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CGD Notes

Gold for Debt: What's New and What Next?

4/1/05
John Williamson
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This new CGD Note by Center for Global Development President Nancy Birdsall and Institute for International Economics Senior Fellow John Williamson argues that sale of a portion of IMF gold makes sense as a way to create a more transparent institution and use a global resource for debt relief for the world’s poorest countries. The IMF could raise about $7 billion by selling around 16 million ounces – about 15 percent – of its current gold. The authors propose that sales up to that amount be authorized for two purposes. The first is to write off 100 percent of the debt to the IMF owed by all countries that are currently benefiting from the HIPC initiative (having at least reached “decision point”), and have income per capita below $500. The second is to insure the beneficiary countries, for 10 years, against the financial and fiscal risks of events beyond their control. In deciding whether to sell gold, the authors argue the tradeoff is between central bankers sleeping slightly less well at night on the one hand, and the potential to reduce global poverty and misery on the other. The gold is not only, or even primarily, a “Fund” asset but a global resource – justifiably allocated to fulfill a global commitment and address a recognized global challenge.