IMF urges quick, effective moves to buoy growth

By Elaine Kurtenbach

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13 2012 12:31 a.m. MDT

CORRECTS FIRST NAME OF NODA - Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, left, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner shake hands as they meet on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group in Tokyo, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012.

Yuriko Nakao, Pool, Associated Press

TOKYO — Global financial ministers called Saturday for quick and effective action to safeguard faltering economic growth and rebuild shaken confidence as they ended an annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF's International Monetary and Financial Committee also urged emerging economies to adapt their own policies to help counter slowing growth in Europe and the United States.

The IMFC said decisive action was needed to "break negative feedback loops and restore the global economy to a path of strong, sustainable and balanced growth."

The annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank, convened in Tokyo this year, has highlighted frustrations among many countries over drag on growth from the lingering debt crisis in Europe, and alarm over a possible blow to the world's largest economy if the U.S. fails to resolve an impasse over its budget deficit.

"Global growth has decelerated and substantial uncertainties and downside risks remain," the IMFC said in a communique. It exhorted advanced economies to carry through with needed structural reforms and "credible fiscal plans."

In her "Global Policy Agenda," Christine Lagarde, the IMF's managing director, struck a relatively gloomy tone.

"A lot has been done, but — with limited progress in addressing legacy issues such as debt overhangs and weak financial systems and continued uncertainty on key policies — confidence still has yet to be restored," the agenda says.

While most of the attention during the meeting was focused on the crises facing the biggest economies, the IMF and World Bank — whose mission is to fight poverty — have also emphasized the need to help protect the poor from the spillover of slowdowns in richer nations.

The IMF announced it would devote $1.1 billion in funds from windfall sales of gold to help fortify funds for low-cost loans for low-income countries.

The risk of the U.S, the world's biggest economy, running into a "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and deep spending cuts next year unless the Obama administration and Congress resolve a deadlock over the budget has overshadowed the gathering of top financial officials. Such a prospect would deal a heavy blow to the economy, eroding progress made since the 2008 global crisis.

Despite making progress on getting its fiscal house in order, the United States still has much work to do, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told fellow financial leaders at the gathering Saturday. The comment came just hours after the U.S. government announced that the budget deficit had topped $1 trillion for a fourth straight year despite a modest improvement thanks to stronger economic growth.

"It is important that we in the U.S. enact a balanced framework to bring down our fiscal deficit and debt over several years, while continuing to provide support for jobs and growth in the short term," Geithner said.

The Treasury Department said Friday that the deficit for the 2012 budget year totaled $1.1 trillion, though a 6.4 percent increase in tax revenues thanks to stronger growth helped contain the deficit.

The overwhelming emphasis of the Tokyo gathering has been on coddling fragile growth around the globe.

At Saturday's meeting of the IMFC, which advises the IMF and monitors the world financial system, officials from developing and emerging economies urged the U.S. and European nations to prevent malaise in their regions from slowing global growth.

"Advanced countries should rethink their macroeconomic strategies and avoid simultaneous fiscal contractions and the consequent overburdening of monetary policies," Guido Mantega, Brazil's finance minister, told the committee.

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