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Finance & Development
A quarterly magazine of the IMF
March 2007, Volume 44, Number 1

In Brief

IMF takes a "major step" on key financial indicators

The IMF has published standardized indicators from about 50 countries that allow analysts to assess the soundness of their banking sectors and compare them with those of other countries.

Rob Edwards, Director of the IMF's Statistics Department, called the dissemination of the financial soundness indicators "a major step" in the IMF's efforts "to strengthen the surveillance of member countries' financial systems, increase data transparency, and promote cross-country comparable data."

Within a year, 62 countries—all judged to be of importance to the global financial system—will have posted financial soundness data. They are participating in a pilot project set up in the wake of financial crises during the 1990s in Latin America, Russia, and, especially, Asia that highlighted the lack of reliable data to assess the soundness of national banking systems.

The countries were asked to produce soundness indicators for deposit-taking institutions (mainly commercial banks) that measure capital adequacy, asset quality, earnings and profitability, liquidity, and sensitivity to market risk. They were also encouraged to produce indicators that provide additional information on the banking sector and cover nonbank financial institutions, such as insurance companies and pension funds; financial sector customers, such as corporations and households; and the real estate and securities markets.


Curbing impact of disasters

The United Nations is pressing governments to speed up action to mitigate natural disasters in light of a UN report stating that changes in the atmosphere, oceans, glaciers, and ice caps show unequivocally that the world is warming and that it is more than 90 percent certain that humans are the cause.

"Action is needed to reduce people's vulnerability to climate-related hazards," said Sálvano Briceño, director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. "We need to educate people to reduce their own risk, preserve ground cover to avoid erosion, adjust agricultural practices to avoid losing crops to flood or drought, and protect our coasts," he told a news briefing in Geneva. "Society's vulnerability is only increasing as a result of rapid urbanization, population pressure, and other factors. Climate change will . . . increase drought, flood, and storm risk for millions of people and bring these risks to parts of the world that haven't felt them before."

A separate UN report released at end-2006 said that Asian and Pacific societies are already living beyond their ecological means. To continue their much-needed economic expansion, they will have to adopt efficient "green growth" patterns.

Meeting human development needs based on "grow first, clean up later" economic growth patterns is likely to multiply ecological problems, according to the latest regional State of the Environment report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The report points to unsustainable water use, the high use of chemicals in agro-industry, and pollution as the region's key problems.

Plant a tree: save the world

As part of a project to save the planet from global warming, the United Nations Environment Program is urging the international community to plant a billion trees around the world this year to help rehabilitate degraded land and promote reforestation. Trees can help counter the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

GAVI commits $500 million for health systems

In an effort to further increase global immunization coverage, the GAVI Alliance (formerly known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) says it will invest $500 million over five years to strengthen health systems in developing countries. GAVI is a public-private partnership focused on increasing children's access to vaccines in poor countries. Weak health care infrastructure is often the main barrier to providing immunizations to children in developing countries, particularly in the poorest and most remote communities.

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Events in 2007

March 19–23, Cape Town, South Africa
7th Annual Conference of the Parliamentary Network of the World Bank

March 24–25, Pretoria, South Africa
Group of Twenty Deputies meeting

April 14–15, Washington, D.C.
Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank

May 20–21, Kazan, Russia
Annual Meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

June 6–8, Heiligendamm, Germany
Group of Eight summit

October 19–21, Washington, D.C.
Annual Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank