Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank / Flickr / April 13, 2015 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

International Monetary Fund Director of Communication Gerry Rice addressed an empty room on Friday, March 12, for a virtual press briefing. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the IMF will hold its annual spring meeting virtually as well.

Coronavirus

Given the very uncertain nature of the current global pandemic and crisis, it is difficult for the IMF to predict the global economic outlook.

“How far will it fall? How long, what’s our forecast? It’s difficult to predict at this point, obviously given the uncertainty. It depends of course on the spread, the propagation of the outbreak. It depends on the measures taken to respond and how effective they are.”

However, Rice added that the IMF will publish more precise numbers in the upcoming world economic outlook.

Rice reiterated the need for global cooperation to combat the spread of the coronavirus. He reiterated the need for countries to share information and strengthen health systems.

“So, it’s targeted financing to support healthcare systems, to immediately help the people that are effective and secondly, monetary and fiscal support to help the economy where it’s needed most.”

Rice also spoke of the direct measures that the IMF will take to support low income and emerging market countries, including the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust.

Argentina

IMF talks with Argentina are ongoing and have not been affected by the coronavirus, said Rice. He characterize the discussions with Argentine authorities as “constructive.” However, Rice did not speculate on a timetable for next steps in discussions.

The government of Argentina has not asked the IMF for support with the coronavirus.

Ecuador

Turning to Ecuador, Rice mentioned that an IMF team visited Ecuador in February and that Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF, spoke with President Lenin Moreno on Tuesday. In the call, Georgieva acknowledged the implications of the coronavirus and drop in oil prices on the economy of Ecuador and indicated that the IMF will continue to work with authorities during the crises.

“Our priority remains the same,” Rice concluded. “It’s the government’s goal as well, to put in place policies that address the country’s vulnerabilities, fosters strong and inclusive growth, and improves the lives for all the Ecuadorian people. In terms of the measures announced just recently by the government, we see these as positive steps, and again, we’ll continue to work with the authorities to assist Ecuador navigate this terrain, as best we can.”

Rice went on to discuss the issues in Ukraine and Africa. He concluded the press conference by calling on member countries to follow the United Kingdom’s lead and contribute to the Catastrophe and Containment Relief Trust.