The importance of being boring — Simon Johnson

MIT Sloan Prof. Simon Johnson

From Business Day

The International Monetary Fund is an immensely useful organization, able to deliver substantial amounts of financial and technical assistance at short notice to almost any place in the world. It also has the great advantage of almost always being perceived as incredibly boring.

Unfortunately for the IMF, it now needs a slightly higher public profile to convince the US Congress to agree to some important reforms. The Ukrainian crisis may prove helpful, though that appears less likely now – which may be a good thing to the extent that one unintended consequence could be a loan to Ukraine that is larger than it really needs.

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Christine Lagarde and the demand for dollars

Simon Johnson, Prof. of Global Economics

Source: The New York Times Economix

After receiving support from the United States at the critical moment, Christine Lagarde was named Tuesday as the next managing director of the International Monetary Fund. In campaigning for the job, Ms. Lagarde, France’s finance minister, made various promises to emerging markets with regard to improving their relationships with the I.M.F. But such promises count for little.

The main impact of her appointment will be to encourage countries like South Korea, Brazil, India and Russia to back away from the I.M.F. and to further “self-insure” by accumulating larger stockpiles of foreign-exchange reserves –- the strategy that has been followed by China for most of the last decade.

From an individual country’s perspective, having large amounts of dollar reserves held by your central bank or in a sovereign wealth fund makes a great deal of sense – a rainy day fund in a global economy prone to serious financial floods. Read More »