Iran’s Rouhani urges IMF to give Tehran $5 billion coronavirus loan

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the IMF should not discriminate in giving out loans to its member-countries. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 April 2020

Iran’s Rouhani urges IMF to give Tehran $5 billion coronavirus loan

  • Iran’s central bank chief, Abdolnaser Hemmati, wrote last month to the IMF to request $5 billion from the Fund’s Rapid Financing Initiative
  • The coronavirus outbreak has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by US sanctions

DUBAI: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pressed hard on Wednesday for a $5 billion emergency International Monetary Fund loan to fight the Middle East’s worst coronavirus outbreak, saying the IMF would be guilty of discrimination if it withheld the money.

Rouhani also said some businesses will remain closed until further notice, after the authorities announced last week that they will begin to ease a shut-down order from April 11.

Iran’s central bank wrote last month to the International Monetary Fund to request the $5 billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative, an emergency program that aids countries faced with sudden shocks such as natural disasters. It was Tehran’s first request for IMF aid since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“I urge international organizations to fulfil their duties. We are a member of the IMF,” Rouhani said at a televised cabinet meeting. “There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rouhani added, saying such discrimination would be unacceptable.

In a tweet on Sunday, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, accused the US of blocking Tehran’s loan request from the IMF.

Iran has banned intercity travel and shut non-essential businesses to fight an outbreak that according to official figures has killed 4,003 people and infected 67,286.

The authorities have said some businesses whose operations do not create a big risk of spreading the virus will be allowed to reopen from Saturday. They have not given a detailed explanation of which businesses fall into that category.

“But high-risk businesses will remain closed until further notice,” Rouhani said. “We should continue fighting the disease while our economic activities continue as much as possible.”

An IMF official has said the Fund is in dialogue with Iran, with talks aimed at understanding Iran’s needs and what is required for the loan request to be processed.

The coronavirus outbreak has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by US sanctions, reimposed since 2018 when Washington exited an agreement to lift them in return for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program.

Tehran has blamed the US and its “maximum pressure” policy for restricting Iran’s ability to respond effectively to the virus.

“The US sanctions on Iran are economic and medical terrorism ... They are in violation of international medical conventions,” Rouhani said.

US officials have said that the sanctions do not target medicine for Iran and Washington had offered to help Tehran face the outbreak. Iran has dismissed the offer as ridiculous. 

Kuwait vows to cut migrant population to 30%

Updated 12 min 40 sec ago

Kuwait vows to cut migrant population to 30%

DUBAI: The Kuwaiti government said it wants to cut the migrant proportion of its population from 70 to 30 percent to address what it called a population discrepancy. 
State media quoted the country’s prime minister saying that the state of Kuwait was facing a “big challenge” in its population structure and that it shall start relying on its citizens to replace foreign workers. 
Out of 4.8 million inhabitants, some 3.3 million are foreign nationals and 1.45 million are Kuwaitis, said Prime Minister Sabah Al-Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah.
"The ideal demographic situation would be that Kuwaitis make up 70 percent of the population and non-Kuwaitis 30 percent," he said.
"So we face a big challenge in the future which is to address the discrepancy in population."
He said there were 75,000 foreign domestic helpers in the country, which equal half the population of Kuwaiti nationals. 
“We rely on our sons and daughters to work in all professions,” Al-Sabah added.

Kuwait has a large foreign population mostly made up of Middle Eastern and Asian workers.

Kuwait Airways said last week it would lay off 1,500 expatriate employees due to "significant difficulties" caused by the pandemic.