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Cash for Poor Countries, or Another Round of Subprime Lending?

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.

The IMF beyond Istanbul

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).

U.S. Congress Takes Critical Step to Unlock $1 Trillion for Developing Countries Coping with Crisis

The U.S. House and Senate passed the $105.9 billion war supplemental last week, which includes $5 billion to secure $108 billion in additional lending by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Congress’s approval for increased IMF lending supports President Obama’s G20 commitments and paves the way to unlock the $1 trillion (mostly contributions from other high-income countries) for emerging and developing countries coping with the economic crisis.

IMF Gold Sales Should Fund Low-Interest Loans for Poor Countries

On April 29, U.S. House of Representatives Democrat, Rep. Barney Frank, said that he supports authorization by the U.S. Congress of gold sales by the International Monetary Fund, on the condition that $4 billion of the proceeds go to poor countries. He also said that the U.S. Treasury backs his position. This is all good news regarding the IMF’s sale of 1/8th of its gold reserves, approximately 403 tons.

G-20 And IMF Rhythms: The Problem Is Not the Direction but the Speed

If the commitments made last week by the heads of state at the G-20 meeting materialize quickly, this is good news indeed. The increase in available IMF and MDB resources for middle- and low-income countries, along with IMF’s announcement of a Flexible Credit Line which will allow countries to borrow amounts without pre-determined limits or conditionality, are crucial for helping these countries cope with the impact of the financial crisis.

At The G-20 Summit, Nothing for Africa

Five years after Africa was centerstage at a meeting of the G7 heads of state in Gleneagles, it has all but vanished from the priorities of policymakers from the rich and emerging economies. At the G20 Summit in London this week, heads of state will debate new resources for the IMF, in the range of $250 billion. But these resources will likely be deposited in the New Arrangements to Borrow (NAB) facility, which will be far too expensive and out of reach of most African countries.