IMF Agenda

AS SOON as Nato's military bureaucrats sweep out of Washington this weekend, their counterparts from the world of international finance will take the stage, writes Andrew Marshall in Washington. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank hold their spring meetings this week in the US capital, with tensions considerably dissipated since their previous gathering last autumn, but stormy prospects lying ahead.

The high-minded ideas for global restructuring of the international financial architecture which were briefly floated last year have now been considerably diminished, and the next few days are likely to see little more than moderate tinkering. A small-scale plan to create a new pocket for developing countries to dip into when their economies come under attack is still not finalised, six months after it was first suggested by President Bill Clinton.

When finance ministers from the Group of Seven (the US, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Canada and Britain) meet tomorrow, there will be the usual spat as the US demands economic expansion from its partners. The Fund and the Bank will also have to confront weaknesses in their plans to help the poorest nations. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries scheme has been widely criticised, but the IMF says that it is everybody else's fault but theirs. "The programme in many respects has been quite successful," said Tony Boote, in charge of the scheme. "However, there has been a very effective campaign ... which has raised expectations in this area, and against raised expectations we have failed to deliver, in a sense."

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