The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, has expressed concern over rising food prices, especially as it affects low income households.
Georgieva, who spoke yesterday at the third meeting of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Gandhinagar, India, said although there were encouraging signs, “headline inflation is still too high and core inflation remains sticky despite the significant monetary policy tightening,” adding that ” elevated food and fertiliser prices are particularly worrying, especially for low-income households for which food insecurity and malnutrition are now much more persistent.
“We are thus looking at a mixed picture, and risks remain on the downside,” she said, adding: “inflation could remain higher for longer, requiring even more monetary policy tightening, and fragmentation could weigh even more on growth. ‘’
To mitigate these risks, Georgieva admonished, “I call upon G20 leaders to seize the opportunity to move the global economy onto a more vibrant medium-term path. This requires both domestic and international policy action,” she said.
The IMF chief said the global economy has shown some resilience, saying despite successive shocks in recent years and the rapid rise in interest rates, global growth, in her words, “remains firmly in positive territory, supported by strong labor markets and robust demand for services.”
However, she added that activity was slowing, especially in the manufacturing sector. Looking further ahead, medium-term growth prospects remain weak. Moreover, divergences in economic fortunes across countries are a persistent concern: some pockets of the global economy are doing well; others are weakening but still growing; and vulnerable countries are falling further behind.
Georgieva, who spoke on several issues, including domestic policy and the international Financial Architecture, said the top priority remains lowering inflation and growth enhancement.
According to her, while there is progress, the job is not yet done-monetary policy must stay the course, she said.
A premature celebration can reverse the hard-won gains made so far in the disinflation process. Rather, if we stay the course, we can enjoy price stability as foundation for growth and prosperity. She said now is the time to rebuild fiscal buffers after a period of exceptional policy accommodation. We would like to see fiscal policy pursuing consolidation to enhance debt sustainability and support disinflation, while ensuring adequate protection for the most vulnerable.
Georgieva called for growth-enhancing reforms, saying they are needed to boost productivity and raise living standards.
The IMF chief agreed that the international financial architecture has served the world well, stating that for the international financial architecture to continue to provide benefits, “we must recognise that the world today is more shock-prone and fragile, with climate change, pandemics, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine all causing widespread turmoil. Resilience to shocks is not evenly distributed – some countries are in better position to protect their people than others.
She said to protect the most vulnerable countries and their people, there’s need “to strengthen the global financial safety net.
While advanced and strong emerging market economies have a cushion of more than $10 trillion in international reserves, the rest of the world relies on pooled resources of international institutions such as the IMF, Georgieva said.
“Today, while the IMF has nearly $1 trillion in lending capacity, quota resources-which are critical to ensure the predictability of the IMF’s firepower-have shrunk in relative terms. I appeal to G20 countries to restore the primacy of IMF quota resources by successfully completing the 16th quota review by the end of this year.
With our support for low-income countries having quadrupled in recent years and demand still high, the IMF urgently needs to replenish subsidy resources in the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT). I call on the G20 to close the PRGT’s subsidy gap and put it on sustainable footing for the future, including by exploring options for using the IMF’s internal resources.
The IMF’s newest instrument, the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST), has been funded through on-lending SDRs – a great innovation that transforms a ‘sleeping asset’ of countries in strong positions into firepower to support vulnerable countries. The G20 has reached its target of committing $100 billion for SDR channeling to vulnerable countries. For the IMF, this has mobilized US$45 billion for the PRGT and US$42 billion for the RST. Let us work together to increase the firepower of the RST.
On restoring debt sustainability – we have made welcome progress. The recent agreement on Zambia’s debt restructuring was a significant milestone for the G20 Common Framework, building on earlier steps to address Chad’s debt. The Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable (GSDR)-co-chaired by India’s G20 Presidency, the IMF and the World Bank-is facilitating a common understanding of key issues, including comparability of treatment and information sharing. While this progress is important and welcome, the debt restructuring process still needs to be speedier and more effective. The costs of delays in reaching agreement on needed debt treatments are borne acutely by borrower countries and their people, who are least able to bear this burden. The GSDR is the right forum to push for more progress, including clear timelines, debt service suspension during negotiations, and improved creditor coordination on debt treatment for countries outside the Common Framework.