Dodge: The Same, Lame Ol' IMF

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 10/21/2007 06:46:00 PM
Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge and several other attendees at the 2007 World Bank-IMF annual meetings expressed dismay that the event did not bring about any substantial discussions about institutional reform of the IMF in a changing world. I've blogged previously about possible forthcoming changes that could make the IMF more relevant [1, 2, 3] though it seems few of these options were discussed. (You can read the communique here.) Sure, developing countries will be assigned a few more votes. However, nothing much is being done to address mounting global economic imbalances according to Dodge. From the Financial Times:

The failure of the IMF to agree reform increased the risk of a ”huge” global economic ”crisis” brought about by the disorderly unwinding of global economic imbalances, said David Dodge, governor of the Bank of Canada.

”We didn’t make any progress this weekend,” said Mr Dodge, adding that it was a ”pretty big disappointment” and that IMF stakeholders had not ”settled even the principles let alone the details” of institutional reform.

The central banker said the continued stand-off over reform would undermine the IMF’s ability to go on and play a bigger role in bringing about an orderly realignment of international currency imbalances.

”This is precisely the time we need the fund’s ability and skills to deal with global imbalances,” he said, adding that the breakdown in reform efforts had decreased the ”chance of coming to a common view across the fund’s membership” on currency policy.

”The longer the imbalances go on, the greater risk that we will end with a rather messy dénouement,” he said.

He said it was inevitable that imbalances would be resolved, but that the question was ”whether we end with some huge bloody crisis” or ”whether we can do it in a reasonably smooth manner so that the world can continue to grow and roughly its potential”.

He warned that a disorderly unwinding would increase protectionism and lead to policies that could ”undermine the benefits of the global financial and trading order we have enjoyed over the past two decades”.

He said he didn’t want to single out China, and said the imbalance rested with a number of currencies, including South East Asia, South Korea, and Japan. He added that these countries faced the risk of rapidly rising inflation if imbalances were not addressed.

The FT also offers a summary of the occasion. To no one's surprise, China is reluctant to extend the IMF's surveillance powers. Some are predicting more US vs. China style developed vs. developing country showdowns Ours is a truly messy global political economy:

Rodrigo Rato bowed out as managing director of the International Monetary Fund at the weekend with effusive plaudits from world financial leaders in public but sharp criticism of his role and the Fund’s relevance from the same people when talking outside official news conferences.

The emerging consensus among rich and poor countries alike was that the reform process of the IMF had moved backwards. Worse, they added that acrimony over the Fund’s role in assessing the economic policies of its members, their effects on other countries threatened to create just the disorder in the global economy it is intended to prevent...

The communiqué from the International Monetary and Financial Committee, the IMF’s governing body, put a brave face on the lack of progress in making the Fund more legitimate around the world by increasing the voice given to emerging and developing countries. It said that the new formula for voting shares at the IMF would be most strongly linked to a country’s economic weight in the world, but it would also reflect the living standards in different countries and the minimum number of votes given to every IMF member would at least double.

Mr Rato presented this as an achievement, but many other delegations privately agreed with Mr Dodge. Emerging economies are aggrieved that one of the aims of the Fund’s medium-term strategy was to increase the legitimacy of the organisation, but the two big decisions of recent months - who would be the new managing director and who would chair the IMFC - were stitched up by European countries behind closed doors.

Senior officials in group of seven countries told the Financial Times that the reform process would have to start again under Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the new IMF managing director who takes office at the start of November.

The IMFC announced it welcomed progress in strengthening surveillance of countries’ economic policies and spillovers from one country to another. “The committee looks forward to review the progress and experiences in these areas,” the communiqué stated. But the IMF’s new surveillance policies - in particular trying to be an umpire in determining when one country’s exchange rate regime is having a detrimental effect on other economies - is also causing acrimony.

China, the country most likely to fall foul of the new procedures, voted against the new surveillance rules and since the rest of the global community, through the IMF, cannot force a country such as China to change its policy, the new rules have only served to heighten tensions.

Morris Goldstein of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that there was a serious risk of widespread conflict between emerging and advanced economies in the years to come. “What you are seeing with China and the US is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said...

The IMFC put a brave face on the dissent that was within its ranks. Rather than concede that problems exist, it repeated the message from Fund officials over the past week that the global economy was still growing strongly, although it will be slowed by the credit squeeze.

The finance ministers and central bank governors who sit on the IMFC agreed that all relevant national and international bodies should study possible improvements for risk management in complex financial products, the accounting of off-balance sheet vehicles in banks, the work of credit ratings agencies and the regulation of liquidity in financial entities.

Jean Claude Trichet, the head of the European Central Bank, said: “Certain areas of the regulatory framework may need to be reviewed, such as the treatment of liquidity risk and securitisation framework, in particular the treatment of liquidity exposures to special purpose vehicles and the assessment of risk transfer, given their significance in the recent financial turbulence.”

Unlike the G7 rich countries, they did not quite call for China to let its currency appreciate, although the IMFC repeated its call for “greater exchange rate flexibility in a number of surplus countries”.