ULAANBAATAR, March 28 (Reuters) - Mongolia’s central bank will relax monetary policy to support an economic expansion programme aimed at creating jobs, officials said, a move that could signal an end to the austerity imposed after last year’s International Monetary Fund bailout.
After a three-year mining-led boom, landlocked Mongolia’s economy was hit in 2016 by a collapse in foreign investment and declines in the prices of major export commodities like coal and copper, leaving it struggling to pay off debts.
The country reached a $5.5 billion bailout agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year in order to relieve debt pressures and stabilise its tugrik currency.
As part of the deal, Mongolia agreed to impose more discipline on its banking system, raise taxes and bring government spending under control.
But government officials speaking at a forum in Ulaanbaatar on Wednesday said the country would now embark on a 900-day expansionary programme aimed at stimulating the private sector and creating as many as 263,000 jobs.
Bayartsaikhan Nadmid, president of the Bank of Mongolia, told the forum that the bank aimed to create a more favourable environment for businesses this year.
“We are planning to build a friendlier banking and financial environment by loosening monetary policy,” he said.
The central bank has already cut benchmark interest rates to 10 percent, their lowest since 2009, with inflation still within targets. The move also came amid growing political pressure to reduce lending rates.
Finance Minister Chimed Khurelbaatar said the government was also planning to introduce new tax reforms to support small and medium-sized enterprises.
“With the IMF, we overcame the economic and financial difficulties and we will continue to collaborate with them,” he said. “We continue to understand and support each other.”
The IMF did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Reporting by Munkhchimeg Davaasharav Writing by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry)