The fifty-fifth Annual Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank will formally open at the Prague Congress Center, Czech Republic, on Tuesday, September 26, in a global environment marked by strong economic growth, including recoveries from the 1997-98 financial crises in emerging markets. The discussions of the governors in the plenary session are likely to focus on ways in which growth can be sustained and progress made in the fight against world poverty. The meetings will be chaired by Trevor Manuel, the South African Finance Minister (see box, page 286). They will also be the first in which Horst Köhler will participate as IMF Managing Director. In his opening address, he is expected to articulate his vision of the IMF of the future.
The Annual Meetings will be preceded on Sunday, September 24, by the meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the IMF’s principal advisory body, chaired by Gordon Brown, the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Joint Bank and Fund Committee on the Transfer of Real Resources to Developing Countries (Development Committee) will meet the following day. It is also expected that there will again be a joint meeting of the IMFC and the Development Committee to discuss progress under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and with poverty reduction strategy papers. The first joint meeting was held at the time of the 1999 Annual Meetings.
Against the encouraging world economic background, the IMFC will assess the prospects and policies for sustaining global growth, the outlook for international capital markets, and the progress made by, and prospects for, the countries in transition. To assist its deliberations, the IMFC will receive summaries of the IMF staff’s World Economic Outlook and International Capital Markets reports.
In its consideration of issues relating to the strengthening of the international financial system and the future role of the IMF, the IMFC is expected to receive a presentation from the Managing Director on his vision of the IMF of the future and to discuss ways of enhancing IMF surveillance and promoting stability and transparency in the financial sector. The committee is also expected to consider the subject of private sector involvement in forestalling and resolving financial crises and review IMF financial facilities to consider whether it would be desirable to further streamline them.
Manuel of South Africa will chair Annual Meetings
Trevor Manuel will be the chair of the 2000 Annual Meetings in Prague. Manuel has been Minister of Finance in the South African government since April 1996. Before becoming Finance Minister, he served as Minister of Trade and Industry from 1994 to 1996.
Trained as a civil engineer, in 1982 Manuel played an active part in the founding of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the Western Cape region. In 1983, he was elected Regional Secretary and National Executive Member of the UDF. Subsequently, he was repeatedly detained without trial or placed under house arrest, spending 35 months in detention from 1985 to 1990. After the ban on the African National Congress (ANC) was lifted, Manuel became head of the party’s Department of Economic Planning with responsibility for shaping ANC economic policy. Since 1991, he has been a member of the ANC’s National Executive and National Working Committee.
The IMFC will consider a statement prepared for it and the Development Committee by the Managing Director and by World Bank President James Wolfensohn on progress on the HIPC Initiative and poverty reduction strategy papers and the implementation of the Enhanced HIPC Initiative. The committee will also review the status of financing for the HIPC Initiative and the poverty reduction strategy papers process.
The IMFC meeting will benefit from discussions in a preparatory meeting held in London on September 11. Other meetings preliminary to the Annual Meetings will include those of the ministers of the Group of 24 developing countries on September 23 and its deputies the preceding day, and the ministers of the Group of 10 industrial countries on September 24.
A number of briefings and other events for the press will take place in the days preceding the Annual Meetings. Stanley Fischer, IMF First Deputy Managing Director, will discuss the 2000 Annual Report of the IMF’s Executive Board on September 14. Michael Mussa, the Economic Counsellor of the IMF and Director of the Research Department, will brief the press on the staff’s World Economic Outlook on September 19. IMF Managing Director Horst Köhler will hold press conferences on September 20 and at the conclusion of the meetings on September 28.
The opening ceremonies of the Annual Meetings on Tuesday, September 26, will be followed by addresses of Chairman Manuel, IMF Managing Director Köhler, and World Bank President Wolfensohn. Köhler is expected to emphasize the need for a sharper focus on the core purposes and responsibilities of the IMF. He outlined these in a September 5 article in the Czech newspaper Pravo, saying the objectives are to promote growth by fostering sound fiscal, monetary, and exchange rate policies, and robust financial systems in member countries, as well as global financial stability. A sharpened focus on these core duties, he said, would increase the effectiveness of the IMF’s work in crisis prevention, crisis resolution, and poverty reduction.
During the annual discussion in plenary session, from September 26 to September 28, the governors of the IMF and the Bank, representing industrial and developing countries and regional groupings, will address major issues affecting the world economy and the policies and operations of the two institutions.
A series of World Bank and IMF seminars and keynote speeches is to be held in conjunction with the meetings. These will address a wide range of topics on the theme “Making the Global Economy Work for Everyone” and will focus on the changing dynamics of global finance, trade and investment, information and technology, and human development. The seminars are designed to bring together corporate executives and bankers, senior officials, and other opinion leaders for discussion and debate on key issues. On September 24, Josef Tosovsky, the Governor of the Czech National Bank, will deliver the Per Jacobsson Foundation lecture, “Ten Years On—Some Lessons from the Transition.” (Information on the foundation may be found on its new website at www.perjacobsson.org.) In addition, Czech President Vaclav Havel will host a reception at Prague Castle on September 23 for selected delegates, government officials, and representatives of civil society
Some 15,000 persons are likely to attend the Annual Meetings, including about 4,000 delegates from the 182 member countries of the IMF and the Bank, 1,500 representatives of the media, and more than 5,000 visitors and special guests, primarily from private business, the banking community, and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, the Managing Director, the President of the World Bank, and other IMF and Bank staff have had extensive meetings with representatives of civil society, both in the Czech Republic and in other countries, during the months leading up to the meetings, in which they discussed the policies and operations of both institutions.