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Transcript of Remarks by the Managing Director, Mr. Horst Köhler, at the Fourth Annual Conference of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank|
Question and Answer Session with Parliamentarians
Athens, March 9, 2003
View a webcast of these remarks using Media Player.
MS. FRASSONI: Okay. There is a reasonable amount of silence so we can start. Good afternoon. My name is Monica Frassoni. I'm a member of the Steering Committee and of the European Parliament. And I'm very glad to welcome you to this last session this afternoon with Mr. Horst Köhler, the Managing Director of the IMF.
As you know, the IMF is probably the most mysterious and the most also--how would I say?--cited international organization in the good and in the bad. So we are particularly glad to have the chance of this 90 minutes with Mr. Köhler, who, I am sure, will clarify all our doubts about his mysterious organization. And without further comment, I would like to give him the floor, and I'm very glad to be here with him this afternoon.
MR. KÖHLER: Thank you, Ms. Frassoni. I will come back to the most mysterious institution later after my presentation.
Let me first say that I am indeed glad to be here, and I'm also glad to speak after my friend, Jim Wolfensohn, because he has said a lot of very reasonable things, and I can associate myself with everything he has said. In his competence, maybe not totally regarding issues which are more in the competence of the IMF, but we are a good team, and we are cooperating, and we see our functions of our institutions as complementary because we do think that these two institutions have to work together to make the world a better place. So there is absolutely no disagreement regarding this point, and, therefore, if you have questions which overlap with the World Bank questions, I am happy with my means to answer that.
I have here noted four points that I would like to make some introductory remark and then give, of course, room for questions and answers.
These items are indeed, again, the global economy--Jim Wolfensohn has already said something about that; second, globalization and the core issues; third, to give you some information about the IMF in a process of change or reform; and, fourth, the IMF as a learning institution.
So let me start with the global economy. Of course, this is and must be of major concern for the IMF Managing Director for the institution and for the leaders of the world, because without growth, everything is much more difficult, not least the poverty issue. And I do think that the advanced countries have a particular responsibility to work for stronger growth in the world economy, because without their lead there will not be a recovery.
Of course, the prospect of a war in Iraq has increased the degree of uncertainty, and uncertainty is not good for investment, not good for consumption, not good for, if you want so, personal feelings.
It is not under the control of the IMF, this issue. On the whole, we do think that still the forecast of a credible recovery during the course of this year is the best guess. Why? First, we should not forget, despite all criticism, that the global economy and, in particular, also, international financial markets and financial sectors have demonstrated over the course of the last two years a remarkable degree of resilience.
You will recall the last two years there had been a series of shocks, starting with the burst of the financial market bubble in the U.S., then September 11, then corporate scandals in the U.S., and now the prospect of a possible war. That's quite a lot.
Nevertheless, the global economy and financial sectors have not broken down. It is not that we should be complacent, but on the other hand, also not that we should now panic and put everything in a corner, everyone is rotten and bad.
After the Asian crisis, there was a process of change and reform in the international architecture, and this has already contributed to this remarkable resilience in the global system. But I indeed appeal to the advanced countries, and the parliamentarians from parliaments in advanced countries are part of this appeal I am appealing to, that they need to do more for growth in their countries. And I am in particular concerned that Europe is doing not enough for growth. And this has also a link to poverty.
If there is not more and more rapid structural change in the advanced countries--in the U.S., in Europe, in Japan--to change, then I can't see how the poor countries can catch up with growth, with trade. And, therefore, structural change, structural reform in Europe, in the U.S., in Japan, is still the number one, as I see it, priority for helping also the poor.
In this context, I do think--and Jim Wolfensohn has already referred to this--the Doha Round is a critical issue, not only to build confidence that there is a continuity of exchange and trade, but also to demonstrate to the developing countries that the advanced countries have the will and the ability to change themselves.
Here I see a problem, and that means the U.S. has to change, the Europeans have to change with their common agricultural policy, and Japan has to change in their trade policy.
Globalization, I think it's good that there is a broad discussion about globalization, a critical discussion. I include in this even Mr. Stiglitz with his nice book about discontent about globalization. It helps in what I call a search process for a policy concept to deal with globalization and make globalization work for the benefit of all. We need a policy concept. We need to shape globalization to make it work for all. That means I strongly trust in markets. They have proven the advantage of their efficiency, but that is not enough. Markets need rules, need guidance. Markets need to see a balance regarding the social dimension of developments. And, therefore, as I said, globalization has helped in the past to create wealth and prosperity, and we should continue to believe that globalization is the way forward, but globalization needs to be shaped with a policy concept.
This policy concept, of course, has to address at least two downsides of globalization. That is, already you discussed it with Jim Wolfensohn, the poverty issue. Too many people have been left behind of the merits of globalization, and, of course, the second issue, downside of globalization is the risk of financial crisis. This is more an issue which goes to the mandate of the IMF.
But I would also like to add to this, say, agenda that in order to make globalization work for all, we need also a global ethics. And this means that there is an understanding that there are not only, for instance, human rights but also human responsibilities. There has to be a balance between human rights and human responsibilities.
I am coming from a country which, after the Second World War, experienced what some people call the economic miracle, and this was indeed a miracle of a totally devastating war that the Germans came back to growth, prosperity, and full employment. And there was a person related to this miracle called Ludwig Erhard, and he had the vision for a social market economy, and this social market economy means that it is good to trust in freedom and markets, but you need also to balance this with social equity; and, thirdly, you need to have a system which also asks for the responsibility of the individual vis-à-vis the society and the whole. These three items--markets and freedom, social equity but also individual responsibility to the society, to the common good--are indispensable in a context for globalization which works for all, and that means whatever we do, we need to have a moral, ethics, sound institutions involved in a policy concept for a better world.
Now, my third point, IMF in a process of change. The IMF is a kind of useful instrument. If something goes wrong, then you have a culprit. And I think there is meanwhile a kind of theory, the theory of scapegoating, so if something goes wrong you need to find a scapegoat. That's the IMF or someone else.
I am not saying, I am not believing the IMF made no mistakes. No person, no institution is perfect. We made our--we have made our--we have our share in having made mistakes. But you should not think that this is an institution which is mysterious, we are just stubborn, stupid people, unaware of social things and good things so that they really embark on just doing harm to the others.
We have a very difficult mandate, and this is the mandate to do something, to know something when a crisis has happened. And never someone or an institution is liked when it has to show up what has to be done in a crisis.
Therefore, rightly so, after the Asian crisis--a bit late but at least not too late, after the Asian crisis there was the conclusion that we, the IMF, have to learn out of experience and that we have to do more to prevent crisis. And since the Asian crisis, there has been a lot of change within the IMF, and I started and I count--and we may discuss it later on, but the major items of this change was, first, there was a sea change in transparency. There's nothing that the Fund is discussing in its Board or papers which is not put on the website. A lot of transparency, and when sometimes I hear about this mysterious institution, I have the feeling people should at least also then try to use the information which are available and not just to continue with their prejudice. So, please, inform yourself or at least make use of the available information. A lot of transparency has come into the process.
A second element, we are working on what you could call rules of the game, standards and codes for the global economy. And there is already agreement about 12 or 13 standards and codes, and this reaches from transparency regarding fiscal policy up to a code for how to combat money laundering. And there is hard work behind of that, that on a voluntary basis the membership of the IMF adopts, agrees, takes over these standards and codes. And I am personally very ambitious that we continue and work on these rules of the game, standards and codes. And a very important part of this business of rules of the game is a special concentration on the financial sector.
We are working with the World Bank on what we call Financial Sector Assessment Programs where joint teams of the World Bank and the IMF are investigating or examining financial sectors in our member countries regarding their weaknesses but also their strengths. This was one of the major conclusions after the Asian crisis, because weak financial sectors was part of the difficulty at this crisis.
A third element of the process of change is that we reviewed and changed our concept of conditionality, and this means that we have reduced or we have--our Board has meanwhile agreed on new guidelines for conditionality. And that means that we have reduced, we are going to reduce the number of our conditions. We want to focus on a few things which are relevant for macroeconomic stability. We don't want to tell--to lecture our members what is in principle good for them. We just want to put conditionality in the context of macroeconomic stability and sustained growth.
But I also tell you conditionality is and should remain part of the concept of the IMF, because there is no work where there is a free lunch, and the crisis, when it's happened, needs to see adjustment. So I can't promise you I have here my own printing machine for money. The IMF in its mandate has got capital, and this capital is available on what we call a revolving basis. It has to come back in order to enable the IMF again to lend countries who need our financial support. We are not continuously getting more money. And, therefore--and also because this is a kind of global disciplining instrument, we need to be aware it is good that there is some constraint because even if we would like to see everybody being in prosperity, nobody in this world can guarantee for everybody only the best of all lives and worlds. We are still living on a planet of scarcity. I do think in order to cope with the situation a system of competition, freedom, but also responsibility regarding your own freedom is needed to have a human life. And, therefore, I must say that we need to stick to some conditionality, focused conditionality, not an intrusive conditionality but some kind of a conditionality is needed because, otherwise, our members would feel whatever you do there is someone who will bail you out and this will not create a better world, it will create a less good world than we have it.
But we should not only concentrate on preventing crisis, or I should add to this major task, major mandate of the IMF preventing crisis. I can't guarantee to you and I would not think it is advisable for anyone to promise to you that it is possible forever to avoid crisis. If you want to keep a kind of open system, I mean open also in terms of freedom and creativity for people, then you need to be aware that there is always a risk also for overshooting. And, therefore, it is our, say, objective to avoid the frequency, to avoid very frequent crisis, and even more so, to avoid severe crisis. But we can't avoid crisis forever.
And a conclusion out of this is that every country, every nation has also to think how it creates a system which has an in-built flexibility, if you want so, shock absorbers, in case there is a crisis or, better, a phase of needed correction. And shock absorbers are, for instance, flexibility in exchange rates, efficient social safety nets, a good education which enables people to adjust to changes and so on. So no promise for an absolute crisis-free society and world, but an ambition from the IMF, from this institution, to work harder than even in the past to avoid crisis, frequent crisis.
In case crisis happens, then you need also to have something in place how to resolve crisis. And this means for us a very concrete project. We are just now discussing a new framework how to resolve a situation where debt, sovereign debt has become really unsustainable. And we are discussing this, say, new framework for a truly unsustainable debt regarding three items, that is, the proposal of the IMF to create a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism; a second item is our collective action clauses in sovereign bond contracts; and the third item is a kind of code of good conduct for creditors and borrowers in case that situation has become unsustainable.
I see these three items as complementary. It seems that we may not get support for the SDRM, the sovereign debt restructuring mechanism, because there's not enough voting support for the IMF because an SDRM mechanism would require a change of the Articles of the IMF, and for this you need 85 percent majority. For the moment, it doesn't look like we get it. But I am not totally frustrated about this because, one, we have a good step forward, a major step forward in the fact that Mexico now just a week or two weeks ago agreed to place a sovereign bond with collective action clauses. And, secondly, I think the discussion the IMF had launched a year ago or, say, since fall 2001, had already created more awareness about what is needed in case a country is in an unsustainable debt situation.
In the context of the IMF in process of change, really I'm eager to tell you the IMF is committed to work with our low-income members as ambitiously as we work with others. So it's not that--I do think Jim Wolfensohn, as you know, is no longer here. The World Bank is, of course, and must be in the lead in the fight against poverty because this is a long-term mandate. But the IMF can play and should play also a role in this, and my, say, definition for this role is concentrate with your advice, and also we have a financing facility which is called Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, use this facility in order to promote, to facilitate macroeconomic stability and on this basis sustained growth in low-income countries. And you may know that I was personally very ambitious to work in our low-income countries, and in this case in particular also in Africa, to improve our technical assistance, because I know from my own experience having been for two years President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development that often it is not a matter of lack of political will, often it's not a lack of political will but it's a lack of capacity, of not knowing how and who should do, for instance, strategy paper work or something like that. So there is a lot that we can do to support our low-income countries in terms of capacity.
My last point, coming back to the Chairperson, when I came into the IMF and we had a quite difficult first Annual Meeting under my leadership in Prague, and we had aggressive, really aggressive demonstrations with the will of some of the demonstrators to become violent there, it was a sad moment for me because I myself thought the IMF is in the process of change, and I came in this institution with the commitment and even the ambition to accelerate the change. But I had not the feeling that at least a considerable part of the demonstrators had even been prepared or willed to listen to us. They just came to Prague to demonstrate against something where they knew everything is wrong.
And in the context of my own first Annual Meeting speech, I said my vision for the IMF is based on four pillars: number one, we need to do more for sustained growth, number one, and this means crisis prevention; number two, the IMF should become a center of expertise for the stability of the international financial system, the international financial architecture; the third pillar was that I said the IMF has to work together with the World Bank and other international institutions and also within the family of the United Nations to work on poverty and to create a better world; and the fourth pillar was--and that's the point I will come back to the Chairperson--that I said the IMF wants to be a learning institution.
And the consequence of this, say, vision of a learning institution is that I tell you I don't think that I or anyone from the IMF should give you the impression we know everything. We indeed don't have all answers to new questions regarding globalization and so on. But, on the other hand, don't discount the expertise and the good will of this institution, and, in particular, its staff. It's a very motivated, dedicated staff who wants to make a contribution to a better world.
And in this context, you should also know--and you know that after the Asian crisis the IMF established an Independent Evaluation Office under the leadership now of Mr. Ahluwalia, and they have made their first report on prolonged use of IMF resources. They are going to now investigate other things, and I understand the Independent Evaluation Office as a very important innovation to accelerate the learning process within the IMF, but I also do think that the dialogue with civil society but not least with parliaments is part of this, say, preparedness to listen, to learn, and on this basis hopefully to find answers for new questions.
Thank you very much.
MS. FRASSONI: Thank you, Mr. Köhler. I think that talking about myth and prejudice, I think that you very well demonstrated that this idea the Germans are not passionate is totally wrong.
In any case, I will resist my Mediterranean true passion to start discussing with you what growth means and many other issues that you touch, and I will go straight to the questions that have been prepared. And I will start with South and East Asia that I'm sure is going to come back--the person asking you the question is going to come back with a question of conditionalities and about the issue of knowing whether the IMF conditions are too onerous, trying to make also some examples, and try to find out up to what limit, if you want, it is worthwhile to follow IMF conditions.
So I just would like to give the floor to Dr. Moyeen Khan from Bangladesh. Yes, the microphone is coming, I hope. I can't see if the microphone is arriving. It isn't, so perhaps you can come here--he's running. The microphone is running. Thank you.
MR. KHAN: Thank you, Madam Chairperson. Thank you, Mr. Köhler, for your, I would say, eye-opening statement because there are lots of things like you said, you spoke to the demonstrators, you have just mentioned that they didn't know many things. We didn't know many things about IMF, and we are glad that you have spelled it out.
Specifically, on this issue of conditionalities, I'd like to pick up the example of Bangladesh. Fifteen months ago, when this new government came, our foreign exchange reserves fell below US$1 billion. IMF's experts came and told us that we are heading for a crisis. And, of course, there were conditionalities which had to be honored.
By now, in 15 months, I can tell you that last week we had enacted in the parliament a loan default tribunal act by way of which we can now track down the loan defaulters much simply and punish them and restore financial discipline.
By the end of this week, I can inform you--happy to inform you that anti-money-laundering bill will be a law. I'd also like to tell you that we have been trying to strengthen the nationalized commercial banks because this has been a problem of default--loan default culture. So we are tightening belts on them.
The private banks also, which are supposed to be more efficient, we discovered that sometimes they're rather sloppy in allowing loans. So we have made rules stricter even for the private banks.
And then we have already initiated the telecom regulatory board, and the power regulatory commission will also be enacted into a bill by the end of this week.
So these are some of the conditionalities which we are already filling up. Yet, Mr. Managing Director, I can tell you that I'm not exactly sure if IMF is happy and if they are now prepared to bring support to us. It's not that we need all this support. As I said, in 15 months, instead of collapsing, we have already doubled up our foreign exchange reserve, and this has been possible by making--by taking stringent measures within our own financial system, what you just said a few minutes ago, that we must work out a system which can sustain from within the country, but only in times of crisis we need your help.
But that is true that there are times when we need your help, and in this respect, I want you to appreciate that the political and the social system in the developing countries, in most of the developing countries, are such that we cannot take the reform measures in the speed you desire. It's a slow process because we have to be sensitive to the people also, and you know that most of these reform processes are painful and they hit--they hit the common people. So they have to be convinced and there is need for political mobilization before many of these reform processes can be taken up.
To conclude, I just have a brief question for you. I have a question to you in that--would you like to take this reality on the ground into account when you take decisions, the reality of the poor countries, the reality of the developing countries? But I can tell you that Bangladesh, which has received US$30 billion as a loan from multilateral and bilateral donors in the last 30 years, but we are still not one of the HIPC countries, where we have not defaulted in paying back our loans. So there lies the strength, and that comes from the reality of many of the poor countries, that is, the economy in the informal sector. It is not--all the economy is not in the books of account. This is a reality whether we like it or not, but this exists, and this allows us to survive.
So from the point of view of South Asia, we know that India is no longer dependent on IMF, but I'd like to remind you that 20 years ago, even a bigger economy like India's had to be rescued by IMF.
So these are some of the realities which IMF has to take into account in this new wave of changes you are talking about. Will you do that?
MS. FRASSONI: Thank you. Southeast Asia is a big region, so I left a bit more than two minutes.
MR. KÖHLER: I think--
MS. FRASSONI: Sorry. There was another question that came from that region, but it was not expressed, if you will allow me. The question was: IMF deals with governments, but it is the parliament which passes the budget. IMF should have a greater interaction with parliaments. Budgets are not transparent. How can parliamentarians fulfill the responsibility with so little information on the budget? What is your feeling about that?
MR. KÖHLER: Thank you. To the first question, conditionality, I think, sir, we indeed should always have a very close look what happens in the field, what happens in the country itself. I am clear that a one-size-fits-all approach based on a theoretical, say, concept does not work. We need always to have to look to the specifics of any country. And in this regard, I take on board what you said that there has happened a lot in Bangladesh. I don't know what is your situation in terms of the fiscal and monetary situation, so I can't give you now a direct response.
But I accept, on the one hand, that we need to be attentive to reality, but, on the other hand, I often--and I beg your pardon, too often I hear the word "reality" as an excuse for not enough will and, more implementation, in the field on reforms. So there is certainly a limit how speedy you can implement reforms.
On the other hand, if there is a crisis, you can't say do reform work for the next 20 years. If you need to control your fiscal situation or your external balance of payment, you need to act expeditiously. And I do think the combination, the right combination between listening to the authorities, to parliamentarians in this regard, taking into account seriously the reality, but, on the other hand, not accepting the notion of reality, which means that at the end, if there is no political will in the country itself to help itself, then someone could come in and bail out the country, because this is also my experience even only in three years' work as Managing Director of the IMF.
There are societies or political systems, better, political classes who have not enough resolve, ability, and capacity to work, and then they say, "Help us," and if they don't change themselves, they will--they still ask for more support, more money from outside. So conditionality as a, say, condition for lending money is a reality also, and I hope that the IMF in this new world is better able to balance the reality in the field and also, say, the good will of the country with our constraints, that we need to demonstrate to our shareholders we have a certain policy like financial assurances. There has to be basic judgment that the country is willed to pay back loans and all of this. This has to be brought in a context, and I hope that we can improve.
Parliament and government, I should tell you that one of the standards and codes is a transparency code, fiscal transparency code. I think now meanwhile more than 50 countries have accepted this transparency codes, and I think if the parliamentarians who feel there is not enough transparency in the budgetary process, they should ask their government that they should adopt this transparency code, because these codes are voluntary decisions by our members themselves. We can't impose it on them.
So you have a leverage to ask your--or the parliamentarians have a leverage to ask their governments to accept these standards and codes. But I have also experienced situations, to be honest, for instance, in Africa, where there was a reasonable approach from the government to bring spending under control, but where parliament felt it's right to spend even more. So, I mean, you may know that the classical right of parliaments was to set up a budget, not least at the beginning to limit the spending of kings and emperors and governments.
I have seen a parliament--not only one--where they felt the major occupation is to spend money which is not available. And, therefore, this transparency process means also parliaments and deputies in parliaments have to have a sense of responsibility regarding the whole of the country and not just the idea you are a good parliamentarian if you spend more or if you promise more.
MS. FRASSONI: Thank you. Everything, of course, depends very much on what you mean "put expenses under control," but that's, of course, another debate.
I would like now to move to the region of Latin America. Latin America made--caused a lot of headaches, I'm sure, for you lately. And I would like to give the floor to Zulema Paz, yes, please, from Guatemala.
MS. PAZ: My name is Zulema Paz from Guatemala. It is the first time my country has participated in this meeting, and we are very glad.
Mr. Köhler, the IMF focuses on a fiscal deficit with the hope it will create social development later on. In a sense, take the medicine now and I hope the population will wait for the economy to improve.
The question: What is the IMF doing to engage society as well as the government so that the whole country buys into the IMF grants?
Another question: Is there any way that the IMF can consolidate social development and the development of prosperity first before economic stability?
MS. FRASSONI: I would like to, before giving you the floor because we are talking about Latin America, ask a question concerning Brazil, which is just very concrete and also up to date.
As you know, President Lula addressed both the meeting of Porto Alegre and the one of Davos with basically the same words. And you are currently discussing with President Lula the conditions of the loan that you--I don't know how to say it--you are supposed to give or you are agreeing with them? And for us observing from the outside and as members of the parliament, which are extremely hopeful of what Lula will do in his country, immediately arises a question: If you see the conditions that are told about in newspapers about this loan, that is to say, we will give you a loan of $30 billion if you keep budget surplus, seem to come in direct contradiction with the fact that Lula was elected on the basis of saying, "I will reduce hunger and I will reduce poverty," which means more public spending.
So how--are you taking any responsibility, if you want, for this which emerges also as a very big question of democracy? And attached to this is, of course, staying there, the example of Argentina where the fact that it was a model school pupil did not really help to prevent the crisis.
MR. KÖHLER: Yes, I'll start with Brazil. I met with President Lula twice, two hours in Brazil and I think two hours in Paris when he came back from Davos. And I must tell you I was deeply impressed by this leader because I do think it's not kind of an accident of history that a leader came to power in Brazil who promised to care about social equity. That's a historical mandate, because I don't think that the situation would be sustainable in Brazil where 50, 60 percent with growing tendency of people live below a poverty line and at the same time there are still huge properties and wealth in this country.
And, therefore, the IMF made clear that we are committed to support this country, this leader, and his policy. And what struck me most, to be honest, ladies and gentlemen, was this genuine honesty of President Lula. Genuine honest, it means when he talks about the fact that he feels corruption is a cancer in Brazil, you understand he means it so. He's serious about that.
So I didn't need to convince him that sound institutions, for instance, a sound judicial system which speaks justice for the common good and not for the good of certain parts of the society, is indispensable in Brazil. I didn't need to tell him this. He himself told me so.
He told me, "You don't need to tell me how damaging inflation is, because I was poor and I knew myself how inflation takes away purchasing power of the poor."
And on this basis, I have understood President Lula wants to find a way how to reconcile the clear, necessary objective of social equity with, on the other hand, fiscal discipline, monetary discipline--that means monetary stability--and also stability in the society regarding sound institutions, fighting corruption. So I understood that, and he can rely on our support.
We did not ask him, for instance, to go to, if you want--as you know, Brazil has a debt problem, and he's aware of that. And we discussed this matter, and the President told me, "Look, I want to unleash the potential for growth and creativity of my people." And I thought he was right.
This unleashing of the potential for growth is the right strategy also to cope with the debt situation. But, therefore, he has to demonstrate to markets that they are serious in Brazil also to meet their obligations. And he has a chance and Brazil has a chance to demonstrate not only to its own people but also to the neighborhood and to the world as a whole that honesty, integrity in policy pays off. And the IMF--and the World Bank I am sure is the same--we will go any extra mile to support this country and this President and this leader because he deserves it.
