IMF talks calm, matter-of-fact, says chief negotiator

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The first round of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday was calm and matter-of-fact, Mihály Varga, Hungary's chief negotiator for credit the country is seeking from the IMF and the European Union, said in an interview in the fresh issue of business weekly Figyelő.

Varga said the parties had agreed not to comment during the course of the negotiations. The stands of the parties will be better laid out in the coming 2-3 days, he said, adding that closing consultations would take place before the delegation leaves next week.
Speaking about the course of the talks till now, Varga said the government had presented their macroeconomic projections for 2013 and 2014, while the representatives of the IMF, EU and European Central Bank had expressed their own views of the situation. Varga said the 1.6% GDP growth target in the 2013 budget bill could be bumped up if GDP is under the 0.1% growth target this year.
He added that Hungary, as a convergence country, was capable of achieving a pace of growth such as that in Germany, which makes the 1.6% target realistic, but conceded that there is some debate over how well founded these figures are. Asked about possible outcomes if a common denominator is not found at the talks, Varga said the government could get up from the table and say they would rather come back later; the government could accept the IMF's numbers, which he called "unlikely"; or the government could convince the IMF and possibly wait until Q2 GDP data are published and continue the talks on the basis of this.
The IMF/EU delegation will have 50-55 meetings during the week they are in Budapest, speaking with representatives of different institutions, government officials, the mayor of Budapest and people from the National Bank of Hungary, Varga said. Asked with whom the delegation would meet at the National Economy Ministry, as portfolio head György Matolcsy is on vacation, Mr Varga said there would be several meetings with representatives from the ministry. He added that a meeting with Matolcsy was "possible".
Varga reiterated that Hungary is seeking an agreement with the IMF/EU on precautionary financial assistance. "We are in the fortunate position that since 2008, the IMF's product palette has been expanded. The EU is proposing 2-3 new credit structures that are similar to the IMF's products," he added. An IMF official said a week ago that the IMF would negotiate with Hungary on a Stand-By Arrangement but acknowledged that the country would treat the credit as precautionary.

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