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Rifts over policy clear at IMF meet

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Germany's finance minister brushed off pressure to ease eurozone austerity and Brazil blasted the United States and Europe for delays in IMF reforms Friday as global economic policymakers held talks in Washington.

Rifts over how to address a sluggish world economy and protect vulnerable smaller countries from volatile capital flows while liquidity floods out from large economies underpinned the talks at the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Advanced and developing countries alike voiced worries over fragile global growth, eurozone stagnation and the swamp of excess monetary liquidity.

But amid calls for more measures to reverse the recession in the eurozone, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble stressed reform over stimulus. He suggested Europe's most powerful economy was not ready to bow to outside pressure, even from the IMF itself, to charge up the region with demand and growth-inducing measures.

"The deficit reduction in the eurozone must continue," he told journalists.

"Europe can't function without solving the structural problems."

Schaeuble cautioned patience over the single-currency area's problems, saying Europeans are "on their way" to solving the key challenges.

"It takes time until they will have growth again."

Schaueble referred to European Commission projections that Europe will reach a turnaround in 2014 "if everybody sticks to the rules."

Meanwhile, emerging and developing economies fretted over the gush of liquidity pouring from the United States, Japan and elsewhere as advanced countries try to get their economies in higher gear with quantitative easing stimulus programs and near-zero interest rates.

The Group of 24, which includes emerging powers Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa, said they were worried about how these policies pushed their own currencies higher and made them more volatile, and fueled speculative asset bubbles.

"We remain concerned about the fragility and pace of the global recovery because of the protracted difficulties and uncertainties in many advanced economies, including the euro area and the United States," the G24 said in a statement.

"We call on advanced economies to take into account the negative spillover effects on the emerging and developing countries of prolonged unconventional monetary policies."

The spring IMF-World Bank meetings started with some expression of relief that two potentially large blows to the global economy from last year -- the possible eurozone breakup, and a feared extreme US austerity program, the so-called fiscal cliff -- did not in the end take place.

But replacing those fears is a new worry that the larger economies are unhealthily out of sync -- with the eurozone in recession, the US growing slowly, and the emerging economies healthy but facing separate risks.

That the three groups of countries are moving at distinctly different speeds "is not the healthiest recovery that we could think of," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said as she kicked off the meetings Thursday.

"What we need is a full-speed global economy," she said.

Finger-pointing about excessive austerity and lack of support for demand, unmanageable capital flows stoked by central banks pumping out money, competitive devaluations, excessive sovereign debt and papered-over banking weaknesses were all in the open ahead of the meetings.

More than four years after the financial crisis battered the globe, "we're still in the process of getting out of the crisis," complained Luis Videgaray Caso, Mexico's finance minister and chairman of the G24 group of emerging and developing countries.

Meanwhile, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega blasted the United States and Europe for stalling reforms that would water down their role in the IMF.

In a statement as representative to the Fund of 11 member countries, Mantega said the reform to the IMF's US and Europe-dominated shareholding and voting power had been repeatedly delayed, preventing a rebalancing that would permit emerging economies to have greater say.

"IMF reform may be at its nadir. Target dates have been missed, delays and procrastination have become routine," Mantega said.

The 2010 program has not gone through because it needs the support of the United States, where the Congress continues to block ratification.

And the next quota review, which was to be completed by January 2014, is also delayed due to "resistance to change on the part of overrepresented European countries," Mantega said.

"In other words, America is unable and Europe unwilling to follow through with agreed reforms. The institution's major shareholders are gambling, perhaps unwittingly, with the IMF's legitimacy and credibility."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130419/rifts-over-policy-clear-at-imf-meet