Farewell from Istanbul

The bags are packed, the shuttle buses are waiting, and the conference center here in Istanbul is slowly emptying. More than 15,000 people have come and gone. Now is the time to take stock and figure out how to move forward on the big decisions coming out of Istanbul.

The IMF’s Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, called them exactly that in his final speech at the plenary on October 6: “The Istanbul Decisions.” So what are they? The IMF’s policy steering committee, the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), asked the IMF to move forward in four areas:

  • Updating the IMF’s mandate in light of the big changes in the global economy witnessed during the past decade
  • Reviewing the IMF’s financing role, possibly beefing up its role as a lender of last resort
  • Rethinking multilateral surveillance, with the idea of introducing peer review of economic policies
  • Giving more voice and representation to dynamic emerging market and developing countries
These Istanbul Decisions, Strauss-Kahn said, will be a focal point for the IMF’s work in the coming year.
For IMFC Chair Dr. Boutros-Ghali, “the biggest accomplishment in the last twelve months has been to restore the IMF to its central role as a clearing house for policy, as a clearing house for financing, and as a clearing house for discussion and coordination among its members.”
   

On governance reform, Boutros-Ghali said he hoped the IMFC would take on a more hands-on role in setting out the direction for the IMF’s work. “The IMFC presently is an advisory body. The next step will be for the IMFC to be a decision-making body, to provide political cover to what the IMF is doing, to what its Executive Board is doing, and generally set the political direction for the institution.” He acknowledged, however, that it would take some time to get there.

 But more than anything else, perhaps, these Meetings will be remembered as the time when the world allowed itself to draw a collective sigh of relief as the world economy edged away from the abyss. The IMF’s First Deputy Managing Director John Lipsky captured the mood well. “Our members are hopeful that we have turned the corner on the recession. They hope our forecast is correct. There’s certainly a sense of palpable risk but we’re in much better shape than we were in the Spring,” he said.
 
 Lipsky acknowledged that it’s been a remarkable period for the IMF. “We know that we are being looked to by our members, even at the highest level, to play a critical role in helping design and implement a series of important structural reforms both in the international system itself and in our members’ economies that will hopefully make sure that the kind of crisis we’re still going through won’t reoccur any time soon,” he said.

Finally, before we also head for the airport, we wanted to give everybody who didn’t get a chance to get into the studio for the live BBC World Debate—titled The Global Economic Crisis: Can We Afford the Future? —a chance to see it. The IMF-sponsored debate, which was broadcast live on October 2, kicked off the Program of Seminars and has been watched by 240 million people around the world.

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