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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 September 2006, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Positive mood at IMF gathering
By Andrew Walker
Economics correspondent, BBC News

IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato
Mr de Rato launched a review of the IMF's voting system
The annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank were fairly upbeat this year.

They got off to a reasonably rosy start with an IMF forecast of another year of strong growth for the world economy.

IMF boss Rodrigo de Rato got overwhelming backing - 90% of the current votes - for his plans for reforming the way the Fund takes decisions.

The World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz, also won support from the member countries for taking a tough line on corruption in countries where the bank lends money.

And this time the meetings were not disrupted by protests.

But on all those points there was something to spoil the fun just a little.

Protest limits

It was most obvious in relation to the protests. In fact the most visible protests came from Mr de Rato and Mr Wolfowitz themselves and were directed at their hosts.

Singapore, they said, had broken the agreement about access for members of campaign groups accredited by the institutions.

Protestors
Singapore wanted to keep the protestors away

The authorities had objected to 28 individuals. They didn't say they were banned, but the individuals certainly thought they had been.

In the end the government relented and said most of them could come. The IMF and the Bank really do want the campaign groups there.

Such protests as were allowed were confined to an extraordinarily small space inside the conference centre. The campaigners very clearly considered it an insult.

In his remarks at the end of the proceedings, Mr de Rato thanked the authorities of Singapore for their hospitality and "their patience with us visitors".

The sentiment is not shared by the campaigners.

Growth worries

The rosy economic outlook was also overshadowed by some concerns about the US.

Growth has slowed and the housing market has weakened, and there are the persistent global imbalances - the deficit in US international trade and corresponding surpluses in Asia and elsewhere.

World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz
Mr Wolfowitz won support for his stance on corruption

The IMF has warned repeatedly that these might unravel in a disruptive way.

They are a cloud that has hung over the economic outlook for several years.

Voting review

Both Mr Wolfowitz and Mr de Rato had to contend with some grumbling from member countries about their big proposals.

The IMF has launched a review of how financial contributions and votes are distributed between member countries.

Most supported it, but some - including Brazil and India - voted against fearing that they would lose influence.

And it is a review not a final decision that has been launched. There is plenty of time to continue the argument about how the votes are allocated.

Mr Wolfowitz got backing for a big push on corruption, but only with the involvement of the Bank's board, made of representatives of them member countries.

Some, including Britain, are worried that corruption might get to much emphasis at the expense of other work on tackling poverty.

The board will keep an eye on how the anti-corruption drive is pursued in practice.

So, they got the main things they wanted. But the wrangling about votes and about corruption goes on.


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