Countries Pledge $430B to Bolster IMF War Chest

Reuters

The Group of 20 nations on Friday were poised to commit at least $400 billion to bulk up the International Monetary Fund's war chest to fight any widening of Europe's debt crisis.

The IMF has been aiming to raise at least $400 billion, which would double its lending capacity, to ensure it could come to the aid of countries facing economic and financial fallout.

Continue Reading Below

IMF chief Christine Lagarde said the fund had won pledges of at least $357 billion, but a final figure appeared likely to go much higher.

"We have been aiming at around $400 billion or beyond, and I am confident we will reach this objective," EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told Reuters.

A G20 official, familiar with a draft of the communiqué the group of advanced and emerging countries was preparing for release on Friday, said there would be "firm commitments to increase resources available over $400 billion."

Worries about the euro zone's debt crisis have dominated talks among finance officials in Washington this week for the semiannual meetings of the IMF and World Bank. In a reminder of the financial stress, 10-year government bond yields in Spain topped 6 percent for the third time this week.

Enlarging the IMF's coffers could offer solace to nervous investors that any widening of the crisis could be contained.

At a G20 dinner meeting on Thursday there was "very heavy EU bashing," and Spain drew particular scrutiny, according to a G20 source. Brazil said emerging markets were pushing for more IMF voting power in return for cash, while Canada pressed the G20 to consider lessening Europe's hold on the IMF's purse strings.

Lagarde said earlier this week that the global lender had already secured about $320 billion from Europe, Japan and some unnamed countries. On Friday she added $15 billion from both Britain and South Korea to the list, $7 billion from Australia, and $4 billion from Singapore, while Russia said it would contribute $10 billion, bringing total pledges to $371 billion.

Support from Russia, China and Brazil has been seen as crucial to doubling the IMF's war chest. An international diplomat said that in all, emerging nations have lined up at least $100 billion.

The IMF has warned the euro zone's debt crisis presents the gravest risk to the global economic expansion, and financial markets worry that Spain and Italy may require bailouts, following Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

EMERGING MARKET FRUSTRATIONS

Brazil said emerging nations want fresh pledges of more IMF voting power written into the G20 communiqué to recognize their growing clout on the international financial stage. These countries are frustrated over delays - particularly in the United States - in implementing an agreement to lessen Europe's sway at the fund and lift China into the No. 3 voting slot.

"What we want and demand in every meeting is that this commitment be reaffirmed," Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said on Thursday after a meeting of officials from the so-called BRICS nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Mantega drove the point even more forcefully in a speech prepared for delivery on Saturday to the IMF's steering committee, saying it was no longer enough to simply repeat that voting reforms are crucial for the effectiveness of the IMF.

"Progress on this front has been limited and slow," he said in the text.

Canada, meanwhile, was pushing against Europe's dominance on the IMF's 24-member board when dealing with the rescue funds. It proposed European board members decide how to use Europe's share of the financing, and if the amount pledged by non-Europeans was also needed, then non-European members should be allowed to set the loan conditionality on that portion of the aid.

This drive reflects growing concern among non-European countries over the fairness in the global lender's dealings with Europe. The region has the largest single bloc on the IMF board and the fund is headed by a French woman.

The international diplomat said China could contribute $60 billion, matching Japan's pledge. Saudi Arabia would chip in a little less than China, while Brazil was likely to contribute between $10 billion and $20 billion, the diplomat said.

This would easily vault the funding drive over Lagarde's minimum goal of $400 billion. The firewall would complement the $1 trillion in emergency funds for Europe agreed upon by the EU leaders last month, which was another precondition for countries bolstering the IMF resources.