IMF: We are open to conversing with the new government
A representative of the IMF, Mr. Gerry Rice, appeared apologetic and obviously embarrassed in Washington on Thursday...
When asked to respond to the bombardment of questions from Greek journalists who were present (through an internet hotline and online chat) and who had submitted questions relating to the unfortunate statements of Mrs. Christine Lagarde, the IMF representative attempted to justify the unjustifiable, although he stated that the IMF director explained herself on her personal παγε on Facebook.
In particular, regarding the interview of Christine Lagarde in “The Guardian” newspaper, colleague Michalis Ignatiou asked if the IMF director had apologized to her board for what she said about Greece, and Rice responded that “Mrs. Lagarde filled them in on her travels. In the beginning of the conference she said that she is sorry that her statements were misconstrued and caused offence. That this was not her intention. The Director and the IMF always state that they hold Greece and the Greeks in high esteem, as well as the sacrifices they are making to overcome the fiscal crisis. As you know, in the last few years the IMF has made great efforts to help Greece overcome the crisis. We know full well that Greece continues to face difficult situations; we still believe that if all players keep on fulfilling their responsibilities and the right policies continue to apply, Greece can overcome this situation for a better future and the IMF will remain in support of Greece concerning this effort”.
Regarding what Mrs. Lagarde said on taxes while exempting herself from paying them - as revealed by the international press- Michalis Ignatiou enquired about the director's position.
Gerry Rice responded that “we have stated that the reform in Greece must be just and equal. This means that everyone pays their share of taxes, including those with high incomes. That is why the improvement of the taxation system should be of the highest importance in the program”.
Thanasis Tsitas from ANT1 asked Gerry Rice how the IMF sees the reaction of the Greeks to the Director’s statements.
Mr. Rice reiterated once again that “we respect the Greeks" and repeated what Mrs. Lagarde said, that “we have the highest respect for Greece and Greeks”. Mr. Tsitas continued by asking if those reactions were unjustified.
The IMF representative declared yet again that “we respect the Greeks and that what I can reiterate is that the General Director, when conversing with the board the other day, expressed her sorrow that her statements were misunderstood and offended people”.
With regard to why the IMF made no official announcement, Gerry Rice referred to the statement by Ms. Lagarde on Facebook.
Thanos Dimadis from SKAI asked whether Mrs. Lagarde will speak to the Greeks, apologizing for what she said comparing the children of the Niger to Greece.
Gerry Rice stated again what he said in the beginning of the briefing, responding to Michalis Ignatiou with respect to Greece and Greeks, while he continued by stating that "the Fund has 188 member countries, of which 70 belong to the category of low incomes. It is our responsibility to respond to the countries with these problems and be ready to help others”.
When asked questions regarding Spain, the IMF representative made it clear that there was no help requested of the IMF.
Finally, to the question by Th. Dimadis if the exit of Greece from the Eurozone is a realistic scenario, Gerry Rice replied with what he said in the beginning. “If Greece fulfills its obligations and the correct policies are implemented, it will overcome the crisis and build a better future”.
Protothema.gr reported that such was the intensity caused by Mrs. Christine Lagarde’s unfortunate statements and the noise caused thereafter not only due to the reactions of Greeks on her personal Facebook page, but also everything that followed during informal conversations with members of the board.
Board members suggested to the director to appear before the press herself and “provide satisfactory explanations sufficient to permanently close the matter which was improperly opened, especially during a tough situation for Greece and its relations with the IMF”. Such an action was not accepted by Mrs. Lagarde and indeed, it is not common for the director to appear before the press.
Moreover, it was judged that her appearance before the press at this juncture could further undermine the IMF and its validity and may keep the matter in the press and thus, the executive decision for her not to appear prevailed.
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