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April 15, 2013

IMF, World Bank to Discuss Poverty, Power, and Growth

by Jim Randle

The world’s toughest economic problems top the agenda as finance officials from around the globe gather in Washington, trying to cut poverty, boost growth, and keep an eye on banks and national budgets.  Participants in the annual IMF and World Bank meetings, starting April 16, include their 188 member nations.

There has been some progress in reforms that would reallocate power from wealthy countries to fast-growing emerging nations.

More than one billion people around the world live in extreme poverty, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is determined to change that.  He is asking the bank’s member nations for more resources to help the poorest people.
Kim says the deepest poverty can be eliminated by 2030.
 
“Is there anyone who has lived on less than $1.25 a day who would not join me here today in telling you that it is time to end extreme poverty," he asked.

Economists say global economic growth will help the poor and make it easier for the world's 200 million unemployed to find work.
 
IMF Chief Christine Lagarde says overall growth is getting better.
 
“The economic world no longer looks quite as dangerous as it did none months ago," she said.

But growth will still be tepid, she warns, especially in wealthy developed nations.  She says it could be hurt by ill-considered cuts in government budgets and economic stimulus efforts, or further disruptions in Europe.

The United States and Western Europe are traditionally give the most money and provide the top leaders to the IMF and  World Bank. So stalled growth hurts international financial institutions.

That means new resources are likely to come from faster-growing, emerging nations in Asia or Africa, according to University of Waterloo Professor Bessma Momani. She spoke via Skype.

“They will come with the money that will bolster the coffers of the IMF that is so sorely needed, and they won’t have to come to the United States all the time," she said.
 
Brookings Institution scholar Domenico Lombardi says many nations have already approved a reform package giving emerging economies more power in the IMF. But, until recently, the deal seemed stalled in Washington.  

“What has happened is that the administration has formally proposed the legislation to Congress, and the expectation is that Congress might approve the package, ratify the package by the end of the year," he said.

One scholar says the success of this gathering will be measured by the amount of money actually sent in the near future to help the poor and improve infrastructure.