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Lagarde’s departure offers the IMF an opportunity to restructure to include emerging and developing economies, not just as borrowers

Lagarde’s departure offers the IMF an opportunity to restructure to include emerging and developing economies, not just as borrowers

By José Antonio Ocampo, author of Resetting the International Monetary (Non)System, a board member of Banco de la República, Colombia’s central bank, a professor at Columbia University, and Chair of the UN’s Committee for Development Policy.

NEW YORK – This month marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Bretton Woods agreement, which established the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. For the IMF, it also marks the start of the process of selecting a new Managing Director to succeed Christine Lagarde, who has resigned following her nomination to be European Central Bank President. There is no better moment to reconsider the IMF’s global role.

The most positive role that the IMF has played throughout its history has been to provide crucial financial support to countries during balance-of-payments crises. But the conditionality attached to that support often has been controversial. In particular, the policies that the IMF demanded of Latin American countries in the 1980s and in Eastern Europe and East Asia in the 1990s saddled the Fund’s programmes with a stigma that triggers adverse reactions to this day.

It can be argued that the recessionary effects of IMF programmes are less harmful than adjustments under the pre-Bretton Woods gold standard. Nonetheless, the IMF’s next managing director should oversee the continued review and streamlining of conditionality, as occurred in 2002 and 2009.

The IMF has made another valuable contribution by helping to strengthen global macroeconomic cooperation. This has proved particularly important during periods of turmoil, including in the 1970s, following the abandonment of the Bretton Woods fixed-exchange-rate system, and in 2007-2009, during the global financial crisis. The IMF also led the gold-demonetization process in the 1970s and 1980s.

But, increasingly, the IMF has been relegated to a secondary role in macroeconomic cooperation, which has tended to be led by ad hoc groupings of major economies – the G10, the G7, and, more recently, the G20 – even as the Fund has provided indispensable support, including analyses of global macro conditions. The IMF, not just the “Gs,” should serve as a leading forum for international coordination of macroeconomic policies.

At the same time, the IMF should promote the creation of new mechanisms for monetary cooperation, including regional and inter-regional reserve funds. In fact, the IMF of the future should be the hub of a network of such funds. Such a network would underpin the “global financial safety net” that has increasingly featured in discussions of international monetary issues.

The IMF should also be credited for its prudent handling of international capital flows. The Bretton Woods agreement committed countries gradually to reduce controls on trade and other current-account payments, but not on capital flows. An attempt to force countries to liberalize their capital accounts was defeated in 1997. And, since the global financial crisis, the IMF has recommended the use of some capital-account regulations as a “macroprudential” tool to manage external financing booms and busts.

Yet some IMF initiatives, though important, have not had the impact they should have had. Consider Special Drawing Rights, the only truly global currency, which was created in 1969. Although SDR allocations have played an important role in creating liquidity and supplementing member countries’ official reserves during major crises, particularly in 2009, the instrument has remained underused.

The IMF should rely on SDRs more actively, especially in terms of its own lending programmes, treating unused SDRs as “deposits” that can be used to finance loans to countries. This would be particularly important when there is a significant increase in demand for its resources during crises, because it would effectively enable the IMF to “print money,” much like central banks do during crises, but at the international level.

This should be matched by the creation of new lending instruments – a process that ought to build on the reforms that were adopted in the wake of the global financial crisis. As IMF staff have proposed – and as the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance recommended last year – the Fund should establish a currency-swap arrangement for short-term lending during crises. Central banks from developed countries often enter into bilateral swap arrangements, but these arrangements generally marginalize emerging and developing economies.

Then there are the IMF initiatives that have failed altogether. Notably, in 2001-2003, attempts to agree on a sovereign debt workout mechanism collapsed, due to opposition from the United States and some major emerging economies.

To be sure, the IMF has made important contributions with regard to sovereign debt crises, offering regular analysis of the capacity of countries in crisis to repay, and advising them to restructure debt that is unsustainable. But a debt workout mechanism is still needed, and should be put back on the agenda.

Finally, the IMF needs ambitious governance reforms. Most important, building on reforms that were approved in 2010, but went into effect only in 2016, the Fund should ensure that quotas and voting power better reflect the growing influence of emerging and developing economies. To this end, the IMF must end its practice of appointing only European Managing Directors, just as the World Bank must start considering non-US citizens to be its President.

Lagarde’s departure represents a golden opportunity to put the IMF on the path to a more effective and inclusive future. Seizing it means more than welcoming a new face at the top.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2019.


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Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.