While the Washington-based fund has until now borne about one third of the cost of euro-area aid, it has yet to announce its share of the second Greek bailout. IMF chief Christine Lagarde said Feb. 21 after euro governments approved the rescue that the fund’s contribution will hinge on Europe’s progress in building a broader financial firewall to fight the debt crisis.
“The fund has to play a mainly catalytic role now because it’s already overexposed in Greece and Greece is highly problematic,” Paul Nogueira Batista, who represents Brazil and eight other nations on the IMF board, said in an interview today in Mexico City. The IMF should provide “some modest additional financing, very modest.”
The U.S., as the IMF’s biggest shareholder, is pushing back against European calls for the fund to play a bigger role in tackling the euro-area debt crisis now in its third year.
Europe has “more work to do,” and “until we see that, I think it’s unlikely you’re going to see the major shareholders of the IMF be prepared to have the IMF play a larger response,” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in an interview with CNBC yesterday.
Heeding Member Calls
With about $108 billion already promised to euro-region countries including Portugal and Ireland, Lagarde must heed members’ calls to limit its commitments to the currency bloc, said Thomas Costerg, a European economist with Standard Chartered Bank in London. IMF participation is “one of the main uncertainties of this Greek deal,” Costerg said in a Feb. 21 interview.
The IMF will seek to keep its credit to Greece under the new bailout package at 30 billion euros, including money still owed from a first loan, an IMF official said Feb. 22.
IMF loans to Greece and the level of participation of private bondholders in a voluntary debt swap are matters still to be resolved as Europe’s most indebted nation battles to avert default. Greece’s government formally asked investors on Feb. 24 ago to exchange their holdings of government debt for new securities in the biggest sovereign restructuring in history.
Greece remains “unique” and private-sector involvement in resolving the debt crisis won’t be extended to Portugal, said European Central Bank Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen.
“As far as PSI is concerned, Greece is a unique case -- there are clear reasons to be of the opinion that Portugal is different from Greece,” Asmussen told Bloomberg News today in Mexico City, where he was attending a meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors. “The euro area is a safe place to invest for international investors.”
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