IMF says Mali cash delayed over questionable jet purchase

DAKAR Wed May 14, 2014 8:08pm EDT

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen at the IMF headquarters building during the 2013 Spring Meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen at the IMF headquarters building during the 2013 Spring Meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, April 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

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DAKAR (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund says it will delay the disbursement of $6 million in aid to Mali pending a clarification from the government on the purchase of a $40 million presidential jet, an IMF spokesman said.

The controversy over the jet, and a separate loan for military supplies, risks undermining confidence in Mali's donor-backed recovery from twin crises in 2012. These involved the military ouster the president and the occupation of its vast northern desert regions by al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters.

The IMF spokesman said the organization questions the rationale of and procedures that led to Mali buying the jet, given the country's pledges to fight poverty.

The IMF has also flagged concerns about a separate 100 billion CFA franc ($209.02 million) state guarantee issued for a loan secured by a private company with a Malian bank to provide supplies for the army.

"Getting satisfactory information about these transactions and reassurance that the authorities still stand behind the fiscal stability and sound public financial management practices objectives of their arrangement with the IMF will take time," the spokesman said.

The process will slow the first review of its post-war aid package and a $6 million disbursement due in June will be delayed, the spokesman added.

Mahamadou Camara, Mali's communications minister, said it was normal for the IMF to seek clarifications, but added the government did not appreciate the manner in which it was done.

The country's finance minister had provided explanations to IMF chief Christine Lagarde at meetings in Washington in April, Camara told French broadcaster RFI.

French troops scattered Islamists in an offensive last year, but the country's recovery has been slow. The IMF slashed its estimates for economic growth last year to 1.7 percent, down from 4.8 percent, because of poor rainfall and a weak harvest.

The IMF agreed a $46 million financial aid package for Mali in December to help with its balance of payments and restore economic growth.

($1 = 478.4340 CFA Francs)

(Reporting by David Lewis; Additional reporting by Adama Diarra in Bamako; Editing by Chris Reese and Andre Grenon)

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