Now the risks, the risks are probably tilted to the downside. Part of the risks are centered around the potential of mutually reinforcing adverse housing and credit cycles in the U.S., so the question of housing prices in the U.S. is not behind us. But there are also other risks I would just like to mention: risks in an increase in risk aversion. In this case we may expect higher financing costs. There is another risk which is linked to a sudden stop or at least a sharp decrease in capital flows for emerging countries. Some of these economies are heavily dependent on capital inflows, and the increase in risk aversion and at the same time the global deleveraging, may induce a sharp decrease in those inflows of capital. This is true for emerging countries that we usually have in mind; namely, emerging countries from the south, but also some European emerging countries. We are very concerned by what is going on in Eastern Europe and emerging countries in Central Europe.
So far for the risk, the last risk of course being the risk of sustained high inflation owing to commodity prices, and then I am coming to my second point, which is after the ice side, the fire side.
Fire is that inflation may be back. This reflects both structural factors and cyclical factors including the importance taken by biofuels, for instance, during the last years. It is a key concern. Why? Because food prices, for instance, increased by 48 percent since the end of 2006 until now, which is a huge increase, and it may undermine all the gains we have obtained in reducing poverty.
What can policymakers do as far as the higher commodity prices are concerned? The first thing I think is to assess is that there is no one-size-fits-all policy. It has to be tailored depending upon the countries. In fact, we can do three kind of things: The first one is to define with those countries the right macroeconomic framework in which they should behave in the coming months or years if they have to contemplate this increase in prices for a long time. The second kind of thing has to do with technical assistance where in the field we are likely—country by country—to provide some advice to find a way to alleviate, to have a decrease in the pressure on prices, and generally it is through financial support, subsidies to the poor, things like that which should not, on the one hand, destroy what has been built in the past when the tariff system has been designed and, on the other hand, should not have long-term consequences on financial soundness and on public finances.
The third thing we can do and what we are doing is working with other agencies or other donors to be able to help those countries with some financial support through the traditional instruments we have, the Stand-By Arrangement, the PRGF, the ESF, the Exogenous Shock Facility, which can be used for these kinds of problems. So those are short-term answers. But of course we need also to have some long-term responses to the return of inflation, and as far as commodity prices and food prices especially are concerned, of course the main answer has to do with developing and removing the different obstacles to increase supply. The only real long-term answer to the food situation is that productivity and surfaces used for food production should be increased in the future.
So the world economy during the last six months has behaved between these two risks; too cold—and too big a slowdown in growth; too hot—and the risk of inflation. Policymakers have to choose in-between. The answer cannot be the same for everyone, since in some parts of the world, the risk is more the risk of economic slowdown and in some other parts of the world, the risk may be more the risk of inflation, but these two points are today the two points between which any economic policy has to define itself.
Let me give you just a few words about the small world of the IMF. When I arrived here six months ago, basically there were three cases open: the quota problem, the expenditure problem, and the income problem. The quota problem we are now facing a possible success of the reform. I say a possible success because until the end of this month, the period during which the countries may vote, we just do not know if finally the reform will reach 85 percent of the voting power that we need to have this decision adopted. It has been adopted by the Board. It has now to be adopted by the Governors, and I think it will be the case, but we cannot be sure of that. So it is a possible success. But if at the end of this month we reach the 85 percent of the voting power that we need, then it will be a real big success for the institution, and that is for four reasons:
The first reason is that the IMF will still be the first institution created after World War II in the environment of the United Nations which will prove able to reform itself. It will be the first deep reform in a UN institution. The second reason is that the reform and the changes are dynamic. They will appear over time. We have to judge this reform not only by its immediate results but in looking at the result that will be delivered during the coming five, ten, fifteen years, and that is the reason why some countries—let's take, for example, South Africa, a country which was not willing immediately—are in favor of the reform because they know that the reform is tailored in such a way that they will win over time and that the reform is part for emerging countries, low-income countries, and that the result of this reform over time will be exactly what they are expecting. The third reason why it is a big success is because in some respects the quota reform is a change in philosophy. The idea at the beginning was that countries should be better represented owing to their economic weight. But the introduction of the tripling of basic voting rights, this decoupled a little the voting power and the quota shares—the voting power from the economic weight—which means that of course the link of the voting power for different countries, their economic weight remains. But it is moderated, it is a bit combined with something which has nothing to do with economic weight, which is the right of each country to have a minimum of voting rights, which is represented by this tripling of the basic voting rights. The fourth reason why it is important, is that even if, as I said before, the main result will come over time, immediately the reforms deliver part of what we need.
I want to give you just one figure. Before the reform, broadly the advanced countries represented 60 percent of the voting rights and the emerging and low-income countries 40 percent. Let's imagine that the target could be 50-50, there is no big rationale behind this, just that it may appear to a lot of people as a correct target. Now that means that we need to shift 10 percent, to take 10 percent from advanced countries, to give 10 percent to low-income and emerging countries. If that is the target, then what we did in this first move was 27 percent of the 10 percent, 2.7, as you know, which has been shifted. So between one-fourth and one-third of the move we may hope for has already been done, and the rest is going to happen in five years and in ten years. That is the reason why I hope that most countries will support this agreement and make it possible for this institution to go to other reforms which are needed in its governance but which were impossible to begin before the quota question would have been solved. So far for the quota reform, the Board of the IMF had to deliver, and the Board delivered.
Now we have another problem, another case which I found in a big file when I arrived, which was simply the fact that this institution has grown lots during the Asian crisis and the Asian crisis is far behind us. Fortunately we did not contemplate any current account crisis during the last five years, so we do not need to be such a big institution, and the need to go back to more or less the size of the IMF before the financial crises, let's say, ten years ago was a sound target. So I began six months ago a downsizing exercise. The process is now coming to an end. The main idea was, as I say, to come back to the size we had before the Asian crisis, which broadly leads to a decrease in expenditure of about $100 million, and this has been voted with the plan over three years by the Board at the beginning of this week. So we had to decrease our expenditures to be more efficient, to streamline the way we are working, while at the same time try to maintain quality, and this has also been delivered by the Board just before the Spring Meetings.
The third point was that the question was not only a question of expenditure but also a question of income, for the same reason I just said, because we do not lend as much as in the past, and all our income in the past was coming from lending, so we have to find a new income model because we cannot rely on the idea that we will be hoping for any kind of crisis in the world so that we will have more income. So we needed to change our income model.
Again, there has been a lot of discussion on this, starting with the Crockett Report one year ago. A lot of proposals have been made, and most of those proposals had appeared to observers at this time as impossible to implement. Some were linked to the extension of the investment model, investment capacity of the Fund, some were linked to a better appraisal of the costs and the accounting of different costs of the program, and the main, as you know, is linked with the sale of gold. But many were saying that it will not be possible to obtain a majority in the Board and after that among the Governors to have this sale of gold, because the U.S. will be very reluctant to do something like that.
The discussions which have taken place over the last six months were interesting, and at the end, the Board again has delivered, and last Monday the Board has voted on this new income model including the sale of 403 metric tons of gold. So on these three points which were absolutely necessary for the Fund to start again its work forward, the pending questions have been solved in the last six months.
Now let me end with the work program. The way you in your newspapers, TV channels, radio have commented on the WEO and the GFSR shows that the IMF is back and that what we say about the world economy is largely used by not only the press but also policymakers and that the debate is organized around our forecast or our policy advice.
Of course it is not enough, and we have to go forward. Where? Mainly in three directions. The first one is that this crisis, the subprime crisis and the consequences of the subprime crisis show that what we have to better understand are the linkages between what is happening in the financial sector and what happened in the real economy. This is not a current account crisis, a traditional current account crisis or capital account crisis. It is a financial crisis that is totally different from the crises we experienced in the past. If we want to better understand what happens, we have to look who is the more equipped, more prepared to provide explanation, and there are a lot of very good institutions in the world working on the real economy—private sector institutions, department of finance ministries in different countries, the OECD, a lot of them. At the same time, there are a lot of institutions working in the financial sector that are also very good, including the central banks, the BIS, the FSF.
There is no other institution but the IMF likely to work on the linkages between the financial sector and the real economy, and that is really what today is at stake. In which respect will the financial crisis we are experiencing today have consequences on the real economy, what are the channels? There are traditional channels, there may be new channels. That is exactly what we need to understand better. That is one part of our working program for the next coming months.
