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IMF's Camdessus In Moscow to Assure Understanding

Washington, Feb. 21 (RFE/RL) - The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Michel Camdessus, arrived in Moscow today for several days of meetings with senior Russian officials to make sure they understand all aspects of the three-year reform program worked out to support an Extended Fund Facility loan from the IMF.

Negotiations on the loan have been underway in Washington and Moscow over the past several months and IMF sources say that Camdessus decided to accept a Russian invitation to visit this week "to ensure there is a common understanding of the key elements of the three year strategy under" the extended program.

Camdessus is due to meet with Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow. He also is due to meet with President Boris Yeltsin, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov and Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov. The IMF sources say there will be other meetings as well.

The IMF sources in Washington are taking pains to point out that while a "lot of work has been done already," there are still "a number of aspects of the program" which have not yet been discussed.

Among those is the exact amount of the loan to go with the structural reform program, the extent of monitoring, and the phasing, or size of each tranche Russia will be allowed to draw on the loan.

IMF rules would allow Russia to borrow, at the absolute maximum, around $ 12 billion dollars over the full three years of the program, assuming they had begun repayment of monies borrowed under earlier stand-by loans.

However, IMF officials have been purposely using the figure of $ 9 billion dollars, which is on the lower end of the range of possible amounts, in their discussions up until now so as not to raise expectations too high.

The possibility that the fund might agree to provide a loan amount higher than $ 9 billion dollars apparently was what prompted Central Bank Head Dubinin to tell some journalists confidently last week-end that Russia was now asking for $ 12 billion dollars.

In fact, the fund only discusses a range for an extended facility loan during the negotiations, with specifics of the agreement as its hammered out determining the final figure.

Still to be worked out as well is the monitoring and phasing of the three-year loan.

IMF sources say all of these "important details have still to be discussed." Whether they will be concluded while Camdessus is in Moscow remains to be seen, say the sources. In any event, the Managing Director takes seriously his role of providing an overall assessment of the program and if necessary, directing that expert level negotiations continue until all issues are resolved.

As well, the sources acknowledge, Camdessus's presence is an important symbol for the Russian government that the final pact has been reached at the highest levels.