G20 under pressure to reform IMF

Stronger financial role for developing nations urged through rebalancing of voting power.

china united nations un
Beijing's prime minister expects his country to have a far bigger say in the running of the IMF [AFP]

China, with its current 3.7 per cent of the vote, has less influence than France, at 4.9 per cent, although its economy is one and a half times the size of France, according to IMF data.

Rebalancing goal

The Chinese and other emerging countries have pressed reform of the IMF’s outdated governance structure for years to better reflect their growing weight in the global economy.

But finding a formula for rebalancing its structures and rebalancing voting power has proved a much tougher challenge.

On the prospect of increasing China’s quota, Xie said, the important issue was to bring about reform of the IMF before the G20 target of January 2011.

“China is ready to further its discussions with the relevant member states on quota reform with an open attitude” and in line with the charter of the IMF, he said.

The Chinese comments cast a decidedly positive light on what had been a contentious first day of the summit, with divisions between Europe and emerging nations over IMF reform on display.

China’s rise

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Friday, Manu Bhaskaran of Centennial Asia Advisers, based in Singapore, said he believed IMF reform was necessary only in the case of China.

“I think we in the developing world shouldn’t kid ourselves … there is really only one developing country that has clout – and that is China. The rest are there basically as guests that have been invited to the party”, he said.

“Really it is an issue of how to manage China’s rise … not the entire lot of the BRIC or the larger group of the G20.”

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BRIC refers to the emerging bloc comprised of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Nevertheless, other developing nations want to see change at the IMF too.

Before leaders had even sat down for the formal dinner to open the Pittsburgh summit, Marco Aurelio Garcia, a senior adviser to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, hit out at Europe’s “resistance” to giving emerging nations more  weight.

For emerging countries, it is crucial to achieve a breakthrough in negotiations in Pittsburgh so the IMF can endorse the reform at its October 6-7 annual meeting in Istanbul.

“That would be ideal,” Garcia said.

The EU supports an IMF rebalancing but opposes any “taxation without representation”, Fredrik Reinfeldt, the prime minister of Sweden, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, said.

Reluctant countries

Reinfeldt expressed the reluctance of the advanced economies, which contribute the most to the IMF’s finances, in particular the European countries, to give up power to other countries that contribute less.

The Europeans had backed a reform adopted by the IMF in April 2008 which rebalances voting rights, notably tipping the scale towards China and Brazil.

But the reform is in limbo, due to a lack of ratification by some national legislatures, including that of Brazil.

The BRIC countries called in September for a quota reduction of the most developed countries to 50 per cent, from 57 per cent.

The US has proposed  that over-represented developed countries – an indirect way of designating European countries – transfer five per cent of their voting rights to the under-represented, a move that would mainly benefit China.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies