The Multilateralist

The Dominique and Bob show

A few moments ago, IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and World Bank president Robert Zoellick wrapped up their speeches at the opening of the annual meetings. This year’s streamlined annual meetings have a cooly efficient feel — and a snazzy new logo featuring the flags of all members. Stylistically, the Fund and Bank chiefs couldn’t ...

A few moments ago, IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and World Bank president Robert Zoellick wrapped up their speeches at the opening of the annual meetings. This year’s streamlined annual meetings have a cooly efficient feel — and a snazzy new logo featuring the flags of all members. Stylistically, the Fund and Bank chiefs couldn’t be more different. Strauss-Kahn was discursive and philosophical, and appeared to speak extemporaneously (a practice that may well cause his staff’s hearts to race). Zoellick was professorial and employed an elaborate Powerpoint, chock full of graphs and data.

They hit upon familiar themes. Strauss-Kahn warned that the recovery is fragile and, in many places, all but jobless. He echoed U.S. concerns that some countries are prematurely ending stimulus. He warned against using currency as a weapon and stressed that countries gaining new power in the institution will be expected to take more responsibility for the global financial system. "The more you are at the center," he said, "the more you are responsible for the whole."

Understandably, Zoellick was in selling mode. He faces a tough fight to raise new money for critical Bank programs, particularly those directed at the poorest nations. He gently admonished the assembly not to cut back on established funding levels and suggested that the Bank would push certain recipients to pay back loans on an accelerated basis to ease the funding crunch. He tiptoed around the role of the G20. As was discussed here last week, there is sensitivity among non-G20 members about the institution becoming, in effect, the group’s secretariat.

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