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IMF raises voice to address anti-globalisation anger

IMF raised its forecast for global economic growth to 3.5% for this year


Christine Lagarde
Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

As the global recovery gathers pace, the is turning up the volume on its call for wealthy countries to address popular anger over the impact of and head off the threat of protectionism.

The renewed push comes as finance ministers from 189 countries gather for the fund’s semiannual meeting today and Saturday, in a tense atmosphere of rising anti-trade rhetoric in many advanced economies.

“This sentiment of populism in the views of many is fuelled by the feeling of being excluded, or being left out,” managing director said Thursday night.

“What better than more growth, more equitably shared, in order to respond.”

The fund for years has been calling for countries to drive towards what it calls more inclusive growth with programmes to help those hurt by and trade — but typically it has centered on developing nations.

Now the focus is on advanced economies and the message has taken on greater urgency, amid anti-internationalist sentiment evident in the election of US President Donald Trump, as well as in the bitter French election campaign and last summer’s British vote to leave the European Union.

Finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies were expected to discuss ways to better combat the financing of terrorism on Friday, in part as a way to demonstrate the value of the group to the Trump administration.

Lagarde has repeatedly stressed that giving in to protectionism will not help those on the margins and in fact will make matters worse by driving up prices and eroding global growth.

But as the raised its forecast for global economic growth to 3.5 per cent for this year — a rare upward revision — Lagarde said it is time to address these concerns from “an economic point of view,” to help spread the benefits of growth to marginalised groups while preserving cooperation.

Former India central bank chief and chief economist said the legitimate concerns in advanced economies “reflects a cry of anger and for help.” Governments should respond with “broad-based rehabilitation” of communities hurt by lost manufacturing — a situation nearly entirely due to technological advances rather than trade, even though trade is blamed, he said.

“We need to think seriously about rebuilding these communities... to lift up the forgotten man,” Rajan said in a lecture at the entitled “Popular Insurrections,” which Lagarde attended.

That echo of US President Donald Trump’s campaign promises means helping the majority white male community as well as the inner cities, by bring economic activity, he said.

“Industrial countries have large areas that need development,” Rajan said. But this “requires certain amount of funding, and new thinking.”

It also may mean returning decision making on some issues like trade and climate rules back to national governments, rather than leaving them in the hands of multilateral institutions — which have drawn the ire of many US, British and French voters.