World financial reforms

Chris Burford cburford at
Sat Oct 31 23:11:11 PST 1998

Comments anyone?

Or (although discussion of reforms may be appropriate in all other spheres of political struggle) since this is a question of reform in the world financial system, does the very act of commenting inevitably mean the subscriber has reformist tendencies and believes we should tail behind the bourgeoisie?

More technical question: does anyone know how to strip out line end markers easily when taking an article from a web site, so that it will wrap around on an e-mail list with software like Eudora?

Chris Burford



Guardian (London)

Saturday October 31, 1998

West launches £90bn crisis fund

Brown unveils worldwide scheme to prop up threatened economies

By Alex Brummer and Mark Atkinson

A global action plan to rebuild shattered confidence in the international financial system and to shore up failing economies in the developing world was yesterday unveiled by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

The plan, co-ordinated among the Group of Seven richest countries, is designed to help the world pull out of the most serious economic crisis for half-a-century.

The G7 underlined that the West is now pursuing a growth strategy above all else. This already had resulted in interest rates cuts in the US, Japan, Cananda, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Denmark and Italy. The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, which lowered rates for the first time in more than two years early in October, meets next week amid growing expectations of a further reduction.

The centrepiece of the new plan is a 'contingency' fund for threatened economies which will be able to call upon some $90 billion of new cash from the International Monetary Fund. Details of the comprehensive initiative - which includes tighter regulation of banks and hedge funds - were made public simultaneously in the capitals of the G7 countries to ensure the maximum impact on investors sentiment worldwide.

The Chancellor said: "A new age requires a new approach. Ministers agree that in this new inter-dependent and instantaneous global marketplace we must now create systems for supervision, transparancy, regulation and stability that are as sophisticated as the markets they have to work with."

The announcement followed intense behind the scenes discussions marshalled by Mr Brown as current chairman of the G7, in what amounted to the most high-profile declaration made by finance ministers and central bankers outside the normal timetable of meetings.

Over the last month, UK officials have engaged in a hectic round of secret discussions with their opposite numbers in Washington, Tokyo, Germany and France.

Mr Brown held personal talks with the Bundesbank president, Hans Tietmeyer, and the French finance minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in an effort to force the pace.

Flanking the Chancellor at the Treasury yesterday, the Governor of the Bank of England, Eddie George, said that the G7 statement "owed a huge amount to Gordon Brown, who has been absolutely tenacious in getting it done."

The comments by Mr George appeared to signal a new more collaborative phase in what has sometimes been a troubled relationship between the two premier UK economic policymakers.

The G7 statement was only finalised an hour before it was announced at 1.30pm in London, when trading was underway in most of the leading financial centres. Shares prices, which have been highly volatile in recent months, immediately rose on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mr Brown said: "The new way forward for the global economy, where each economy can effect every economy, is sensible financial regulation."

The Chancellor's emphasis on crisis resolution reflected concern in the financial markets that the global authorities were slow to react to the deepening economic and financial emergency triggered by the collapse of the rouble and the Russian debt default in August.

Central to dealing with the world's slow responses to financial problems will be Mr Brown's own idea for a new standing committee on international regulation - involving the IMF, World Bank and global financial regulators, which can swing into action at the first sign of difficulties.

The Group of Seven also has recognised that the procedures used by the IMF to rescue the economies of Asia, was too slow and cumbersome and may have contributed to the rapid slowdown in global economic growth - which has been halved to 2 per cent by this year's crisis.

The new contingency fund announced yesterday will put together packages of IMF cash immediately for countries whose economies are broadly in good order. This is seen as forestalling the imposition of austerity packages, of the kind imposed in Asia, which sent the East Asian economies into a downward spiral and led to heavy criticism of the IMF.

The new contingency funds, drawn from the $90 billion at the IMF, will be charged at more commercial rates of interest and provided over a shorter term.

Agreement was won on the new facility, first proposed by President Clinton in Washington, after the US Congress approved its $18 billion contribution to the IMF and its credit arm the General Arrangements to Borrow.

Once the Americans had finally fulfilled their obligations other countries - including Britain - came forward with their contribution to the $90 billion new fund.

The World Bank has promised to establish an emergency facility to protect the poor in developing countries in trouble and to assist governments in those countries in resconstructing their financial systems.

As part of its plan of action the G7 signed up for greater transparency in economic and financial policy-making by both governments and the private sector and proposed a long-term series of measures to update the IMF and World Bank for the 21st century.

© Copyright Guardian Media Group plc.1998

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