By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The International Monetary Fund and World Bank will decide on Monday whether to proceed with Oct. 9-15 annual meetings in earthquake-hit Morocco after completing a “thorough review” of the country’s ability to host the meetings, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told Reuters.
Georgieva also said in an exclusive interview that the IMF has reached a staff-level agreement with Morocco to provide a $1.3 billion loan to bolster the country’s resilience to climate-related disasters from the Fund’s new Resilience and Sustainability Trust.
Questions have swirled over whether the IMF and World Bank would still hold their annual meetings in Morocco’s tourist hub of Marrakech since a devastating, 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck in the High Atlas (NYSE: ATCO) Mountains, killing more than 2,900 people.
Marrakech, 45 miles (72 km) from the quake’s epicenter, suffered some damage in its ancient Medina quarter, but Moroccan officials have pressed the IMF and World Bank to proceed with the gathering, which would bring some 10,000-15,000 to the city.
“The Moroccan authorities are fully committed to the meetings,” Georgieva said in her first public comments on the matter since the disaster.
In describing discussions with Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, Georgieva expressed concern that the IMF and World Bank “don’t want to be a burden” to the country as it deals with recovery efforts.
But she said the prime minister told her that it would be “quite devastating” for Morocco’s hospitality sector if the meetings were not to take place in Marrakech. She added that she agreed to look for ways to simplify the meetings if they proceed in Marrakech, including possibly reducing their length and scaling back attendance.
“Stay tuned. By Monday, we will have made a decision in taking into account all factors. Obviously physical capacity, how the logistics are going to work,” Georgieva said, adding that security for participants was not a major concern.
Georgieva said the $1.3 billion RST loan for Morocco needed approval from the IMF’s Executive Board, but board consideration would likely take place in about two weeks, before the annual meetings start.
While the loan would not be directly related to the earthquake disaster, she said it would be aimed at building reslience to climate shocks, including drought, and help build the country’s overall financial capacity.
Morocco also has access to a $5 billion flexible credit line from the IMF, approved in April, that is aimed at strengthening the countries’ crisis prevention capabilities.