IMF approves $88.3 mln for Malawi under 'food shock' loan window

WASHINGTON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said its executive board on Monday approved an $88.3 million disbursement to Malawi under the new "food shock window" emergency lending facility launched in response to food price spikes and shortages caused by Russia's war in Ukraine.

The IMF also said the executive board assessed that a previously approved staff-monitored policy program for Malawi linked to the food shock loan is "sufficiently robust to meet the stated objectives" and was expected to build a track record of policy implementation that could lead to a more formal IMF "upper credit tranche-quality" loan arrangement.

The IMF said the food shock loan, part of the IMF's Rapid Credit Facility, would help the east African country address urgent balance-of-payments needs brought on by rising food import and fertilizer costs and a falling currency.

"Malawi is facing a challenging economic and humanitarian situation, with foreign exchange shortages and an exchange rate misalignment leading to a sharp decline in imports including fuel, fertilizer, medicine, and food," IMF Deputy Managing Director Bo Li said in a statement.

Li said that while debt is sustainable on a forward-looking basis, risks to the program are high and it was important to swiftly implement a debt restructuring strategy.

"The credible process underway to restructure the authorities’ debt to commercial creditors, which in itself would restore debt sustainability albeit with high risk, is welcome," Li said. "Swift progress is also needed on the reprofiling of official bilateral debt."

Reporting by David Lawder Editing by Chris Reese

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