Days before coup, IMF sent Myanmar $350 million in emergency aid it cannot get back

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WASHINGTON: Last week, the International Monetary Fund sent $350 million in money to the Myanmar authorities, a part of a no-strings-attached emergency aid package deal to assist the nation battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Days later, army leaders seized energy and detained elected chief Aung San Suu Kyi and different elected officers, in what the U.S. State Department mentioned on Tuesday constituted a coup.

There seems to be little the IMF can do to claw back the funds, a part of rapid-disbursing COVID-19 financing packages with nearly no circumstances and authorised by the IMF board on Jan. 13, sources aware of the funds and worldwide finance consultants mentioned.

“We are following the unfolding developments closely. We are deeply concerned about the impact of events on the economy and on the people of Myanmar,” an IMF spokesperson mentioned in a press release emailed to Reuters on Tuesday, confirming that the fee was accomplished final week.

U.S. President Joe Biden, going through his first worldwide disaster since taking workplace lower than two weeks in the past, has threatened new sanctions towards the generals, and the State Department mentioned it would evaluation its international help to the southeast Asian nation.

The United States is the dominant shareholder in the IMF, which has supplied Myanmar with $700 million in emergency coronavirus financing over the previous seven months, together with final week’s fee, which included $116.6 million by the IMF’s Rapid Credit Facility and $233.4 million by the Rapid Financing Instrument.

The Fund mentioned in a press release that the cash would assist Myanmar meet “urgent balance-of-payments needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the government’s recovery measures to ensure macroeconomic and financial stability while supporting affected sectors and vulnerable groups.”

Unlike the IMF’s common financing packages, which have efficiency benchmarks, the emergency aid is supplied shortly, with no technique to yank it back.

“It’s not a program that was negotiated, there isn’t conditionality and there aren’t forward-looking reviews with disbursements tied to those reviews,” mentioned Stephanie Segal, a former IMF economist and U.S. Treasury official now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“I’m not aware of any precedent where money that’s been approved by the IMF board can be recalled,” Segal added.

Since the start of the COVID-19 disaster final yr, the IMF has supplied emergency financing to 80 international locations.

The timing of the newest disbursement to Myanmar was unlucky, two sources aware of the funds mentioned, and pointed to the dangers of utilizing speedy financing that provides governments broad discretion over how they spend the cash.

The best-case situation is that the Myanmar authorities that emerges from the present political turmoil will spend the cash appropriately as a result of it desires to have a productive relationship with the Fund, one of many sources mentioned.

The IMF’s counterparty in Myanmar is the central financial institution.

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