CGD Policy Blogs
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.
In a huge step forward, this week Liberia slashed its foreign debt by buying back $1.2 billion in commercial debt -- about one-quarter of its foreign debt -- from its private foreign creditors, including banks, hedge funds, and other “distressed debt” investment funds.
We at CGD warmly welcome president-elect Barack Obama's appointments of Timothy Geithner as Secretary of Treasury and Lawrence Summers to head the National Economic Council. Both are members of the CGD Board of Directors. This is no coincidence.
Late last week, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her global development agenda, promising to fight HIV/AIDS, end malaria deaths, continue her leadership on basic education for all, expand women's opportunity and children's health, eliminate poor country debt, and improve U.S. development assistance.
Good news! The IMF has finally moved forward on Liberian debt relief. Yesterday's IMF announcement that it has agreed on the necessary financing was a strong endorsement by the international community of Liberia's progress under its new government. It took more than a year of pushing and prodding, but Liberia now can formally begin the debt relief process.
The IMF's 2007 World Economic Outlook has a chapter on inequality and globalization (Chapter 4), which concludes that globalization in the last two decades has contributed to increased inequality in most countries. Bravo to the IMF for daring to move, on globalization, from apparent unencumbered globaphile to concerned realist!
Agence France Presse reported last week that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, France's candidate to head the IMF, told Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that he wants to reform the IMF--including how the head of the international lender of last resort is selected. Marco Aurelio Garcia, Lula's advisor for international policy, briefed reporters after the two men met. According to AFP:
He said the Socialist party leader and former French finance minister told Lula change was needed in the IMF in "three key areas," including how member states were represented, how its managing director is selected and its operating program....
Strauss-Kahn after his meeting with Lula told reporters, "If I am a candidate, it is because I want to change the IMF."
Last Friday the IMF board announced that it would accept nominations to replace Rodrigo de Rato as the next Managing Director until August 31, a first and essential step in opening up the process of selecting the IMF leader. The board also announced the skills and qualities it seeks in the next Managing Director: