The IMF’s Sustainable Solutions Snub

The IMF put the US Congress on notice that the 2010 quota reform agreed by all other members may be renegotiated by mid-year with continued lack of ratification, potentially endangering Washington’s 15 percent plus controlling share. The move followed a fiery speech by Managing Director Lagarde urging overdue “political action” on this issue and climate change and income inequality challenges. The original deal would keep the US allotment at 17 percent and advance China, Brazil and India several places mainly at the expense of Europe relinquishing 3 percent. After passage of the previous end-2014 deadline country representatives have begun to explore alternatives to change voting power and double the Fund’s firepower which could involve another G-20 summit or interim Treasury Department endorsement pending later legislative approval. The delicate diplomacy comes amid the task of expanding and possibly doubling last year’s $15 billion plus rescue package for Ukraine, with a mission and Treasury Secretary Lew just visiting Kiev. This version will be the first test of guidelines circulated last year, incorporating lesson from Greece, on exceptional access and “reprofiling” private debt through automatic maturity extension or stipulating outright reduction if the burden is no longer sustainable. The new Finance Minister, a US-trained investment banker, introduced the restructuring option at the World Economic Forum in Davos and appointed Lazard as an adviser. The sovereign rating had been sliced to CCC- in December with both near-term bonds and CDS trading in deep distress with double-digit spreads. Optimistic scenarios calculate the recovery value at 60 cents/dollar, with Franklin Templeton the biggest international holder loser alongside Pimco and BlackRock. Local bond issuance has continued with $2 billion equivalent placed in January for gas payment, as official figures will soon establish public debt/GDP over 60 percent entitling Russia to call in its 2013 $3 billion buy triggering other Eurobond cross-default clauses. Reserves are down to $7.5 billion by the last tally and industrial output fell 10 percent in 2014. Corporate borrowers have already defaulted and several banks have been liquidated amid large-scale system recapitalization needs, with Russia’s VTB already moving to support its local unit. The EBRD predicts financial collapse in months without tangible actions in banking, energy, investment and anti-corruption despite the new government’s enactment of legal and policy changes on paper.

The Fund’s updated approach recognizes that re-profiling would be defined as a credit event by ISDA and trigger swap payouts as the sovereign rating temporarily enters “selective default.” The later swap could end that designation and enable eventual market return but will depend on creditor acceptance of the staff debt sustainability analysis. Fund operations in Cyprus and Jamaica in 2013 involved maturity extensions, and the framework would first establish commercial exclusion by assessing a series of bond primary and secondary, ownership, duration and rollover indicators. Contagion cases could entail special circumstances but this finding could engender panic if asset managers are not consulted and believe in the stakes as well as the unserviceable stock, the document asserts.

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