Saturday, April 22, 2006

International Monetary Fund (IMF): Again with the Mission Creep

What is wrong with this picture?

One of the first thing they teach you in economics is that there is nothing wrong with a trade deficit, that it is a natural occurrence in the international economy. Because your trade account (exports minus imports) plus your capital account (how much money comes into your country minus that going out) must equal zero, all that a trade account deficit means is that people find your country a stable place in which to invest. Its like people lending you money to buy their things. If you get too over-extended your credit rating goes down (or in international trade the value of your currency goes down). Therefore, if you over-extend the people lending you money will lend you less, invest in you less, or let you buy less with your money. This correction takes place, as they say, 'in the market'.

So, why is the IMF, which is supposed to have some of the best economists in the world, waving a flag saying that these accounts need to be better managed and "coordinated", and of course by them, the IMF!. This is called 'mission-creep'. The IMF was created to clear the accounts between countries under the gold standard, in other words to act as the world's banker when there was one currency. This is obviously not the case anymore.

So now the IMF creates moral hazards by bailing out countries who borrow more than they can afford by guaranteeing that the lenders will get paid back. And now again, the IMF wants to add another pointless needless, and in the end more harmful than intended, task to their agenda. Yes we hire people to advise us financially, and then we pay them. But in the IMF's case we are paying them (or at least us taxpayers from all member countries are guaranteeing that they get paid even when/if their loans dont get paid back) without asking them to do anything for us directly, just subsidize other people's risky high-return loans abroad and encourage unresponsible behaviour on behalf of foreign soveriegn borrowers.

It kind of makes you wonder if they sold their economic principles and education for good (did I say good? I meant exhorbitant), tax-free, salaries and membership to the IMF-World Bank country club in Maryland.