IMF, World Bank Weigh Fate of Spring Meetings Amid Outbreak
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The International Monetary Fund and World Bank said they are reconsidering the scale and scope of the spring meetings scheduled for mid-April in Washington amid the spread of the coronavirus.
“The decision is under review and expected soon,” with various options under consideration, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters at a briefing Thursday in Washington. “Both institutions have well-developed contingency plans and we’re confident that whatever the format of the spring meetings would be that we will have effective meetings.”
Alternatives under consideration include scaled-back meetings and smaller delegations, or a virtual format, according to an official familiar with the planning. Separately, the World Bank said Wednesday that a March 2-4 gathering in Washington on fragility, conflict and violence was postponed “out of an abundance of caution” about the virus.
IMF financial tools that could be used to aid nations grappling with the outbreak include a rapid financing instrument and rapid credit facility to support countries with balance of payments problems that from epidemics or disasters, some of which were used during the Ebola outbreak, Rice said. Another possible tool is the fund’s catastrophe containment and relief trust, which can provide upfront grants for immediate debt relief so that countries aren’t diverting resources from their emergency response.
Officials are providing policy advice to member countries as needed on economic, monetary and fiscal measures, and will have more specifics on their impact assessment when the World Economic Outlook is released in April, Rice said. He added that fund officials are in daily contact with the World Health Organization, World Bank, and other regional development banks on the virus.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told Group of 20 officials gathered in Saudi Arabia last weekend the virus led the fund to trim 0.1 percentage point from its global growth forecast, but it’s also looking at more “dire” scenarios. World Bank President David Malpass said Tuesday that slower growth in the first half of 2020 likely means the global economy will expand less than the 2.5% the lender has forecast for the full year.
Reuters reported late Wednesday that the bank and fund are considering scaled-back spring meetings, citing unidentified people familiar with the discussions. Options include meeting by teleconference, according to the report.
Cancellations of large-scale events have been stacking up worldwide as the virus leapfrogs across the globe to menace more and more nations, with spreading outbreaks in Italy, Iran, and South Korea. The Asian Development Bank, which has scheduled its annual meeting for May in South Korea, said in statement this week it’s “monitoring the situation very closely” and in talks with the government in Seoul on the best solution.
Travel by IMF mission staff has been suspended to China, including Hong Kong and Macau, and the fund is coordinating with authorities in other countries and adjusting travel based on their recommendations and assessments, Rice said.
“Advice from our health and safety experts here indicates that there’s currently no evidence from a health-based perspective that travel should be restricted to other parts of the world,” he said. “This is fast-moving, so we’re making these decisions on a case by case basis.”
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