This past weekend in Washington DC, as the economic leaders of 187 countries gathered for the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank, the mood was tense. The world’s finance ministers and central bank governors were concerned because the global recovery is fragile. And, on top of the risks to the outlook, there is concern that the strong international cooperation that was shown during the crisis is in danger of receding. So, after the meetings, was the atmosphere less tense? Yes...and no. The world made some progress over the weekend. But we shouldn’t be too self-congratulatory. We are not yet out of the woods. The IMF’s analysis indicates that improved economic policy coordination, over the next five years, could increase global growth by 2.5 percent, create or save 30 million jobs, and lift 33 million more out of poverty. With such high potential returns, can we really afford each to go our own way?
In Daejeon, Korea earlier this week, a remarkable event took place that enabled the world to hear the voice of Asia and to learn how the region has been able to show such great resilience in the face of the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s. On July 12 and 13, more than 1,000 officials, economists, bankers, analysts, and media assembled for a conference titled Asia 21: Leading the Way Forward, hosted by the Korean government and the IMF. I personally learned a great deal about Asia’s growing stake in the global economy—and the global economy’s growing stake in Asia. As the world strives to leave the crisis behind, the economic center of gravity is shifting increasingly eastwards, and Asia’s role is more vital than ever before.
There has been talk for years of the need for IMF governance reform by critics of the IMF. Now it is on the official agenda--and some of the civil society organizations (CSOs) who have been most interested and vocal on the subject have been participating in the debate with the IMF. Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn held a small meeting with civil society representatives from around the world--the final step of the so-called Fourth Pillar process.
The name, the Fourth Pillar, had a reason. Strauss-Kahn invited the CSOs to supplement the other three "pillars" who were submitting reports to the IMF on its governance--the IMF's Independent Evaluation Office, the Executive Board Working Group on IMF Corporate governance, and an independent panel chaired by then South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.
The gathering on October 1 in Istanbul, ahead of the IMF's Annual Meetings, was the culmination of a five-month consultation with civil society organizations. The Fourth Pillar representatives, chaired by Jo Marie Griesgraber of the Washington-based New Rules for Global Finance coalition, presented their final report to the Managing Director--which they had earlier discussed with the IMF Executive Board.