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IMF Silent On Fate Of Delayed Armenia Loan


By Emil Danielyan

The International Monetary Fund and the Armenian government are refraining from publicizing results of their recent talks on the fate of IMF loans delayed late last year. The two sides have announced no agreement since an IMF mission left Yerevan on February 15 after two weeks of meetings with senior Armenian officials.

The uncertainty lingered on Wednesday as they again declined a comment on the issue. An RFE/RL request for an interview with Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian or one of his deputies was left unanswered by the ministry's press service.

An official at the IMF's Yerevan office said that the two sides are still working on the text of their joint document, but gave no details.

The fund's resident representative in Armenia, Garbis Iradian, said he will agree to an interview only on the condition that he be allowed to scrap the resulting RFE/RL voice or text reports if he does not like them. Iradian said through a spokeswoman that the extraordinary condition, which contradicts RFE/RL policy, was set by the IMF's head office in Washington after one unnamed Armenian media organization allegedly distorted his recent remarks. The spokeswoman made it clear that it was not RFE/RL.

Iradian has been twice interviewed by RFE/RL correspondents before and never complained about the accuracy of reports disseminated by the radio's Armenian service.

The main subject of the IMF's negotiations with the Armenian government is conditions for the disbursement of two loan tranches worth $13 million each. They are part of the $87 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) loan. The latter is a low-interest credit designed to shore up the hard currency reserves of the Armenian Central Bank. The three-year lending program was launched last May when the IMF board of directors released its first $13 million installment.

The IMF says the delayed tranches will be made available if the authorities agree to a set of additional administrative measures meant to help them meet the revenue target set by the Armenian state budget for this year. Minister for State Revenues Yervand Zakharian has said previously that the tax authorities are able to collect the required 194 billion drams ($347 million) in taxes and import duties without resorting to suggested measures.

In a statement issued on January 30, Iradian said the IMF team will seek to "finish discussions" on the second and third PRGF tranches during its visit to Armenia. It is not clear whether the mission managed to do so.
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