By Mahnaz Abdi

IMF’s political approach toward Iran’s request casts doubt on its impartiality

April 24, 2020 - 17:16

Fighting the coronavirus outbreak in the country, Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency loan to help it contain the pandemic.

In a letter to IMF last month, Central Bank of Iran (CBI)’s Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati requested $5 billion from the Fund’s Rapid Financing Initiative (RFI), an emergency program that gives loans to countries facing with sudden shocks such as natural disasters.

While it was Tehran’s first request for an IMF loan in nearly six decades, it raised opposition from the U.S. as the senior officials in the Trump administration said Iran's government has billion-dollar accounts still at its disposal. The United States said it plans to block Iran's request.

The U.S. reaction was seriously blamed by the Iranian officials, saying that United States has no right to prevent the International Monetary Fund from giving loan to Iran.

On April 9, Hemmati wrote on his Instagram page, “We expect the IMF to immediately respond to the request of Iran which itself is a founding member of the fund.”

The same day, President Hassan Rouhani said that the IMF must fulfil its duties unbiasedly.

Also, government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said in a press conference on April 13, “From the legal point of view, the United States is not in the position to obstruct the legal performance of institutions and international organizations”.

Iranian officials are in fact urging the International Monetary Fund to put politics aside and do its professional duties in regard to Iran’s requests for financial aid during crises, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview conducted by Bloomberg and published on April 19, Hemmati said, “We have not asked the United Sates for help! We have asked the IMF for support: an international, apolitical institution affiliated with the UN, and for which, we were one of the founder members and contributors over the past 75 years. The United States is a member of the IMF as all 190 or so other countries. The last time I checked, the United States is not running the IMF, but it’s management and the Board of Governors who oversee the work and ensure that the IMF delivers on its mandate. But I would like to repeat that all UN organizations, say the IMF or WHO, should stay away from politics and deliver on their institutional mandates.”

The U.S. approach toward Iran’s request also evoked reaction from other countries, as they strongly blamed this stance.

On Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Germany, France and the United Kingdom, known as European trio, do not oppose the International Monetary Fund’s loan to Iran which Tehran needs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Germany, France and the United Kingdom are three European countries signatory to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

“In fact, the German government is positive about the possibility of providing the IMF loan to Iran to fight coronavirus and its consequences, but the final vote of the German government depends on a format of the loan the IMF and Iran will agree on,” Maas said after talks with the foreign ministers of Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland, UrduPoint News reported.

 ‘IMF should not give weight to political calculations’

And on Wednesday, during the meeting of the finance ministers and central bankers of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which was held through video conference because of coronavirus global pandemic, CBI governor warned IMF that if the Fund’s impartiality comes under doubt, it will be hard to repair the damaged image.

Hemmati further appreciated IMF’s support and financial aids to the countries fighting with coronavirus outbreak, and said Iran is one of the countries mostly hit by the pandemic in the MENA region.

The central banker also addressed the IMF head and said, Iran was among the first countries requesting emergency aid under the RFI program, reiterating, “We see IMF an independent and apolitical institute and we hope that it will remain so.”

The official went on to say, “Iranian people expect the IMF to stand by them and not to give weight to the political calculations when it comes to their demand.”

Hemmati then called for a decision immediately made by the IMF’s executive board regrading Iran’s request.

Under the condition when coronavirus pandemic has brought many countries to their knees all around the world, IMF and World Bank have expressed readiness for offering financial aids to the countries in need.

Iran is not the only country asking for such aids, but its request from IMF has become a political issue over the past month, something seriously criticized by the Iranian officials stressing that the Fund should act apolitically as it is an independent international body.

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