The second part is that, as you know, the bread and butter of the institution is bilateral surveillance, and the so-called Article IV through which the IMF exerts its surveillance. Its bilateral surveillance with the different countries is at the basis of the information we have on the countries, but we need more and more multilateral surveillance, and the crisis, the subprime crisis and its consequences are obviously a global crisis. So if there is a global crisis, we need a global solution, which means that we need to have a global appraisal of the crisis. That is multilateral surveillance. So we have to come back to what is at the root of our mandate, financial stability, providing this global public good which is financial stability, but having a better look at multilateral surveillance, which includes to give advice and to try to help solve the global imbalances, including—and here we are back to the tradition—including the currency imbalances and the way during this crisis. Already before the crisis we could recognize a lot of imbalances, but especially during the crisis those imbalances had moved. As I already said a few days ago, some currencies obviously are undervalued, some are close to the medium-term equilibrium, some others are on the strong side, and those imbalances are part of the crisis we are living in, and are also fed by the crisis. So we need to go back on this question which is renewed, which is not a traditional currency question, which is a renewed currency question, but which is part of the global imbalances.
The third field in which we have a huge working program is what we do on low-income countries. I was amazed six months ago arriving here—well, a bit more than six months ago, just before arriving here, during the Annual Meetings I was not in the office, but Rodrigo de Rato was kind enough to give me a small office to meet people who wanted to see me during the Annual Meetings. I met a big number of Ministers, including a large number of African Ministers. They came to me saying—well, we have listened that you wanted to decrease expenditures in the Fund, but please do not do that cutting technical assistance because we need the technical assistance of the Fund. What we are doing, some things were right, some things were wrong they said, but what we did well was in large part due to the advice of the Fund. In western Africa, for instance, the rate of growth during the last five years is around 5, 6 percent, which has not been seen for decades, it is not only thanks to the advice of the Fund, it would be a bit pretentious to say that, because it is largely due to the way the economic policy, the economic framework has been organized following the policy advice of the Fund. So they say, please, cut the expenditures where you want, but not in technical assistance. We absolutely need the Fund technical assistance for growth.
At the same time, not far from here in Georgetown you had a few hundred, 400, 500 people demonstrating and saying you in the Fund, in the IMF, you are the guys who are killing children in Africa. What you do is destroying the economy of Africa. So this discrepancy, this misunderstanding has to disappear, and to do that we have to work more on Africa but also we have to explain what we do in poor countries, in low-income countries, not only in Africa. There are some low-income countries in the rest of the world, but the biggest part are in Africa. And so we will have in the fall a big conference in Tanzania where ten years of history of the Fund in Africa will be scrutinized, and we will try to see what we did wrong because obviously in some cases we might be wrong, but what we did well, and how the Fund is going in the coming years to go on with its work on low-income countries.
Besides that we have other topics, they are well known. One is on the sovereign wealth funds, as you know, and we are working on that. It is a very important topic for the future. Some others have to do with the medium term. We are working with the FSF, for instance, very closely. As you know, the report, the draft report of the FSF on the lessons from the crisis is going to be discussed more by the G-7. It is a very good report which explains, which makes proposals on what should be done in the medium term, and we are working with the FSF on this. So the different other topics than the core business of the Fund. But on all this, we have to go back to work now that our internal problems are solved.
The last point will be the next reform on governance because the quota question cannot be the end of it. It is the starting point. There are a lot of things to change and discussion to have in the way to adapt the governance of an institution like the IMF to the 21st Century, and this discussion can now take place. As I said before, because the preliminary question of the quota is being solved, we can go on with other reforms which some of them may be more important for the change in the institution than the quota reform by itself. All this is going to be discussed at the IMFC meeting on Saturday under the leadership of Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, the Chairman of the IMFC, and I hope that the IMFC will give us the mandate to go on these different fields.
We changed a little not the format of the IMFC itself, which is a very formal meeting and cannot be changed, but we decided to have before the IMFC meeting on Saturday an informal breakfast with maybe 40 or 50 people just to discuss really frankly without all the formality of the traditional meeting of what is going on. Because this Spring Meeting and the Annual Meeting of the IMF has to become two moments in the year where the main question of economic stability and financial stability are discussed among the different players. So it should not be only a formal discussion, adoption of reports, guidelines for the future, but also a time where the Finance Ministers, the Governors of the Central Banks, and heads of big institutions in the private sector may discuss together the views they have on the world economy. That is going to start on Saturday morning with this first new type of IMF breakfast.
So those were the points I wanted to make at the beginning. Forgive me for being so long. Now I am open to your questions.
QUESTIONER: The Fund says this is the biggest crisis since the 1930s, and you are saying today that the Fund is the best organization to deal with this. But what faith can we have in the Fund's ability to manage this crisis when it itself has been part of the problem? I say it for three reasons. One, the Fund has been the biggest cheerleader for the sort of capital market deregulation and free-for-all which has culminated in subprime. The Fund itself is partly to blame for the build-up in the global imbalances in that the Asian countries have built up their massive reserves as a result of what happened in the 1990s and the Fund's response. Finally, the Fund has proved incapable of spotting this crisis coming and providing the right sort of advice about what to do about it in advance of it coming. What faith should we have in the Fund's ability to manage this crisis now?
MR. STRAUSS-KAHN: I will try to answer your question, but first I would like to come back to one of your first sentences. I would not wish to say that the economic situation is a serious one. We have to take care of what is going on, but not that it is the biggest crisis since the 1930s. May I show you a figure which is the second one I have. Okay, the financial crisis. You said financial crisis? I am sorry. If you said financial crisis, I agree. I understood that you meant it was the biggest economic crisis. That is why I wanted just to show you this slide which I think is interesting because it compares the declines in output that we expect from this crisis and as compared to decline in output from previous crises. As you see, for the crisis of 2001, it will be the smallest decline in percent of GDP that we may expect. These figures are for the U.S., of course. So that was answering a question you did not ask, so I am sorry. Financial crisis, right, right. More important, I think, it is not that it is the biggest since the 1930s, but it is a new kind of crisis.
So now to your question, what faith can you have in the Fund's ability to deal with it. If you put the question on the faith level, really I cannot answer because there is no rational argument to argue on having faith or not. If you go to rational arguments, then I will say a few words. The first one is that if you read the GFSR one year ago, you will find everything which is described, probably not vocally enough, but the risk of what could happen on the subprime market is described in the GFSR. The point is that the Fund was not able and it was part of the history of this institution to make people listen to what the Fund is saying. The GFSR at this time was not read with attention enough, that is our fault, that is your fault, I do not know, I am not blaming anybody, but that is the reality. If you come back now to what has been written in the GFSR one year ago, you will find a lot of information before the crisis saying that the crisis is in front of us.
The second part of what I could tell you is what I said before, I am not going to elaborate too long on this, it is that I think the main characteristic of this crisis is that it has to be analyzed. Probably the future possible crises in the world will have specific links between financial sector and real economy, and again I said before that we are the unique institution to do that. Maybe it was a bit too much, but at least we are one of the rare, there are not many institutions likely to work on these two sides of the problem.
The third thing is that I think it is a little unfair to blame us for deregulation in the financial sector. What the Fund has been saying for years and trying to implement is a different kind of control of the financial system through, namely, what we call the FSAP, the Financial Sector Assessment Program. Interesting enough, some countries did not accept to have an FSAP. We had an FSAP in Europe, in most European countries, maybe all European countries, I am just unsure about one. We had an FSAP in a lot of other countries, and that is a big team going into a country, having stress analysis on the banking system, looking at the different problems which may happen in this financial system, overlap in supervision or on the contrary part of the sector being not supervised, things like that. What is interesting is that until a few weeks ago the United States refused to have the FSAP in their country. I am not arguing that if there had been an FSAP one year or two years ago we would have been able to say everything we should be saying about the financial system in the U.S., but at least we cannot be responsible for lack of supervision where the crisis begins owing to the fact that our main instrument to make this kind of supervision was not used in this country.
Now, the main point, the main answer to your point is that whatever the past, the further direction in which I want to drive the Fund now is to be able to understand, give policy advice, and when necessary use its financial instruments to avoid, if possible, and solve—where we cannot avoid it—this kind of crisis now. It is more looking at our work program and what we are going to do now than looking at the past that you will find the answer to your question.
QUESTIONER: I have a question, Mr. Strauss-Kahn, if you could comment on the role of the central banks in this crisis, specifically the European Central Bank. The IMF has applauded the action of the Fed recently. The European Central Bank has left interest rates untouched today, and Mr. Trichet, despite this comment said the crisis will be deeper and longer than was expected so far. Thanks.
MR. STRAUSS-KAHN: I think the central banks did very well in the crisis; not only the Fed, the ECB, but other central banks, too. As I said before, this crisis is a crisis of a new type, so it is always very difficult to see how you have to answer, and in this matter you have to answer overnight, and they did very well. What is interesting—they did well, providing liquidity, avoiding drying up of the markets, of helping the interbank market to go on, and finally helping the market to come back to a normal setting. What is interesting is that they did well, but in a different way. The way the Fed acts is I will not say more than slightly different from the way the ECB, for instance, has worked.
The problem is this is linked to a different way of looking at inflation, credit, and supervision on both sides of the Atlantic for historical reasons. But even if there are all these historical reasons, it is probably useful for central banks, as one of the lessons of this crisis, to try to look at the differences, have a more standardized way of intervention. That is part of the work we are doing with the FSF, to look with the central banks how we could for the future, for the possible crisis in the future have more standardized intervention of central banks. Why is it important? We could argue, well, they work the way they want, what is the problem with that? In fact, it is important. It is important because the signal given to the market is more likely to be understood if it is the same signal in the same way given by the different central banks, and if the market has the feeling that the central banks are doing something different, even if they are working with the same goal and what they do has the same aim, but if they do it with different tools, then it may be misleading for the markets. So to work on the central bank liquidity frameworks is something which is probably very important for the future, but until now, what has been done by the central banks was exactly what we could expect from the central banks. They are not in charge of everything. They are in charge of providing the market with liquidity, avoiding the crisis to spill over to the rest of the world, and they did it in a correct way.
QUESTIONER: Sir, in addition to the effects of the global turmoil, Turkey is also facing a major internal tension as well. As you know, there is a legal case going on against the ruling party. Now, how will this affect the economy and anything else you would like to say on Turkey, including what you would like to do with Turkey after the present Stand-By Arrangement expires next month? Thanks.
MR. STRAUSS-KAHN: As you know, we are monitoring very closely what is happening in Turkey. Of course, there is no reason why the Turkish economy should be immune from the crisis, and the crisis has influenced the Turkish economy, as everywhere. We have to take that into account when we look at the review of the Stand-By Arrangement we have with Turkey.
What now concerns us with the Turkish situation is the way they completed some structural reforms, especially structural reforms in the pension system. Those reforms are absolutely important and necessary for the program to go on and for the target of the program to be achieved. I am confident in the government and in Mr. Şimşek himself that they will go on and succeed in this, but it has not been done totally already. As you know, there have been some legal problems with the court, and the possibility to implement this new pension system, which is absolutely necessary for the soundness of the public finance, has been postponed. So that is now my main concern on what is going on in Turkey.
I think we are going to work in the coming times with Turkey as well as we have in the past. The relations between the IMF and the government as far as economic concerns go, are good. I hope that despite the financial turmoil, despite the unavoidable problem of implementing a program, all the targets of the program will be reached in the coming weeks.
QUESTIONER [interpreted from French]: You said that the IMF is back. I do not know where it went but shall we expect one that is more interventionist? If so, what are your aims going to be? What are your goals going to be?
MR. STRAUSS-KAHN [interpreted from French]: Well, let me speak French a bit. The IMF was did not go anywhere, but we are back and I think we are aware that the changes have been necessary. The IMF of the 21st Century is not exactly the same of the IMF as it was 60 years ago. I would not say an interventionist IMF. The IMF intervenes in the case of financial crisis, so what we can all hope for is as little intervention as possible. However, we have several countries under the PRGF program, and we have other countries in which we intervene without financial support, there are programs in those countries, we have Nigeria, for instance, and we have the Stand-By Arrangement in countries like Turkey that we just mentioned.
However, I think the IMF must maintain that role of financial intervention, support when necessary, but it has to have an ongoing role in the field in the form of technical assistance, so we are going to intervene more in the final analysis, but more with a view to building institutional capacity and other types of capacity in the countries, assisting people in better managing their central banks, changing the rules of their customs authorities, and so on, so that they can have a proper economic framework. That is the way that we will be intervening. But we are not a development agency. There are other development agencies like the World Bank and so on that will come afterwards so that they can work on proper projects within a stable macroeconomic framework. So our aim is to create a macroeconomic framework that can support the development agencies when they come in to work on areas such as education, health, infrastructure, and other types of project development.
What I described a little while ago is that we should be a place where we are like a think tank between the financial world and the real economy.
QUESTIONER: Good morning, sir. I have a question regarding the food price crisis of what you said a moment ago. On the global food price crisis, the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has sent a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda that the G-8 should urge the World Bank, the IMF, and the United Nations to work closely and develop the global strategy to address the crisis. I think that you should have a copy of the letter. So what is your response to this—especially since Mr. Gordon Brown's proposal includes the IMF short-term assistance for the food importing developing countries that suffer from a balance of payments crisis due to the high food prices?
MR. STRAUSS-KAHN: I have received a copy of this letter. I do not know how you can know that, but I did, and I think the initiative taken by Gordon Brown is perfectly timely. We need now to consider the rise in food prices as something which is not just something happening for one or two months but probably more structural, and we have to deal with it.
Let me show you, if I may, another slide. This is a very interesting slide. You see the impact of the projected food price increases on trade balances, and the red countries are the countries where the influence would be more than 1 percent on current account balances, negative 1 percent. The pink ones, between 0 and 1 percent, the light blue benefit between 0 and 1 percent of increase in food prices, and the dark blue benefit from more than 1 percent of the current account. What you see is that almost all African countries have a negative impact of these food prices and for some a very important one. So the problem in trade balances means a problem in current accounts, a problem in current accounts means problems for the IMF.
So facing this we clearly see that in Africa and in Asia we will have to consider the effect of food prices not only to try to address this increase, to address the consequences in terms of alleviating poverty or undermining the efforts done to fight poverty but also to address this problem in terms of imbalances, a new kind of imbalances. So I think this shot is very interesting because it shows that it is not a small effect. One percent of GDP plus or minus on current balances is huge, and for a large part of Africa the effect we may expect is probably bigger than most of the effects experienced in the past. We have to handle this.
Back to your question, the initiative taken by Gordon Brown I think is absolutely necessary, and probably we are going to talk about this tomorrow at the G-7 and see what kind of decision can be made to work together. Of course the IMF is totally prepared to be part of this work.
QUESTIONER: Good morning. I just want to ask you one question. The IMF has talked about the possibility of a contagion to the upper financial systems of the emerging market because the drain of the liquidity that has been done from the parent companies to the affiliates. In Mexico it was very important in that way but even in Poland and Eastern Europe and Latin America, what about the credit crunch on the debt that has been established with the private sector because it begins to dry up.
MR. STRAUSS-KAHN: You are absolutely right. That is one of the main reasons why I said before that the emerging countries are not immune from the crisis. The traditional channel which the crisis was following that originated in the United States, has implications, immediate implications in Europe and may have consequences in emerging markets. Traditional channels are trade and all these kinds of things. But there are new channels. What you are talking about is one of these new channels, namely the fact that the tightening credit conditions if not the credit crunch may have more importance in some of the emerging countries than it had in developed countries. As I said before, because some of the emerging countries are heavily relying on this inflow in capital. When you look how the constraints on issuing new bonds or new financial facilities in these countries have decreased during the last few months, you may, as you just said, think that the difference would be big.
Let me show again another slide which illustrates this very clearly. Here are the different parts of emerging countries, but do not read the difference between the different colors, just take the colors as they are. What you see is that in emerging markets the external financing conditions by corporations, private corporations have been more and more difficult. When you look at quarter 1 of 2008, it almost collapsed when compared to four quarters before, which was the same quarter in 2007. So even if you do not look at this extreme case of first quarter of 2007 but just look as an average during the last four or five years, the average is at the level of 60. If you look at the left-hand side scale, and we are now to something which is close to zero.
This shows very clearly that the financial conditions for private corporations in emerging markets are hit by the financial crisis in the way you say, and the consequences on those economies cannot be nothing. That is one of the reasons why there is no decoupling, even though there may be some delay in the transmission of the slowdown of economic growth.
MR. AHMED: I want to thank you all. We need to bring this press briefing to a close now. Thank you for your questions. The slides that have been used in the presentation, we have hard copies of those available for you in the press room. Thank you very much again.
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IMF EXTERNAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT