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Europe

IMF Chief Calls on Governments to Stimulate Economies

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, said Oct. 13 that in the current global financial crisis, those governments that could afford it should consider stimulus plans for their economies.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn called on governments to take steps

Strauss-Kahn told the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington that "action in the financial markets is essential, but it is not sufficient.

"We also need to deploy all of the instruments of modern macroeconomic policy to limit the damage to the real economy," he said.

"For the advanced economies, this means using fiscal policy when they can. The most obvious use of fiscal policy is precisely to ease pressures where they are greatest: in the financial and housing sectors.

"But governments that can afford it should also be ready to undertake a broader fiscal stimulus," Strauss-Kahn added.

Fiscal policy stimulus would either be tax cuts or increased government spending.

Strauss-Kahn was speaking after a weekend of high-level meetings of world economic powers in Washington which led to pledges to protect systemically important financial institutions and use all tools to fight the crisis.

The Group of Seven leading democracies -- the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan -- agreed Friday to take all necessary measures to tackle the crisis.

That stance was backed by the main committee of the IMF and endorsed by the enlarged G20 group of rich and emerging nations that includes Brazil, China, India and Russia.

It was also picked up at the euro zone meeting on Sunday when the 15-nation group unveiled plans to recapitalize their banks and guarantee inter-bank lending, the key source of short-term funding for the finance system.

Fast action needed but don't panic

Strauss-Kahn warned that action had to be taken quickly to avoid the mistakes that led to the Great Depression of the 1930s but there was also no reason to despair.

"I am confident that we can emerge from this crisis with our economies and societies intact," he said, calling for steps to prevent more bank failures as part of a comprehensive plan of action.

"In the (1930s) countries acted in a piecemeal way, and were hamstrung by old-fashioned orthodoxies. Instead, we are acting imaginatively," he said, citing efforts to tackle problems of "liquidity, bad assets, shortages of capital, and especially confidence."

He said that with the latest government efforts, "things are beginning to turn around" but cautioned that "we still have a very long way to go ... This weekend is just the beginning of a long effort."

World Bank President Robert Zoellick

World Bank President Zoellick warned poor nations

Robert Zoellick, head of the World Bank which focuses on development issues, told the meeting that some poorer countries would have to prepare for more difficult times as the crisis bites deeper.

He said October could be tipping point, as developing country exports, capital inflows, investment all come under pressure, leading to business failures and "increase the risk of banking emergencies.

"As is always the case, the most poor are the most defenceless," he said.

This year's meetings were taking place "at an extraordinarily difficult time -- a time of uncertainty and insecurity, with a danger that those fears push us away from -- not towards -- a more inclusive and sustainable globalization," Zoellick said.

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