to take very strong actions and is the first to be exiting the COVID-19 crisis, so there are a lot of valuable lessons to be learned from China‘s experience, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Thursday.

China, clearly, has been taking very strong actions to combat the pandemic,” IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said at a virtual press briefing.

“What they’ve done broadly on the monetary and the fiscal front, of course, which many other countries have taken strong measures in those areas, the way that China is letting the economy adjust to these new and difficult circumstances, which, again, is something all countries need to do,” Rice said.

The IMF spokesperson said that China is moving ahead in some areas, which can carry lessons for others. “For example, in electronic payment systems, e-commerce, linking very small firms to markets and consumers,” he said.

“I think China‘s experience is very important to look at, as this global crisis evolves,” Rice said.

He also said that China has an important role to play in helping the world and the poorer countries, in particular, noting that China has pledged to support the Group of Twenty Debt Relief Initiative for low-income countries.

The IMF spokesperson welcomed China and a number of other countries’ “very generous contribution” to the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), which can provide some debt relief to the IMF’s poorest member countries.

Rice said under the revamped CCRT, 27 countries have so far received immediate relief on their payment obligations to the multilateral lender. “We’re looking to triple that debt relief from the IMF,” he said.

At the press briefing, the spokesperson also noted that the IMF has received emergency financing requests from 102 countries, of which 59 had been approved as of Wednesday.

(XINHUA)

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IMF chief urges halting of bank dividends, buybacks amid COVID-19 pandemic

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International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Thursday urged the halting of bank dividends and buybacks in light of the COVID-19 induced economic contraction, noting that such actions could help reinforce bank buffers.

In an opinion piece published on the Financial Times, the IMF chief said even though the resilience of the financial system has been significantly strengthened after the 2008 financial crisis, as the world braces for a deep recession this year, “this resilience will be tested.”

“Having in place strong capital and liquidity positions to support fresh credit will be essential. One of the steps needed to reinforce bank buffers is retaining earnings from ongoing operations. These are not insignificant,” Georgieva said.

According to IMF calculation, the 30 global systemically important banks distributed about 250 billion U.S. dollars in dividends and share buybacks last year. “This year they should retain earnings to build capital in the system,” she said.

Noting that the interests of bank shareholders are aligned with those of bank supervisors and customers, Georgieva said all stakeholders will also ultimately benefit if banks preserve capital instead of paying out to shareholders during the pandemic.

The global fiscal support to fight COVID-19 has totaled about 9 trillion dollars, 1 trillion dollars more than the estimates over a month ago, according to an IMF blog published Wednesday.

The breakdown looks like this: direct budget support is currently estimated at 4.4 trillion dollars globally, and additional public sector loans and equity injections, guarantees, and other quasi-fiscal operations amount to another 4.6 trillion, the blog said.

Central banks, meanwhile, have also provided extraordinary liquidity support to a wide range of markets.

“The public sector is doing what it can to help prevent another banking crisis from happening again. Shareholders have both an interest and an obligation to do the same,” Georgieva said.

The IMF chief pointed out that in some countries, banks have voluntarily decided to collectively suspend shareholder payouts and buybacks, and in others, authorities have had to push.

“The need to preserve capital is already being recognized and needs to be so more widely,” she said. “Collective decisions are vital.”

(XINHUA)

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French ambassador urges Lebanon to accelerate talks with IMF

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French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher on Monday urged Lebanese officials to accelerate talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be able to unlock CEDRE funds, LBCI local TV channel reported.

“Talks with the IMF and the economic strategy adopted by the cabinet are two very important steps to be able to receive funds from CEDRE,” Foucher said, following a meeting held with Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab at the Grand Serail to discuss latest economic developments.

Foucher noted that the coming days will constitute a very important period to continue talks with the IMF and reach positive results with regard to Lebanon’s economic strategy and necessary reforms.

Meanwhile, Diab said his cabinet is working hard to implement reforms requested by CEDRE and the international community in a bid to restore confidence in Lebanon.

“We will be working in this direction and I am sure we will be able to restore prosperity to our economy,” Diab said.

CEDRE refers to the Conference for Economic Development and Reform through Enterprises, hosted by France in 2018, to help Lebanon raise funds to finance its plan to modernize infrastructure and develop economy.

Lebanon has pledged during CEDRE conference to adopt certain reform measures in a bid to unlock 11 billion U.S. dollars in loans and donations to support its ailing economy.

However, the previous government was incapable of taking measures to implement serious reforms.

The current government is holding talks with the IMF to discuss its economic plan and receive financial and technical support from the fund.

(XINHUA)

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