Brazil and IMF seal $41bn bail-out

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The Independent Online
THE INTERNATIONAL Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday announced details of its long-awaited $41bn (pounds 25bn) loan package for Brazil, following weeks of intense negotiations.

Michel Camdessus, IMF managing director, said: "The Brazilian authorities and an IMF team have successfully concluded negotiations on a strong three- year programme of economic and financial reform. The way is now open for the international community to provide financial support to Brazil."

The Brazilian stock market surged more than 2 per cent on the news, although the reaction in other financial centres was more muted.

Analysts said that the main details of the package - seen as key if Brazil is to avoid the economic chaos that has engulfed much of the emerging world - were in line with expectations.

The package includes $18bn from the IMF, $4.5bn from the World Bank, $4.5bn from the Inter-American Development Bank, $5bn from the US and $9bn from other nations, including the UK, which will provide credit of up to $1.25bn.

According to the Brazilian finance ministry, the IMF will release $9bn to Brazil as soon as the three-year loan package is approved by the IMF board. A further $9bn could be released in early 1999.

The deal does not draw on the new emergency fund proposed by US President Bill Clinton at the IMF/World Bank annual meetings, and agreed by the G7 group of the world's richest nations at the end of last month.

The new emergency fund, which is intended to help countries with good financial standing stave off attacks from speculators, is apparently being held in reserve.

The package is intended not only to help prevent a financial crisis in Brazil, but to demonstrate the commitment of the US and the multilateral institutions to Latin America.

There had been fears that after passing through Asia and Russia, the financial crisis that has dominated world markets since last year would move to America's closest neighbours.

"The success of Brazil's efforts will greatly brighten the economic prospects of the region as a whole," Mr Camdessus said.

The deal had been under discussion since September, when Brazil first came under attack from currency speculators. It was the subject of intense negotiations during the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank.

It follows the re-election of President Fernando Cardoso and agreement in Brazil on a tough new austerity package to slim the country's fiscal deficit.

Most economists agreed that the package should be enough to avoid a devaluation of the Brazilian real in the short to medium term.

The Brazilian government is committed to keeping its fixed currency regime, which is credited with extinguishing the country's hyper-inflation and helping to attract billions of dollars of investment.

Nick Stamenkovic, chief economist at Bank Austria Creditanstalt Futures, said: "It's a step in the right direction, although it shouldn't be forgotten that Brazil is not out of the woods yet."

Experts said all eyes would now be on the Brazilian Congress, which has yet to ratify President Cardoso's tough fiscal package.