Under Siege, IMF, World Bank Policymakers Plan Spring Meeting

Organizers say thousands of
demonstrators will pour into the
streets of the US capital on
Sunday 16 April 2000
WASHINGTON, April 11 (AFP) - International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank policymakers gather here later this week to debate the future of the global economy but their closed-door deliberations could easily be eclipsed by massive street protests.
   Organizers say thousands of demonstrators will pour into the streets of the US capital on Sunday [16 April], when the IMF's international monetary and financial committee convenes, and Monday, when the development committee of the World Bank is set to meet.

Agence France Presse, April 11 2000
"Under Siege, IMF, World Bank Policymakers Plan Spring Meeting"
Nathaniel Harrison

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Some of the delegates, in fact, may be unable to get to the discussions, as one goal of the protests is to "shut down" the meetings through non-violent direct action.
   Activists here say they hope to build on momentum generated in Seattle last December, when a huge street mobilization disrupted a ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization.
   They are now taking aim at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, whose harshly conditioned lending programs, they charge, have harmed the environment and imposed poverty on millions of people in developing countries.
   But IMF officials insist that the global economy is doing substantially better than had been expected 12 months ago.
   A Fund survey to be released here Wednesday will show that global output should grow by more than four percent this year, with inflation remaining well in check, according to acting IMF managing director Stanley Fischer.
   The World Bank last week reported that developing countries were likely to enjoy average growth rates of 4.6 percent this year, a sharp revision from its earlier estimates.
   Despite such benign overall circumstances, as well as the impressive turnaround in Asian economies that floundered in 1997-1998 and were helped by the Fund and the Bank, the two institutions are getting little credit.
   They have been pilloried by non-governmental organizations [NGOs] and by a blue-ribbon commission appointed by the US Congress to analyze their operations.
   A report from the commission last month faulted the IMF's short-term response to crises as "too costly ... too slow ... and often incorrect" and said it failed to improve economic conditions in the developing world.
   The Bank was criticized for continuing to lend to wealthier developing nations that have access to private capital and was urged to re-focus its activities on poor countries.
   Fischer has acknowledged that the IMF may have erred in the past but insists that its financial assistance packages, its surveillance of national economies and the technical assistance it offers remain valid activities.
   "We are the way in which the world spreads its knowledge, its collective knowledge, about how to do policies, to countries that need that knowledge," he said recently.
   "I'm concerned of course that critics see us as creating damage for the world economy. We are a force for the good and we believe that the process of opening up the world economy in the last 50 years has been one of the absolutely critical driving forces that has created more prosperity around the world than has ever been seen, more rapidly than has ever been seen."
   Fischer said the Fund had been working with local authorities to ensure that the meetings take place despite the protests.
   "I hope we can reason with our critics, those who write in the scholarly journals and Congressional reports, and those who are criticising us in the streets."
   When they do get down to business, according to IMF officials, Fund policymakers -- finance ministers and central bank governors -- will discuss internal reforms, a revision of IMF lending facilities, measures to strengthen surveillance and new rules to ensure that IMF financial assistance is properly used by beneficiary countries.
   World Bank officials are expected to consider stepped-up debt relief for the world's poorest nations, poverty reduction initiatives and the campaign to combat AIDS.

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