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Does the IMF Always Prescribe Fiscal Austerity? Are Targets Too Tight?
Tuesday, June 8, 2004, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.
Meeting Hall B (IMF Headquarters, 700 19th Street, NW)

This Book Forum is free and open to the public but a RSVP is required. Please send an e-mail to or call (202) 623-5805.

Those attending are welcome to join in a light lunch, starting at 12:30 p.m. Lunch will be in Meeting Hall B, and Mr. Selowsky's talk will begin in the same room promptly at 1:00 p.m.

Fund & Bank staff attending the event can proceed directly to Meeting Hall B (3-500B). Visitors please enter through IMF Center, 720 19th St., NW.

Featuring Marcelo Selowsky, lead author of Fiscal Adjustment in IMF-Supported Programs (a report of the Independent Evaluation Office, IMF), Nancy Birdsall (Center for Global Development) and Allan Meltzer (Carnegie-Mellon University & American Enterprise Institute).

Critics often characterize the IMF's fiscal policy advice as "one-size-fits-all": the IMF's advice places unnecessary emphasis on reducing fiscal deficits and is not tailored to the specific circumstances of the country. The IMF's prescription of fiscal austerity, critics say, curtails economic growth and social expenditures, thus harming the poor in particular. Others have questioned the policy measures advocated by the IMF to reduce fiscal deficits-because of expediency such measures may introduce new inefficiencies and inequalities, and may not achieve durable structural changes.

How valid are such criticisms? A new report by the IMF's Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) provides some answers and puts forward recommendations to the Executive Board of the IMF. The findings are based on examining a cross-section of 133 IMF-supported programs, supplemented by 15 in-depth case studies. (The full report will be available at the forum.)

Marcelo Selowsky will summarize the report's findings and the IEO's recommendations on how to improve the quality of IMF fiscal policy advice. Nancy Birdsall and Allan Meltzer will assess the adequacy of the IEO's report and the IMF staff's response to it.

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Marcelo Selowsky is Assistant Director of the IMF's Independent Evaluation Office (IEO), set up in 2001 to provide objective and independent evaluation of IMF activities. The IEO operates independently of IMF management and at arm's length from the IMF's Executive Board. Prior to joining the IEO, Mr. Selowsky was the Chief Economist of the Europe and Central Asia Region at the World Bank.

Nancy Birdsall is the founding President of the Center for Global Development. Prior to launching the center, Ms. Birdsall was Senior Associate and Director of the Economic Reform Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where some of her work focused on the reform of the international financial institutions. She has also served in senior management positions at the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. She has authored or edited more than a dozen books and monographs, including Washington Contentious: Economic Policies for Social Equity in Latin America.

Allan Meltzer is professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon University and a visiting scholar at American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He was chairman of the International Financial Institution Advisory Commission (the so-called "Meltzer Commission") set up by the U.S. Congress to advocate reforms of the IMF and other multilateral institutions. Mr. Meltzer is also author of the recently published History of the Federal Reserve, Vol. I: 1913-1951. He has served as policy advisor to many U.S. administrations, including in President Kennedy's and in President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors.