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IMF plans bilateral talks on members’ COVID-19 response

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REUTERS

THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) will engage in bilateral talks with member-countries to gauge their policy responses in containing the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“The conversation that we would have with each country on the measures they have in place and whether they work or not… will be discussed bilaterally with countries over time,” IMF Deputy Managing Director Geoffrey Okamoto said in a briefing late Wednesday.

Mr. Okamoto said the crisis has delayed the IMF’s in-depth bilateral surveillance of member-countries.

So far, the IMF has received requests for assistance from 100 countries for emergency financing.

“The IMF’s engagement with its member countries is a continuous process. For the Philippines, the engagement involves both exchanges on policy issues (including those related to COVID-19) and capacity development (technical assistance and training),” IMF Representative to the Philippines Yongzheng Yang said in an e-mail.

In its April World Economic Outlook, the IMF said iprojects Asian economic growth at zero in 2020.

“That’s the worst in the last 60 years. It’s worse than the Asian financial crisis, it’s worse than the global financial crisis,” Mr. Okamoto said.

The IMF’s latest forecast for the Philippine economy is a 3% contraction this year. This compares with estimates of between minus 2% to minus 3% issued by the government’s economic team.

The IMF will release its updated estimates on June 24.

According to Mr. Okamoto, the pandemic’s impact on Asia is evident in supply chain shocks.

“Asia is heavily integrated into global supply chains. And for some of them, right, the supply chain shock or the commodity price shock has been just as bad or worse than the health shock,” he said.

UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. Chief Economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion said the trade deficit data reveal the extent of the shock.

“Unfortunately, the Philippine economy has a significant level of trade integration that a supply chain shock would definitely impact,” Mr. Asuncion said in a text message.

The Philippine Statistics Authority puts the trade deficit at $499.21 million in April, against the $3.8 billion deficit a year earlier. Exports fell 50.8% to $2.78 billion while imports declined 65.3% to $3.28 billion.

Security Bank Corp. Chief Economist Robert Dan J. Roces said there are bright spots despite the disruptions.

“We benefit from the depressed world oil prices — low global oil prices and supply disruptions offset each other thus our low inflation rates,” Mr. Roces said in a text message.

Inflation in May was 2.1%, easing further from the 2.2% in April and the 3.2% a year earlier due to lower food and oil prices. — Luz Wendy T. Noble





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