IMFcountries sought to bridge economic policy rift

IMFcountries sought to bridge economic policy rift

187 Nations: Rising inflation is a risk to rich countries

IMFcountries sought to bridge economic policy rift

Addressing one of their biggest challenges, the 187 IMF nations on Saturday recognised the alarm among developing countries about huge inflows of speculative cash that are stoking their growth but also their inflation rates.

“When inflation goes up in emerging markets, it's not just an emerging market problem, it's a global inflation and possibly interest rate problem,” said Singapore Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who chairs the IMF's steering committee.

Sluggish market

Top finance officials, in Washington for a twice-yearly meeting of the IMF, argued over the dangers posed by high government debt and super-low interest rates in sluggish, rich countries and the risk of overheating in developing economies.

“It's one of the most difficult policy moments, one of the most complex challenges I've ever seen, certainly in my lifetime,” Angel Gurria, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

The increased focus on the pitfalls in the policies of wealthy nations is part of a shift at the IMF to be more attentive to increasingly influential emerging powers. Countries such as Brazil have struggled to cope with waves of yield-chasing “hot money” which pushes up inflation.

Biggest threat

World Bank President Robert Zoellick called rising food prices “the biggest threat to the world's poor.”

The World Bank estimates another 10 per cent rise in the food price index could add 10 million more people to the 44 million already thrust into poverty over the last year.

“We risk losing a generation,” Zoellick said. Aware of stiff opposition in some emerging countries to any limits on how they manage the inflows that drive up prices, International Monetary Fund members said the policies that lead investors to chase higher returns in other emerging economies also need oversight.

Tharman said inflation in the developing world, if unchecked, could spread to rich economies already shouldering large deficits.

That would push up borrowing costs and threaten the recovery from the worst global recession in decades. “We have learned from painful experience in the last few years that nothing is isolated and that risk in one region.... rapidly gets transmitted to the rest of the world,” he said.

The IMF committee said the global economy was strengthening but that policy action was needed given “significant risks.”  It also sought proposals to strengthen IMF surveillance of “countries that pose the largest systemic risks.”

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