IMF suspended work with Venezuela on economic data after political upheaval

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund suspended work with Venezuela on its economic data in January because of questions about the legitimacy of the government, the IMF said yesterday, two days after the central bank reported its first data in nearly four years.

The IMF spokesman told Reuters the publication of gross domestic product and inflation data by the central bank on Tuesday was done by authorities in the government of President Nicolas Maduro and was not due to pressure by the Washington-based lender.

Maduro has repeatedly dismissed the IMF as an agent of U.S. colonialism and routinely criticized the institution for leading harsh austerity programs in developing countries.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency of Venezuela in January, saying the re-election of Maduro in 2018 was not legitimate. Most Western countries have backed Guaido as interim head of state.

Last year the IMF issued a “declaration of censure” against Venezuela for failing to report timely and accurate economic data such as gross domestic product and inflation.

The move was a warning to Caracas that it could be barred from voting on IMF policies, and eventually expelled, unless it resumed timely and accurate reporting of economic data.

“Work in this area has been suspended since late January as political developments gave rise to questions regarding government recognition,” the spokesman said.

The Fund said in March it was still awaiting guidance from member countries on whether to recognize Guaido as the country’s leader.

The spokesman said the fund could not fully assess the quality of the data released on Tuesday because there was no contact with the government. The data reported a 22.5 percent contraction in Venezuela’s economy in the third quarter of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.

“We cannot offer a view on data quality as we have not had the opportunity to make a full assessment in the absence of contacts with the authorities,” the spokesman said.

The country’s central bank steadily stopped releasing economic data after Maduro took office in 2013, and for years has not published information such as a consumer price index.

The data posted on the bank’s website on Tuesday did not provide a full-year 2018 figure.

Oil export earnings dropped to $29.8 billion in 2018 from $31.5 billion in 2017, according to the figures.

Monthly inflation in April 2019 was 33.8 percent, while 2018 full-year inflation reached 130,060 percent, the bank said.


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