New loans for LICs: IMF “with a human face” or “a mask”?
At the end of July, the IMF announced “unprecedented” increases of concessional (grant/low-interest) lending for low-income countries (LICs) ($8 billion in the next two years; up to $17 billion by 2014), zero interest on new and existing loans through 2011, greater loan flexibility, and a set of new instruments to channel the increased support (Extended Credit Facility for flexible medium-term support; Standby Credit Facility for short-term and precautionary needs; and Rapid Credit Facility for emergency support with limited conditionality). The shift also came with assurances from Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Khan that new programs would focus on poverty reduction, economic growth, and safeguards on social protection. In addition to the anticipated new resources, IMF membership also greed this month to a new general allocation of Special Drawing Rights (see “Agreement…” in this issue).
International Monetary Fund
New loans for LICs: IMF “with a human face” or “a mask”?
Italian G8 serves primi piatti for 2010 G "?" in Canada
Key among the issues addressed at the recent G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, were food security, global warming, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and accountability. One of the key outcomes was a three year US$20 billion pledge made by the G8 countries and international institutions, including the World Bank, to boost agricultural production in developing countries. This is seen as one of the biggest aid shifts in decades, to an issue that has been neglected for far too long. But a history of broken promises still has NGOs and civil society on their guard - the G8 pledge at Gleneagles in 2005 of $50bn in development aid by 2010, with half to Africa, is still short by $15bn. G8 leaders also agreed, as developed countries, to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 per cent as of 2050, although the Canadian government indicated after the Summit that it would not be budging from its commitment to reduce emissions by 60 to 70 percent by 2050! On poverty, with many of the MDGs - such as reducing the number of women dying in childbirth - already way off track, the summit agreed to a proposal by Gordon Brown to provide an assessment at the 2010 Canadian G8 summit on how the MDGs could be attained in time. Finally, on accountability, the G8 leaders agreed to develop a comprehensive framework to monitor progress on G8 promises, strengthen the effectiveness of their actions, and publish a full report in time for 2010.
Rich countries block real change at UN meeting on crisis
In June the United Nations was the site of a battle being waged between the G77, a group of over 130 developing countries, and the United States, Canada, Japan and the European Union. The fight was over how to address the financial and economic crisis and efforts to transform and democratize the global financial system and its institutions. The final outcome document of the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development is positive in that it represents a truly global response and has opened up space for countries to express their views on crisis. But the document falls short because rich countries blocked it from including more substantive solutions (see JUST THE FACTS). This is particularly distressing given the wealth of ideas generated in the Stiglitz Commission (IU May 2009), one of the key inputs for the meeting.
Tensions build as UN conference on crisis postponed
June 24-26 now mark the new dates for the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impacts on Development, postponed from the beginning of the month as many European heads of state had said they could not participate because of European Parliamentary elections. The postponement is welcome relief to a process that began last October and has been tense ever since, exposing clear lines between those who favour a truly global response to the current crisis with a real rethink of how the global economy is governed vs. the newly crowned G-20 and their proposal for a status quo plus approach.
When US financial powerhouse Lehman Brothers collapsed last fall, the world saw the start of an unprecedented collapse in global stock markets, bringing with it the loss of billions of dollars of investment around the world and severely shaking the foundations of the international banking system. Gloomy economic forecasts, a loss of investor confidence, and mass capital flight have all contributed to the worsening of the current global financial crisis. A decade ago, a similar situation unfolded in East Asia when market speculation sparked investors to pull out billions of dollars of capital, inflating debt and destabilizing markets in the region. In response, the Chiang Mai Initiative emerged in an effort to protect Asian markets from future crises. But has it stood up to today’s global economic collapse? And is an Asian Monetary Fund on the horizon? This brief explores these, and other, issues.
What is the Bank of the South?
On December 9th, 2007, representatives from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to launch “el Banco del Sur” or the Bank of the South (BoS). With the creation of the Bank, the leaders of Latin America envisaged a new development institution to help promote growth and tackle poverty. The BoS was originally proposed in 2006 by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Chavez, along with other South American leaders, wanted a Bank that would allow them to assert their political and financial independence from traditional international financial institutions (IFIs), like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and put an end to decades of structural adjustment policies imposed by the IFIs on countries in Latin America.
IMF back in business, but still politically bankrupt
Even before US President George Bush announced plans for next month’s G-20 Summit on the financial crisis (see “Just the Facts”), International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Strauss Khan has been pushing for the IMF to be front and center in addressing the crisis. In a complete about-face from one year ago, Strauss Khan now sees the IMF not just fighting fires through new flexible emergency loan arrangements to address food, fuel and finance crises, but as a “global regulatory coordinator” or world central bank.