Thursday, November 6, 2008

Decoupling of a different kind

In an article at the Washington Post, Kemal Dervis is calling for fairness in emerging markets:
What should not be allowed to emerge is a scenario in which a small group of countries that the IMF and rich countries' central bankers deem to have good track records have automatic access to large credit lines, while countries that are deemed riskier or that have less systemic importance or political clout have to apply for more traditional IMF programs, which take much longer to put in place and for which more extensive and intrusive conditions would apply.

An "all or nothing" categorization will create serious political tensions. Of course, it is not feasible or reasonable to open automatic access to what could be hundreds of billions of dollars of credit to a large number of developing countries without any eligibility criteria. But selecting only a few for such access and asking many others to engage in protracted negotiations will create great stigma for those countries left out and could, in fact, push them into crisis even faster. It will also make it politically difficult for these governments to engage in such negotiations if other countries have immediate access to assistance from the IMF or central bank swaps.
The new IMF facility and central bank swap lines could in fact enforce the decoupling between emerging markets. Funnily, even if the countries never end up needing the money, just being deemed swappable or IMF-worthy could be enough to keep the money coming to these countries. Therefore, it is difficult not to agree with Dervis's well-articulated points.

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