The IMF is increasingly picky about its financing

MALL AFRICANS still hold a grudge against the IMF which dates back to the 1990s when he first became known for the bitter drug he administered. Before any bailout, the fund would insist that countries agree to painful structural adjustment programs that included cutting public spending and liberalizing economies. Since then the IMF worked hard to present itself as a more cuddly lender than the ruthless fund of yesteryear. Nowadays, he attaches far fewer conditions to loans and sometimes even neglects them.

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Yet recent events in West and Central Africa suggest she is forced to regain some of her old courage, at least in private, as she tries to balance the sometimes competing goals of getting fast. emergency cash in the event of a pandemic while fighting corruption. Take the oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, a family-run kleptocracy that struck a three-year, $ 283 million bailout deal with the IMF in 2019. Although the fund immediately returned cash, it has since stopped writing checks rather quietly. a IMF The spokesperson blamed Covid-19 and an explosion at a military base for the slow pace of reforms in the country. The program, which is due to expire next year, should follow the fate of someone close to Congo-Brazzaville.

The IMF agreed in 2019 to lend 449 million dollars to Congo-Brazzaville, whose president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, a happy 77 years old, has been in power almost continuously since 1979. IMF released money immediately. But after that, her scholarship remained closed until the program expired in April. It was officially because of the “debt sustainability challenges”. But the fund has clearly expressed frustration at the slow pace of anti-corruption reforms.

More important tests await us. In July the IMF loans approved in Gabon and Cameroon, which are also run by aging autocrats. Many who once accused the fund of being too bossy in the 1990s would like it to be even more bossy now. Human Rights Watch, a US watchdog, asked the IMF to condition its $ 690 million program with Cameroon on the country’s compliance with its human rights commitments and the audit of covid-19-related spending amid allegations that money would have been stolen. It’s not a bad idea.

This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the title “Card refused”

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