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IMF Sees 'Moderate, Uneven' Global Economic Growth

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks at the Atlantic Council, April 9, 2015, in Washington.

The head of the International Monetary Fund says global growth is "moderate and uneven" and faces rising risks.

The assessment came in a speech in Washington by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, ahead of next week's gathering of the fund's 188 members from around the world.

Lagarde says the global economy grew about 3.4 percent last year, and benefited from declining oil prices and a strong performance by the world's largest economy, the United States.

That pretty much matches the average growth rate over the past couple of decades, she said, but is not strong enough to heal the scars of the financial crisis, such as youth unemployment as high as 50 percent in some nations.

Lagarde says potential growth worldwide is being "pared down" by the lingering effects of the financial crisis, aging populations and lower productivity.

She called for more investment in infrastructure, to boost growth in the short term by providing jobs, and in the longer term by facilitating commerce.

Lagarde also urged nations to take advantage of lower oil prices to cut energy subsidies. This, she said, could boost the economies of oil-importing nations by a full one percent, and provide funds that could be better spent on education and other programs to improve the economy over the long term.

Helping small businesses with improved access to financing and other reforms is a key step toward boosting employment in many nations, the IMF director said, and she urged nations to do more to facilitate global trade.