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The International Monetary Fund Not Saying Much


No One At IMF Wants to Fire Back At Bono

It is amazing how an Irish rocker can fire broadsides at people and organizations in countries with whom he disagrees and, while they acknowledge him, no one will criticial Bono.
 
Covering the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at their world headquarters here in Washington, I witnessed this "Hands off Bono" stance first-hand.  Three days ago, arriving in Washington for the IMF meeting, the unelected, multi-millionaire rock star told reporters that it is "an IMF-ing outrage" [Italics added]
that the Fund has so far not written off $800 million in debt to Liberia after 18 months.
 
He went to to criticize the budding democracy of President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson for having to undergo "IMF modallities" and "bureau-babble" before its debt is forgiven.
 
The virtues and detriments of writing off debt to a country notwithstanding (Liberia did go through a grueling civil war and overthrow of strongman Charles Taylor before Harvard graduate Sirleaf-Johnson was elected in a fair and free election), one does have to ask, just who is Bono — for all of his own philanthropic work on behalf of Africa — to tell an international organization how it should handle its money and treat its debtors?
 
That’s what I hoped the morning panel here on development of Sub-Saharan Africa would say when I posed the question.  But no one bit.
 
Making it clear the IMF was aware of Bono’s fulminations (which made Page Two of the Financial Times Friday), Abdoublaye Mboto Fouda, head of the African Department of the IMF, told me that "this is indeed an issue we are actively seeking to address" and that they intended to "get additional resources from the World Bank" to achieve this agenda.  "We are working hard on that," said Mboto Fouda, adding that the outgoing managing director IMF Rodrigo de Rato has written Bono to answer his criticisms.  (Rato’s successor, former French Finance Minister Dominique Strass Kahn, will take over at the IMF next month; his views on Bono are unknown).
 
At the Republican National Committee meeting in Minneapolis earlier this year, a strange resolution emerged calling on the RNC to endorse "One," a proposal to provide more tax dollars to deal with hunger in Africa.  "One," it turns out, is a project headed by Bono.  He’s almost ubiquitous.  A few RNC members, after reading the proposal, began to voice their doubts and a few of them — Arizona State Party Chairman Randy Pullen and North Dakota RNC member Curly Hoaglund — plan to revisit Bono and "One" at their winter meeting in January.  Will they demonstrate sterner stuff in dealing with the whims of the lead singer for U2?
 
Or will they perhaps do a little self-examination and begin to deal with the IMF’s internal problems? Time will tell. 

IMF Walks Line On Chavez, Morales
 
Although it encourages development — something nationalization of private industry doesn’t historically help — the International Monetary Fund was very guarded Saturday in what it had to say about the move toward greater nationalization by Venezualan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales.
 
At a briefing on the Western Hemisphere at the Saturday session of the IMF meeting here, I asked Anoop Singh, head of the Western Hemisphere Department of the IMF, about recent moves to seize private businesses in those two countries.  Citing recent articles by Gustavo Colonel, an opposition leader to Chavez whose articles have been featured in HUMAN EVENTS, I asked Singh how the IMF deals with the trend against private markets in Venezuela and Bolivia when the governments there are  moving in the opposite direction.
 
"I’ve encountered that question a number of times," Singlh told me, "It’s on many people’s minds.  We are not ideologically in approach to investment."  He added that, "different models work in different parts of the world."
 
But Singh quickly added that he feels, "very vocally," that energy sectors need higher investment and that that investment in energy, at this point, is not very high.
 
As to what he meant by more investment to create a greater energy sector in Latin America, Singh said simply more is needed, "whether it is private or public," and that depends "country by country."
 
Countries in Latin America, he concluded, must "deliver more investment that is more productive.  That’s the story."