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imf Monday, 5 October, 1998, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Brown pushes for IMF reform
Michel Camdessus, managing director, IMF
IMF's boss Michel Camdessus is facing tough questions
Calls for a comprehensive reform of the world's financial system grew louder, as finance ministers gathered in Washington to prepare for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The UK Chancellor, Gordon Brown, reiterated his call for the creation of a global financial watchdog, designed to prevent future international economic crises.

Speaking to the BBC he said he would press for the creation of a powerful "Standing Committee" to supervise the world's financial markets.

Pointing to the Asian economic crisis and the recent criticism of the operations of speculative hedge funds on the markets, Mr Brown said the "financial architecture has to be rewritten."

Financial data should be made more transparent, so that international organisations could supervise the economic situation and contain problems early.

Transparency could be achieved by obliging governments, financial institutions and companies to follow a strict code of conduct.

Mr Brown stressed that reforms of the financial system should be accompanied by social protection for the poor suffering from the fallout of the economic turmoil.

IMF agenda

182 nations are members of the International Monetary Fund, and during the whole weekend ministers have been debating whether the institution is still up to the task of smoothing out problems in the global financial system.

They initially met in separate groups, like the Group of 10, the world's top industrialised countries, and the Group of 24, encompassing developing nations. The full annual meeting will start on Tuesday.

Discussions were dominated by the Asian financial crisis, which already has infected other emerging markets like Russia and is now threatening the whole of Latin America.

Minister have tried to calm the markets and reassure investors and companies that all will be done to prevent a worldwide recession.


Economic growth is the priority. the IMF has called for further cuts in interest rates to insulate Western economies from the crisis in Asia, while Japan has promised an extra $30bn to help kickstart that region's economy.

Capital flows

Another big issue is the question which lessons should be drawn from the turmoil.

Some economists and politicians have suggested that international capital flows should be better regulated. They hope that this could prevent future market collapses, caused when both domestic and foreign investors take fright and try to move large amounts of money out of a country.


Interest rates and banking regulations, however, can only be short-term solutions.

In the medium to long-term politicians hope for a comprehensive reform of the global financial architecture. During the past weeks, more and more governments have called for a reform of the financial institutions created in the 1940s as part of the Bretton Woods system - the World Bank and the IMF.

Generally, politicians agree that more "transparency", the disclosure of financial information, is necessary to serve as a early warning system for economic trouble.

Other suggestions are more contentious. Some, for example, have suggested tight controls on international capital flows. Others propose a merger of the IMF and World Bank, or - like Gordon Brown - the creation of a new international financial watchdog.

Other ideas include special provisions on debt repayment in times of crisis and "safeguard clauses" to allow temporary capital controls.

However, it is questionable whether world leaders will be able to act decisively. Germany, one of the key players, is about to change its government and will be reluctant to make any commitments. Brazil, largest economy in Latin America, has just held presidential and parliamentary elections, and the United States Congress is still focused on the Lewinsky scandal.

The world's stock markets, meanwhile, continue to plummet.

BBC News
Gordon Brown: The global financial system needs an overhaul
See also:

05 Oct 98 | imf
01 Oct 98 | The Economy
30 Sep 98 | The Economy
04 Oct 98 | The Economy
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