IMF ready to help Bangladesh face ongoing crisis

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 04 2022 05:17 AM

Bangladesh Jatiotabadi EPA-EFE
Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Secchasebok Dol nationalist party youth group takes part in a protest — in front of National Press Club in Dhaka, Bangladesh, August 1, 2022 — against the recent electricity crisis and their member killed in Bhola district on July 31. Monirul Alam, EPA-EFE

The IMF said Wednesday it is prepared to help Bangladesh with an aid program to face the current economic crisis, as well as financing for longer-term challenges.

Authorities in the South Asian nation last week requested funding from the International Monetary Fund to allow it to ride out a financial shock triggered by volatile global energy prices sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bangladesh has experienced lengthy blackouts in recent weeks, sometimes for up to 13 hours a day, as utilities struggle to source enough diesel and gas to meet demand, which has sparked protests in which dozens were injured and two killed.

The power shortfalls have been compounded by a depreciating currency and dwindling foreign exchange reserves. 

"The IMF stands ready to support Bangladesh with this request," a fund spokesperson said in a statement, noting however that "the amount of support has not yet been discussed."

A local newspaper said the government was seeking $4.5 billion dollars from the Washington-based crisis lender.

While there have been contacts between authorities and IMF staff, timing of formal talks is unclear since the fund board is currently on recess.

The IMF spokesperson noted the "unprecedented global shocks" facing many countries, and pointed to measures Bangladesh already has taken "to deal with the economic disruptions caused by the ongoing war in Ukraine," including allowing a flexible exchange rate, temporary restrictions on some non-essential imports, and reducing electricity demand.

An "IMF-supported program will provide safeguards in the event of further deterioration of external conditions, while supporting the country's efforts to address the longer-term macroeconomic implications of climate change."

The fund also is prepared to provide aid under the new Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST) that aims to provide affordable, long-term financing to address ongoing issues such as climate change.

Economists say the Bangladeshi taka has effectively weakened against the US dollar by around 20 percent in the past three months, worsening the nation's finances, with the current account deficit hitting $17 billion.

Several South Asian nations are struggling with galloping inflation and deteriorating public finances triggered by global economic headwinds, including nearby Sri Lanka which also is negotiating an IMF loan. 

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