IMF chief urges world to avoid a ‘second Cold War’

Published April 14, 2023
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva holds a news conference during the 2023 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, US on April 13, 2023. — Reuters
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva holds a news conference during the 2023 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, US on April 13, 2023. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: Countries must do more to avert the costly consequences of growing global trade fragmentation, and help avert a “second Cold War,” the Interna­tional Monetary Fund’s (IMF) managing director said on Thursday.

“I am among those who know what are the consequences of a Cold War: it is loss of talent and contribution to the world,” Kristalina Georgieva said during a press conference at the official start of the World Bank and IMF’s spring meetings.

“I don’t want to see that repeating,” she said, adding that the world should “rationally accept there will be some cost, there will be some fragmentation, but keep these costs low.” Geor­gieva was born and raised in Bulgaria, a former Soviet satellite state.

Multilateral institutions like the World Bank and IMF have an important role to play in preventing the world from splintering into different blocs with severe economic consequences, she said.

An IMF report earlier this week predicted that growing trade fragmentation resulting from events like Brexit, the US-China trade war and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, could make the global economy as much as seven per cent smaller than it otherwise would have been.

Policymakers had a crucial role to play to “defend the interests” of their citizens, Georgieva said. “If we fail to be more rational, then people everywhere will be worse off,” she said.

Progress has been made on a number of key issues for the World Bank and IMF, the Bank’s outgoing president, David Malpass, said earlier on Thursday at an event marking the official start of the spring meetings.

Member states agreed on a number of steps to boost the World Bank’s financial capacity, he said, freeing it up to lend “as much as $50 billion of new financing” over the next decade.

French president Emmanuel Ma­cron will host a summit in June which will look to extend some of these new rules to other financial institutions and build a “new financial framework,” the French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters.

The Bank and IMF’s leaders said progress had also been made on replenishing lending facilities for low-income countries which have been depleted by the twin impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Ireland, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Portugal and Japan have all already come forward with “substantial new pledges or contributions” towards replenishing these funds in recent days, Georgieva said.

Stay the course’

Georgieva and Malpass both warned that inflation remained too high in many countries around the world. “We expect central banks to stay the course in the fight against inflation, holding a tight stance to prevent a de-anchoring of inflation expectations,” Georgieva said.

Governments also needed to work to reduce their budget deficits, and do more to improve sluggish growth prospects for the world economy in the medium term, she added.

In her remarks, Georgieva called on member states to push through the structural transformations needed to speed up digital transformation, improve the business environment in many countries, and accelerate the green energy transformation.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2023

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