The Multilateralist

The BBC does the IMF

Filming of a special BBC forum on economic policy just wrapped up here at IMF headquarters. Host Nick Gowan valiantly tried to stoke debate between economist Joseph Stiglitz, former Obama adviser Christina Romer, Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou, IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan. For the most part, the panel ...

Filming of a special BBC forum on economic policy just wrapped up here at IMF headquarters. Host Nick Gowan valiantly tried to stoke debate between economist Joseph Stiglitz, former Obama adviser Christina Romer, Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou, IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan.

For the most part, the panel (even Stiglitz, who doesn’t shy away from scrapes) stuck resolutely to a sensible middle ground: austerity makes sense in some places, but not in countries with fiscal room to maneuver. Stiglitz needled Romer about the inadequacy of U.S. financial sector reform, and the host repeatedly pressed Zhou on currency reform ("gradualism is good," Zhou responded).

As during this morning’s speeches, I was struck by both Strauss-Kahn’s active cheerleading for a bigger IMF role and his sometimes startling informality. He heads an institution whose utterances the markets scrutinize, but he appears to careen (almost always charmingly) through public statements and appearances. At one point, he seemed to predict another financial crisis in 2-5 years (though he may have misspoken). He quite casually acknowledged that the days of automatic European IMF and U.S. World Bank leadership are done. The only trick, he said, would be ensuring that the practices end simultaneously.

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