Belfast Telegraph

IMF chiefs offer talks reassurance

The International Monetary Fund has tried to ease worries its mission in Ireland would hit the poorest the hardest.

Up to a dozen IMF experts will open talks with the Government and State banking chiefs in Dublin as a marathon trawl of the nation`s finances begins.

IMF spokeswoman Caroline Atkinson said a bailout would not ignore the potential impact of savage cuts on the least well-off.

"Over the last couple of years we have been very focused on the need for what we have been calling social conditioning - the need to protect the very poorest and the most vulnerable," she said.

The IMF Dublin mission is headed by Ajai Chopra, deputy director of the agency`s European department.

At a briefing in Washington DC, Ms Atkinson refused to go into how much money Ireland might need or how that cash might be distributed across the most stricken sectors of the economy - the banks.

It is already being suggested a bailout loan could be in the tens of billions. But the IMF insisted the Irish Government had not asked for a financial rescue package and refused to deal with hypothetical questions.

Ms Atkinson said the IMF did not have a set formula for pulling countries out of a crisis but added that it does not have a one size fits all policy on corporation tax.

She said: "We only lend money when governments make a request. We only consider making loans when governments make a request and our money is channelled through governments. It may be channelled through a variety of different purposes. But we could not decide to lend to an individual farmer, or to you, or to me."

The IMF said it was only embarking on technical discussions on the Irish crisis and not running a programme which would ultimately pencil in a figure for loans.

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