Friday, October 19, 2007

Town hall meeting with IMF and Bank chiefs

The proceedings of the annual meetings had a more formal beginning last night with the "town hall" meeting where Bob Zoellick and Rodrigo de Rato of the World Bank and IMF respectively, held a Q&A session with civil society representatives. The most controversial aspect of the meeting was Zoellick saying, following press reports, that he is considering the request from a couple of private companies who have approached the Bank to offer to donate to IDA, the World Bank's lending arm to the poorest countries. This would be a highly controversial move - although Zoellick insisted that private companies would have no decision making role, there are questions about what would be the guarantees of this, and how to build in accountability for companies lending, to what has so far been a pot of money only contributed to by sovereign states. We will see what comes of this idea.

Otherwise, the evening passed off without a hitch for the Bank President of 100 days, who bid a fond farewell to de Rato, saying he would miss his old friend. De Rato bows out after these annual meetings, to be replaced by the Frenchman, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, following a great deal of criticism from developing countries and civil society about the process by which the new director was appointed.

This weekend's meetings aren't expected to make much progress on the debt issue. The latest status report, on how the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) processes are going, will be considered, along with measures to tackle vulture funds. But we shall see what concrete outcomes, if any, emerge from the meetings.

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