Commonwealth ministers urge regulatory overhaul

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The Independent Online
COMMONWEALTH finance ministers last night called for an overhaul of the world's financial architecture, echoing remarks made earlier in the day by Robert Rubin, the US Treasury Secretary.

However, Michel Camdessus, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, speaking separately in Washington, played down the need for change. Mr Camdessus defended the IMF's track record and cautioned against becoming "too obsessed" with reform.

In a statement issued following a three-day summit in Ottawa ahead of the annual IMF/World Bank meetings, Commonwealth Finance Ministers said the development of a new financial architecture "should be pursued vigorously".

The ministers stopped short of endorsing capital controls, a bone of contention between Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Malaysian administration, which recently imposed capital controls.

The ministers said: "While recognising that some countries have felt it necessary to consider the re-introduction of capital controls, such actions cannot be seen as an alternative to reform."

Speaking at a conference in New York, Mr Rubin said: "The international financial institutions must change. I have no doubt that they will be very different institutions in five years' time - more transparent, more open and more accountable."

Mr Rubin warned that policy shortcomings in industrialised nations could damage the global economy and said the world's leading economies had "significant responsibilities".

Similar remarks were made by the Commonwealth finance ministers, Mr Camdessus and James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank. Speaking separately in Washington, Mr Camdessus and Mr Wolfensohn stressed that the world's leading industrialised nations must act.

Mr Camdessus urged the US and Europe to cut interest rates and act on debt relief, while Mr Wolfensohn said the Group of Seven needed to be more aware of the links between the developed and the developing economies.

The IMF managing director hit out at the organisation's critics, saying the IMF's Asian policy prescriptions had been correct. Mr Camdessus said: "If we were to go back and if we were to know what we did at the time, we would do the same thing... Our monetary prescription was right."

On the subject of IMF/World Bank reform, the IMF managing director commented: "There is no shortage of bold suggestions for improving the IMF and the World Bank. If you look at the new world financial order, you shouldn't be too obsessed by these two important institutions."

The World Bank president said the Bank, unlike the IMF, was not facing financial constraints, but nevertheless warned that the World Bank would not act as a "lender of last resort".

Mr Wolfensohn gave a cautious welcome to proposals made on Wednesday by Gordon Brown for a global regulator of the world's financial markets.