IMF 'solid and strong' despite Greek debt: Lagarde

(REUTERS) - IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde says if Greece leaves the Eurozone, the IMF will continue to engage with Athens in hopes of reform.

"Well the IMF is solid and strong and so is it's balance sheet," she said.

Ms Lagarde says her organisation is well-equipped to weather the ongoing financial storm caused by Greece.  Greece is the first advanced economy ever to default on debt to the IMF.  Athens owes the IMF 1.6 billion euros (S$2.4 billion) but is rejecting an international bailout deal ahead of a referendum on Sunday that may decide the country's future in Europe. 

Ms Lagarde says the Greeks are "free to choose their own direction but hopes for more clarity in their economic strategy going forward ...and that should result in hopefully more clarity, less uncertainty as to what is the determination of the Greek people and what is the authority of the government. Hopefully it will be clearer in terms of future and negotiations going forward".

The pressure on the Greek government to end the crisis is immense. Long lines at cash machines provide a stark visual symbol of what Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces.  He has rejected repeated warnings from European partners that the referendum will effectively be a vote on whether Greece stays in the euro or returns to the drachma. 

Ms Lagarde says that whatever the outcome, Greece has to change its ways, and the IMF stands ready to help.

"Given where we are, my suspicion is it would be much preferable to see a deliberate move towards reforms (and) for that to be followed through by the other side of the balance," she added.

But despite mounting pressure ahead of the referendum, immediate reforms seem elusive.