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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 22:19 GMT
IMF and World Bank focus on downturn
Night view of Ottawa
The Canadian capital is seen as a safe neutral venue
David Schepp

As members of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank gather this weekend in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, they will meet for the first time since the 11 September attacks.

A revised two-day meeting had been planned for late September in Washington - instead of the usual nearly week long annual meeting - but was scuttled following the hijacking and crashing of three airliners into buildings in New York and Washington.

The IMF/World Bank meeting - traditionally held in Washington - had already been scaled back following violence at meetings of the G8 in Genoa, Italy, in July, as well as the recent Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, Quebec.

Anti-globalisation forces had promised to put Washington under siege during the September annual meeting.

The IMF and World Bank accepted the invitation of the Canadian finance minister to hold their meetings in Ottawa, in the Canadian province of Ontario (about 440 miles north-west of New York City), because they believe to be a remote and peaceful locale.

Purpose of the meetings

Officials for the IMF have promised a "very focused meeting" during their brief weekend stay in Ottawa.

The first topic for discussion is how the IMF and World Bank plan to battle the spiralling global economic situation as well as how to restore growth and sustain the fight against poverty.

Secondly, IMF officials are planning to discuss the organisation's role in combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Simultaneously, members of G20, a group of 19 nations and the European Union as well as the IMF and the World Bank, are gathering for their annual meeting.

The nations that comprise the G20 represent a diverse group of countries that includes Argentina, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey and Mexico, among others.

Economic gloom

On Thursday, the IMF warned the world's economy is heading for a sharp slowdown as US economic growth falters.

The international lending institutions in the coming months must try to navigate a teetering world economy that has been furthered hampered by the recent terror attacks.

The events of 11 September resulted in the IMF downgrading the more rosy expectations it announced just a month ago.

Then, it said US growth would run at 2.2% for 2002, while the global economy would expand by about 3.5%.

Preparing for violence

Officials of the IMF and World Bank hope the pressing business of reviving the ailing world economy will take precedence over the concern of protests by anti-globalisation forces

But there is little to stop those forces from gathering in oh-so-serene Ottawa, a city known for its natural beauty and extensive park and bike-trail systems.

Those opposed to international free trade, who say industrialised nations are enslaving developing countries, have as ample an opportunity to travel to Ottawa as, say, Quebec City, site of the Summit of the Americas in April - which is more remote.

Just in case, Canadian, provincial and city officials have promised tight security for the expected 2,000 demonstrators who will travel to Ottawa to protest not only the meeting of the IMF/World Bank but a meeting of G20 finance ministers, too.

In an unusual twist, a local group, Global Democracy Ottawa, has asked local officials to provide lodging for the visiting anti-globalisation forces who are preparing to mass in the capital city this weekend.

The protestors contend they cannot afford hotel rooms and need someplace to stay, adding that they have just as much right to be in Ottawa to express their views as visiting dignitaries.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Walker
outlines what will be discussed during the meeting
See also:

15 Nov 01 | Business
IMF sees global slowdown
17 Oct 01 | Business
Economic leaders choose Ottawa
10 Oct 01 | Business
Economic fallout
05 Oct 01 | Business
G7 plans to tackle slump
26 Sep 01 | Business
IMF warns on global economy
17 Sep 01 | Business
World Bank and IMF cancel talks
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