Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia)

Congress Should Care About the IMF

The U.S. is a glum bystander when it should be taking a leadership role in the key organizati­on


The elephantin­e spending bill passed by the U.S. Congress on Dec. 18 includes, among its numberless provisions, a measure that’s shamefully overdue. Since 2010, Washington’s paralysis has blocked badly needed changes at the Internatio­nal Monetary Fund. The bill will let them go forward.

This is good news. It serves U.S. as well as global interests. But the protracted delay draws attention to a deeper problem, still unresolved: Rather than lead the IMF in its vital work, the U.S. continues to settle for the role of glum bystander.

Five years ago, IMF members agreed, among other things, to increase the fund’s financial resources and rebalance countries’ voting power—mainly by shifting votes from Europe and giving more say to big emerging economies, notably China. Congressio­nal approval is only now being granted.

An effective IMF is an essential tool in promoting global economic stability. It can support government­s that lose access to financial markets, demanding fiscal and other reforms in return. It’s also a forum for internatio­nal policy coordinati­on. These roles assume enormous importance in times of global systemic stress. Its record isn’t flawless, but nobody who’s given it a moment’s thought questions the fund’s necessity.

The U.S., out of negligence rather than calculatio­n, has said it isn’t much interested in having an up-to-date IMF and can’t be bothered to recognize the new standing of China and other big emerging economies. The sum of Washington’s thinking on the IMF is, in effect: “Who cares?”

Buried along with who knows what else in the mammoth bill, the IMF provisions have not been properly debated or explained to voters. The case for an effective, adequately resourced and well-run IMF is compelling, and the U.S. government should be making it—the better to modernize and lead the institutio­n. <BW>

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