I can't guarantee you, because, again, I have not my own printing machine, that everything goes right. But up to now there is remarkable progress by this country, by this leadership. They have a Finance Minister who is or was a doctor, and he's aware that sometimes if you have to prescribe a medicine, it's not understood as being such a nice thing, but a medicine has to be given. And this combination of an honest, credible political agenda of growth with social equity plus a kind of doctor being Finance Minister seems to me also a kind of good institutional environment to help them to get out of the crisis, and we will support them because--and, that is, I am coming back to the first question that the IMF is always concentrating on economic stability and not on social development. I touched already on this. My own philosophy is that in the long run there is no sustainable economic stability without social stability. Without social peace, there is no good investment climate. And the big, say, mistake or deficit in Latin America--and also in other countries, but in this case in Latin America--in some of the countries is that the political class didn't manage to create a policy concept where growth is combined with social equity. Too much of corruption, too much of exploiting the country and its people for certain special interests, and not enough, say, responsibility to the whole of the society. I am not talking in general terms because Latin America, you can't say that's Latin America. Every country is specific. Every country in Latin America should be treated as an individual country.
There are clearly success stories like Chile, like Mexico. I include in this kind of, say, encouraging landscape in Latin America also countries like Colombia, where they fight, they have a terrible fight because of internal terrorist activities. But the country sticks to order in its institution. It sticks to fighting corruption. And it deserves support. Peru makes progress and other countries make progress, but there are others where, unfortunately, the political culture is somewhat weak, and this is the core problem there that often it's homegrown, the problems, and if something goes wrong, then they look for the famous culprits. The IMF knows and takes into account that old adjustment needs to pay attention on the social problems. And so far we are attentive, we are flexible, but again, we can't print our own money.
The model student, Argentina. I am really concerned about the people in Argentina because there is now poverty more than anyone could expect some years ago, and I don't think the IMF is free of having its own in this tragic development, but the core problem in particular in Argentina is a home grown problem. This is a lack of cohesion in the political class, a lack of sound institutions even of morale, and I hope that this, say now the stabilization, the economic stabilization, the financial stabilization in Argentina will first give breathing space for an orderly, quiet, election of a new president, and on this basis to enable the new president, who will come in hopefully in May, to define a comprehensive reform strategy for the country because still the situation, despite of some stability is fragile, and there is a need to tackle issues on a more comprehensive basis.
MS. FRASSONI: Thank you.
We move now to Middle East, and I would like to give the floor to Dr. Habiba Mossabi from Tunisia, Middle East and North Africa.
DR. MOSSABI: [In French.]
MS. FRASSONI: Can you please conclude?
DR. MOSSABI: [In French.]
MS. FRASSONI: So if we are not a bit more concise, we will not be able to listen to them all. Thank you, doctor.
MR. KÖHLER: Thank you. You are coming from Tunisia. First let me say that Tunisia did quite well in the past years, and built up stability and growth, and therefore you should be also a bit satisfied or proud about the situation. I do think that in principle what I heard, because I visited Tunisia, in fall last year, there is an activity to build up also a micro finance system with the support of the government.
I think micro finance schemes are important to work on grass roots market economy, and I am sure that Jim Wolfensohn will agree with that, and I know that the World Bank is also working on micro finance schemes all over the developing countries, but I really am--I hasten to act to this. Micro finance schemes need--never less or particular because they lend to small businesses--need to have a professional supervisory control, because if micro finance schemes are done just on this idea of NGOs and civil society, we want to be good and we want to help, and it's not based on professional risk assessment, risk control, supervisory capacity. Often it fails.
And therefore, my advice is that micro finance schemes, yes, not only loans to big business, but to the poorer countries, to small businesses, and very small business. But do it on a professional basis because here it is even more important that it works, and I am very much in favor to that. And I am also in favor as IMF, that we are not only supporting or promoting the big banks, the big business or the international banks and the international finance. At least how I see it, the lessons out of Asia crisis and other crisis is, concentrate also on building up strong domestic economies and domestic financial systems and domestic intermediation between savings and investment don't rely just on the international capital inflows. It may often help, and it helps if it's well organized, but sometimes it's also not helpful because it can withdraw, and without a domestic process of intermediation between savings and investments, in my view the financial sector is not on a sound footing, and therefore our philosophy is now also to give attention to domestic financial sectors. This includes that we are in the long run clearly thinking that openness, including the capital account openness is in the long run good for growth and prosperity and fighting poverty.
But any opening of the capital account or any opening of an economy to the outside world should always be done in light of the capacity to handle inflows of capital to supervise financial institutions including to supervise the inflow of capital because we have enough experience. Sometimes this capacity is not there, is not in place, and then it creates a problem. So therefore we are in favor of opening up capital counts, but on a sequenced basis. You need to build up first your domestic capacity to regulate and to supervise the financial sectors.
Second, I think that was included already in my answer. You, everybody should be aware--and Jim Wolfensohn has made it clear in his comparison between official development aid and the numbers of the private sector--at the end, even if we are very successful, meaning that we achieve the .7 objective of official development aid, at the end for development all over the world, you need to have private sector engagement. You need to have access to capital markets, because there is a lot of capital available. The global situation, the situation of poverty, in my view, is not so much at the global perspective a problem of a lack of capital, it is more problem of a lack of efficient use of capital, and for rules that the capital has guidance in order to make the best use of it.
I know that your president has had the idea of a global solidarity fund. I see it as a quite farsighted idea that he knows that there is no prosperity in the world, I mean on a sustained basis in the advanced countries if there is not also a chance for improving the situation in the poor countries, and therefore, whatever--[break in recording]--need more finance for poor countries.
MS. FRASSONI: Okay. Now, we have a problem. I mean we have several problems. First of all, I will resist the idea that--to contest your idea that professionalism is contrary to what NGOs do, but you know, we will discuss about this at dinner.
MR. KÖHLER: That's a typical situation where she is opposing something where there should be no opposition because--
MS. FRASSONI: But you did it.
MR. KÖHLER: No. I--
MS. FRASSONI: No, you did it. So you said professionally, not what these NGOs do.
MR. KÖHLER: Maybe I didn't formulate it quite correctly. My point is, it's not enough to have just goodwill and personal engagement. You have to have also the technical expertise to organize it professionally, okay?
MS. FRASSONI: Right. I have 9 speakers on my list, and about 15, 20 minutes. So my proposal is the following, if Mr. Köhler agrees with me. I will really give the floor to the people who are prepared and who have participated to the debate this morning in the first place, but we will try to group the questions together. And I really would ask the people intervening to be extremely brief because this will make it possible for Mr. Köhler to answer two or more questions.
And I would like to start with Keles Birgen from Turkey, please.
MS. BIRGEN: Thank you, Ms. Chairperson.
Mr. Köhler, I want to ask a question. If you are not specially interested in export potential of developed countries as IMF, and I am sure you are not, then when developing countries need financial assistance, financial sources, why don't you recommend them to make tax reform, and also to invest in industrial sector so as to produce industrial goods that can compete in world markets?
I ask a similar question to the President of the World Bank, and he said that you were the right person to answer it.
MS. BIRGEN: And another small question, is that which of the--in which of the countries you think IMF policies were successful most? Thank you.
MS. FRASSONI: Thank you.
Norbert Mao from Uganda.
MR. MAO: Thank you, Madam Chairperson.
Mr. Köhler, I once read about a certain animal that was so long that it took a long time to transmit feelings from one end to the other end, and sometimes it looked ridiculous. When it has a very sad face, and then the tail is wagging because of yesterday's pleasure.
MR. MAO: I think in German the animal is called a dachshund, long dog, dachshund I think, roughly translated. It's because I have limited time that I've brought you this analogy, because I think the meaning will be unmistakable.
I like the way you speak. I like the conviction with which you have spoken tonight. I like the courage with which you speak, totally disregarding political correctness.
MR. KÖHLER: I know I may have made already a mistake.
MR. MAO: I like you when you say IMF needs to learn, IMF needs to be flexible rather than rigid. IMF in your vision needs to underpin the market with some clear social goals, but the reality on the ground does not reflect the way you have spoken tonight, and the way I heard you speak last October in Washington, D.C. That is why this long animal comes in.
Apparently your officials in our countries are not aware that there is a new feeling which is typified by the four pillars that you so articulately put to us. I just give too rough examples.
In Uganda today, money which is intended for HIV treatment is being blocked by the Minister of Finance, and they say the IMF is responsible for this blockage. Well, the usual suspect you may say, but this is a reality. And I am a parliamentarian. Now to the extent that in an area, for instance, as an example, where there are one million people, you find that only 60 people will get access to this HIV treatment because the money is not allowed to come. Reason, it will cause macroeconomic instability. Money for police, housing and transportation is being blocked because it will cause macroeconomic instability. In 1993 our president visited the Netherlands and money for hospital equipment was placed. Again, the IMF said that kind of flow into Uganda will destabilize our economy. I think we need to get a clear commitment from you that the guys on the ground are going to start behaving in a manner which reflects your new feelings in Washington, D.C.
Finally, Madam Chairperson, just to reassure the Managing Director of the IMF, we know when we criticize you it is because we feel that the IMF has totally disempowered our government to the extent that a government are only now there for the security. The governments can no longer provide the safety nets to deal with the side effects of the bid appeals that you are prescribing. And while I know that most Africans will identify with this, that we feel like we are under receivership. Of course, when you're a company under receivership, it means the management has messed up the company and now the interests of the shareholders must be taken of. And we recognize that fact, and we want to assure you that many of us in African parliaments are committed to do the things that are necessary so that our side of the reality does not lead to the collapse of our economies, thereby making it inevitable for you to bring your bid appeals.
But take it from me, we appreciate that you can't treat a cancer using Vaseline, so we know you have to be tough, but also you have got to be compassionate for those who are not responsible for the mess, the aged, the children and the sick.
Thank you very much.
MS. FRASSONI: Thank you.
MS. FRASSONI: Valdo Spini.
MR. SPINI: Thank you, right honorable Chairman.
I am an alternate member of a European convention, so I have a question about governance of IMF. Being the fact that IMF has a weighted voting system, what will be the consequence when the European Union will have a unique juridical subject? It will be European Union with majority (?) in IMF?
MS. FRASSONI: And now we will give the floor to Antigoni Papadopoulos Pericleous, from the Council of Europe and Cyprus. Please be short.
MS. PAPADOPOULOS: Mr. Köhler, My name is Antigoni Papadopoulos, and I am a member of Parliament of the Cyprus Republic.
My question has two parts. The first part is: to which extent has the IMF succeeded in incorporating requirements for democracy, good governance, respect of human right and peace, (?) labor standards, and also more efficient protection of the environment into its projects?
And the second part of the question is: to which extent do you evaluate that IMF has succeeded in making funding to recipient countries conditional on their accepting of the aforesaid dimensions. Thank you very much.
MS. PAPADOPOULOS: To which extent has the IMF succeeded in making funding to recipient countries conditional on the aforesaid dimensions, on accepting the aforesaid dimensions? That is, good governance, democracy, respect of human rights, peace, (?) labor standards and more efficient protection of the environment? Thank you very much.
MS. FRASSONI: Thank you very much.
MR. COLMAN: Might I congratulate Anne Krueger and yourself for the work that you've done on the sovereign debt restructuring mechanism. I was sorry to hear that you don't expect it to go through at the next spring meeting of the IMF. I would ask you to hang in there. I think it took some 14 years to get the HIPC debt relief through.
I think it's important that you tell us as parliaments what we can do to actually ensure our governments vote for this. Are you suggesting that all new sovereign bonds that are issued by all our governments should have collective action clauses as a way forward, or are there any other ways that we can actually get this very interesting initiative moving forward on the world stage? Thank you.
MS. FRASSONI: Thank you.
MS. SKARPELIS-SPERK: Mr. Köhler, in describing the situation of the world economy, you were relatively optimistic. I understand that you are in let's say a very difficult situation to do it otherwise, but on the other hand, looking for the geopolitical situation to put it this way, I'm a little bit anxious that this might be not the truth, and that we are facing perhaps a severe crisis, a crisis which might even destabilize the big actors that may have an adverse effect on the economies of the United States, of Japan, and European Union, and that means that the developing countries will be in a real turmoil. So is the IMF preparing any contingency plan to help in this situation, and preparing for the situation?
And secondly, you gave advice to the European Union to structural reforms. When this doesn't mean the old recipe, cap the wages, strike social budget--what does it mean in the situation where we have a very low demand worldwide and perhaps even a lower demand and even United States without the budget deficit due to weapon expenditures, we're on the brink of recession. So what are you saying to Europe what we should do except the long heard structural reforms?
You said you were a learning institution. When I remember the criticism of Mr. Stiglitz. Are you able and willing to have a greater diversity of experts and staff and that mean a certain diversity of paradigm, because when I met people in the International Monetary Fund, most of--and the staff--were trained in United States top universities, knowing very well neoclassical paradigm and--
MS. FRASSONI: Can you conclude?
MS. SKARPELIS-SPERK: --and very well trained economists, but they were not interested very much about the situation of the countries. They were studying and given recipes and they had no real working experience living in these countries. So is the International Monetary Fund going to change these attitudes in recruiting outside staff or outside expertise?
MS. FRASSONI: Thank you. Unfortunately, I don't have a hammer as I normally have in the European Parliament.
Okay. We finished the list of the speakers. There was a question from Azerbaijan which is actually similar, from the question which is similar to the one of our Cypriot speaker about the integration of a social environmental dimension in the IMF priorities. So.
MR. KÖHLER: I try to give short answers.
MS. FRASSONI: Okay. But very, very quickly, please.
MR. HIGGINS: My name is Michael G. Higgins from Ireland. At the group this morning I was asked to ask a question which has to some extent been covered, and it was about the reliance of the International Monetary Fund on a single paradigm, that of--a single paradigm of development based on (?) assumptions and market based. And the background to that was Europe itself, and those who were in the group would have the experience of 40 years of Keynesianism followed by 20 years influence by Friedrich von Hayek. Why should developing countries not be entitled to the same flexibility of intellectual (?) and economic paradigms as other parts of the world?
And the question then to finish it off was, had this reliance on a single paradigm not meant the ignoring of different definitions of conditionality, such as, for example, in relation to (?) drawing the line above the basis sustainability needed to protect life, health, (?) and so on, and calculating debt above that line? And why is the IMF so singularly lodged in a single version of economics when in fact there is no basis for this in the history of economic theory, thought or practice?
MR. BASU: I'm Basu from India. I am Basu from India. I appreciate the fact that Mr. Köhler has expressed and underlined the challenge of financial market collapse along with the financial globalization that we have. But the question here is that the developing countries have also lost out in a very big way as a result of the meltdown in American markets which are related to the kind of monitoring and the kind of regulatory functions that were present.
So along with the bitter pills that are being mentioned about the developing countries, in terms of civilians of capital markets and developed economies, in terms of corporate governance, is the IMF suggesting a set of ground rules?
MR. KÖHLER: I try as good as I can to answer. First the lady from Turkey. We are in favor of an international or global trading system where the countries can compete with their products and are not hampered by tariffs. And therefore, I do think that the Doha Round must bring a decisive step forward, not only to let developing countries get them more access in terms of raw materials to advanced countries, but to get and give them more access for processed products. And here I must say, and I appeal here, I approach the deputies, the parliamentarians from advanced countries, you need to be aware it's you who can be decisive in improving the situation for the poor countries in that you are diminishing the tariffs, import tariffs in your countries for processed products.
MR. KÖHLER: And when I hear always this criticism about the IMF--and I will come back to this, the single paradigm--I travel all over the world. These people in Africa, in Latin America, they have their own view and vision, and we should accept that, but they have also a vision that they want to be able to compete with the others based on the same level playing field. But if you look to sugar, to coffee, to cotton, wherever there is a process where developing countries get in a more mature business development, then they have new obstacles because of higher tariffs.
And the people who are blaming the IMF that he's always against social things, they often are only protecting the short-term interests of people in the industrial world, to the disadvantaged to the cost of the people in the poor world. This should also be expressed quite clearly.
IMF success stories. First, I do think, ladies and gentlemen, that the international financial system has not broken down despite of these series of shocks in the last two years. And I said it at the outset, burst of the bubble in the U.S., September 11, corporate scandals, now discussion about a war in Iraq, that it not has broken down, it is also--I mean I am not saying mainly, but it's also due to activities and work of the IMF regarding financial sectors, strengthening vulnerability analysis, and on this basis working on early warning systems. It is more than just this, but it has also to do with that.
And success stories. Take Korea, South Korea. South Korea was in a major crisis in '97-'98. It has recovered. It has now growth rates between 5 and 6 percent. It has taken the bitter medicine, and it worked. But it worked mainly because there was resolve in the government and also support by the society. And you can have also Mexico. I include in this kind of cautious success story also even Brazil, because they had a major crisis end of the '90s. They moved to flexible exchange rate. President Cardoso worked hard and successful in building sounder institutions in Brazil, and President Lula da Silva now can build on this achievement in Brazil. So there is more than just only failures and difficulties. There are success stories.
Africa. Reality in the ground. Sir, I must admit I don't know all detail about our people in the field, but I can assure you it's not just a rhetorical approach. We have changed our conditionality concept. We have given guidance, guidelines to our mission. Now we have to implement it. And if you don't mind, I would like you to be very precise about this example where you told me that the IMF told your finance minister he can't spend more on fighting AIDS because of our conditionality. I would guess it's plain wrong, what you have heard. But I am prepared, if it's not wrong, to go public and accept that we made a big, big--that we have been very stupid. But my--sir, please be aware, I would like to see the very concrete information whether this is right or wrong, because this may also be an example where finance ministers hide behind the IMF. The IMF is the nice scapegoat, so even you can use them for saying they blocked fighting HIV. I can't imagine that this happened.
But I appreciate very much what the colleague from Africa told us. He accepts the IMF needs to be tough. That means I am encouraged through a lot of talks and traveling in and through Africa. There are leaders who know what is right and what is wrong. We should refrain from lecturing them. They have set up this NEPAD process, which I feel is promising. My concern is it's too much of bureaucracy and too much of tables and talk, but it is a process of an African agenda, and I am the first to accept that we have to accept an African agenda.
But in this context I must also tell you, take the example of Cote d'Ivoire. When I was President of the EBRD I traveled first to Cote d'Ivoire. That was in January '99. We felt at that time Cote d'Ivoire is the star, emerging star in Africa, in West Africa. Two months later there had been riots at the streets and killing. And then there was a phase of turbulence, and then there was again some kind of stability. The IMF--I personally was pressed, I was pushed, I was accused, the IMF is not supporting Cote d'Ivoire. And we stepped in and gave them a loan, And I think two months after we had agreed on a loan to Cote d'Ivoire, there started a new killing.
And I myself had meetings in Cote d'Ivoire with the president and others, and when I raised the issue, the question of reconciliation in the country, I got no answer. I came back to Washington. I reported to the United Nations. I reported to my Board that I got no answer to this issue there is a need for reconciliation in the country. I got no information. I got no advice. I got no support from anywhere, United Nations, G-7, what else, what do to with Cote d'Ivoire, and now we are in this mess.
So I want also to make you aware we need to work hard, and you need to be involved. We need early warnings also at a political level. The IMF is over burdened to recognize what is emerging in Cote d'Ivoire or other countries, so that you need also to think about political early warnings, your impact on reconciliation, so that a situation like in Cote d'Ivoire should not happen again.
Disempowerment of governments, I hope that we can work on that, and that we are flexible enough without missing the need for adjustment in order to bring fiscal discipline, and on this basis, growth.
Governance of the IMF, I was a kind of chief negotiator for the Maastricht Treaty in Europe for Germany, and when I asked at that time Chancellor Kohl what is Germany's position regarding representation in international financial institutions after a monetary union. And Chancellor Kohl said, we are prepared to think about a new representation. But I haven't seen from Europe some movement in this field. So I would be happy if the Europeans would have the strength to unify, to speak more often with one voice. It would make my life within the IMF I think easier, and I could be more proud about the Europeans, because I feel I am still a European.
Well, democracy, good governance, environment and all of this in our conditionality, I must beg your pardon, we just have a process of reviewing our conditionality concept, and that means that we want to refrain from too much of conditionality in a too short time. I mean I do think the IMF should be aware, attentive to the environment issues, to democracy and good governance. That is our--that is a major preoccupation, but we can't put all this in a conditionality concept because we are not a institution which is in charge for everything what has to be handled and shaped in the world.
So therefore, I must tell you, with all sympathy, we need to concentrate on the things where we have a direct mandate, without ignoring basic rights and also directions like good governance and environmental sustainability.
Regarding the debt restructuring, the story has not yet ended. The IMF works on that, but I do think that to put collective action clauses from now on in all sovereign bonds would be the right approach, and I would encourage you as politicians, as members of parliaments, to speak up in this interest because it would make the world a bit safer in terms of crisis prevention.
The geopolitical situation and the world economic outlook. I am of course concerned, and I would like to see a different situation that means no war, but it's not under our control, and we hope, of course, if there is a war, it will be a short hostility. I mean that is nothing new. This is what we can hope.
Regarding contingency, we have--I can't go now public saying that we are preparing for an after-war because still there is no war, and as long as there is no war, we hope there will be no war. So therefore, don't expect from me that I am now outlining a contingency plan. But if war would happen, you can be assured we will try to make our contribution that the people in the region and in Iraq will see some hope for the future rapidly.
I think it's the diversity of staff and economists. It's one of these old stories that the IMF economists are just trained in Chicago.
MR. KÖHLER: Harvard, okay then put Harvard and Stanford and Chicago. That's the melody. It's just wrong. And if you don't mind, I give you the numbers of our people, where they come from, and maybe this will help even to detect that Joseph Stiglitz is a fine Nobel prize winner, and he is certainly one of the finest economists, but not all of his arguments are right or are true arguments.
MR. KÖHLER: We have a very diverse staff, and of course it is our culture to work and to have exchange with all kinds of economic training and ideas. And I must say that we just rely on a single paradigm, that is not true. This can be demonstrated case by case. We are flexible where there is a need of flexibility regarding fiscal situations. But I must tell you, I mean, if you have no ability to print money, then how to cope with the situation where there's a high debt, the exchange rate is depreciating, and then what? Low interest rates, print money--is that the answer?
So I am not against discussing this, and I am absolutely open that the IMF has to demonstrate that his judgment is sound based on good expertise. But I caution a bit that others have these kinds of quick fixes who know what is right, what is wrong.
I have myself studied a lot of Keynes, and I do think Keynes is still relevant, not irrelevant. But we are now in a globalized world, and that means the effects of spending in one country are very hard to judge in its effect on the same economy. And regarding structural reforms, I think it was the member of parliament from Germany, it's not--we are cutting wages, but clearly, the cost situation in Europe is a course of slow growth. We are now discussing in Europe or the Europeans are discussing the so-called Lisbon process. It's a wonderful process. It sets objectives about productivity, innovation. But still, after two or three years after this agenda of the Lisbon process has been defined, the number of patents in Europe is declining compared to the numbers of patents coming from the U.S. and Japan.
So how can a region with such high social protection expect that they are able in 10, 20 years' time to finance their pension years without doing today already the utmost to be at the top of competitiveness? Because any pension--and that is a basic and eternal rule. Any pension must be financed of the current GNP, the product of the economy. So if the economy is not growing, even if you have the nicest social and moral intention, you can't pay for your pension years. And, therefore, if someone is serious to create an environment where the people of today can expect in 20 years' time that they have a similar living standard than today, then the Europeans must do a lot to improve their competitiveness regarding technology, cost situation, benefit system. I have no better advice to you.
MS. FRASSONI: Thank you.
MS. FRASSONI: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Köhler. I frankly think that this session was more interesting than going to look through your website. So I believe that we will have--I hope actually we will have more occasions to have more discussions.
Now, I thank you very much for your patience.
MS. FRASSONI: Sorry, but excuse me, I am not--I didn't give you the floor. I am sorry.
MS. FRASSONI: I am sorry. Okay. Thank you. Right.
I want to thank you again for being present and attentive to this meeting. The meeting, though, will go on because we have another very important session, so I ask you not to leave for the next hour or so, three-quarters of an hour, because we have to make a report of the activity of the Parliamentary Network. We have to talk about the election of the Steering Committee which is going to take place and about the future project of the work of this network. So since it is something extremely substantial, I ask you not to leave the room while I thank again on your behalf Mr. Köhler for this very interesting afternoon.
[Whereupon the conference ends.]
IMF EXTERNAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT