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At our recent event with former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo, who chaired the High Level Commission on Modernization of World Bank Group Governance on World Bank governance reform (report is here), panelists Moises Naim and Arvind Subramanian worried that there is no reason to expect the powers-that-be to take up any of the recommendations for reform.
The Financial Times published my letter to the editor last week responding to Gillian Tett’s article “Will sovereign debt be the new subprime?” I elaborated on the risks of increasing public debt in the U.S. and other developed countries, and warned that mere perception of an excessive supply of sovereign debt can reduce the real value of that debt. Here’s my letter:
This is a joint post with Benjamin Leo.
A special new lending facility was announced in July 2009 with the objective of providing up to $17 billion in new loans through 2014 and, to entice cash-strapped borrowers, the lender is waiving interest payments for the first two years. This may sound like dangerous new short-term teaser offers for sub-prime borrowers. But this isn’t coming from Countrywide Financial. It actually is a new IMF facility for low-income countries, including some of heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) who are just barely coming out of the last debt crisis.
The stated objectives of the new IMF facility are laudable: to offset the effects of the global economic crisis by boosting international reserves and supporting adjustment policies. And yes, the overall terms are more concessional than past IMF loans. Nonetheless, the net impact on national debt levels may be significant. And it was just four years ago that the IMF committed to cancel roughly $6 billion in bad loans to many of these very same countries.
That was how Ros Harvey described the aim of the Better Work program that she directs at a conference last Thursday celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Better Factories Cambodia project, out of which Better Work grew.
Last week, the World Bank released the long-awaited report of a high-level commission headed by former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo. The report, which had been requested by World Bank president Robert Zoellick, offers a comprehensive blueprint for modernizing the World Bank to deal with the challenges of the 21st Century.
This post originally appeared in the Business Standard.
Wanted: An Asian Managing Director and new approaches to capital flows.
The IMF will strike a triumphalist tone at its forthcoming annual meetings in Istanbul. Some of this will be warranted because the IMF’s record in responding to the global financial crisis was commendable, even if its record leading up to it was less stellar (see http://www.iie.com/realtime/?p=942 for more details).