Mideast, Central Asia countries ask IMF for coronavirus support

People buy vegetables at a crowded market as the authorities imposed a lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad, on March 24, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 March 2020

Mideast, Central Asia countries ask IMF for coronavirus support

  • The challenge would be especially daunting for fragile and conflict-torn states, according to an IMF official

RIYADH/DUBAI: A dozen countries in the Middle East and Central Asia have asked the International Monetary Fund for financial support in dealing with the coronavirus, and the Kyrgyz Republic is likely to receive the first emergency disbursement, the fund said.

Governments should spare no expense to help their health systems and strengthen social safety nets, despite already squeezed budgets, Jihad Azour, director of the fund’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, wrote in an IMF blog.
“Economic policy responses should be directed at preventing the pandemic — a temporary health crisis — from developing into a protracted economic recession with lasting welfare losses to the society through increased unemployment and bankruptcies.”
He said central banks should be ready to provide liquidity to banks particularly to support lending to small and medium-sized enterprises, while conventional fiscal measures to support the economy — such as spending on infrastructure — could be considered once the crisis begins to dissipate.
The IMF said it was working to expedite approval of emergency funding requests from the region, and a first disbursement since the outbreak would be considered this week for the Kyrgyz Republic.
“With three-quarters of the countries reporting at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 and some facing a major outbreak, the coronavirus pandemic has become the largest near-term challenge to the region,” Azour said, referring to the disease associated with the virus.
Fragile and conflict-torn states such as Iraq, Sudan and Yemen, face an especially daunting challenge.

The Washington-based international crisis lender said the region was facing simultaneous shocks due to reductions in trade, drops in domestic and external demand, disruptions in production and tightening financial conditions.
Azour said spikes in global risk aversion due to the outbreak and the flight of capital to safer assets had led to a decline of nearly $2 billion in portfolio flows to the region since mid-February, where bond spreads have spiked recently.
“Such a tightening in financial conditions could prove to be a major challenge, given the region’s estimated $35 billion in maturing external sovereign

Truck drives into US crowd protesting George Floyd killing, underscoring volatile situation

Updated 01 June 2020

Truck drives into US crowd protesting George Floyd killing, underscoring volatile situation

  • Protesters managed to stop the truck and beat up the driver, who was later arrested by police
  • A New York City Police car earlier drove into a crowd of protesters who were pelting it with objects

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota: A tanker truck drove through thousands of people marching on a Minneapolis highway to protest the death of George Floyd on Sunday before protesters dragged the driver from the cab and beat him, according to a Reuters witness and authorities.
It did not appear any of the marchers were injured when the truck raced toward them on I-35, blowing its horn, sending protesters scattering before coming to a stop, according to the witness and a tweet by the Minnesota Department of Public Security (MNDPS).
Police arrived soon after and arrested the truck driver, who was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, MNDPS said.
Video of the incident shows protesters swarming the vehicle before it comes to a stop.

Protesters hand over to police the driver of a tanker truck after he drove into a crowd marching on 35W north bound highway in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 31, 2020. (REUTERS/Eric Miller)

“The incident just underscores the volatile situation we have out there,” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz told a news conference, adding he did not know the motives of the driver.
It marked the second incident in as many days of a vehicle driving at people protesting Floyd’s death after a New York City Police car was captured on video on Saturday driving into a crowd of protesters who were pelting it with objects.
“Very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators,” MNDPS tweeted.
Video showed the truck had a logo on its side for “Kenan Advantage Group,” an Ohio-based transportation company.
The company said in a statement that it was informed of an incident involving one of its independent contractors in Minneapolis and it would be cooperating with investigating authorities.
MNDPS did not identify the driver but said the Minnesota State Patrol and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were investigating the incident as a criminal matter.