- Michel Camdessus
- Published Date:
- March 2000
©2000 International Monetary Fund
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It is better to wipe the tears from the eyes of a poor man than to receive the smiles of a hundred ministers.
I am often asked whether development is truly a major concern of the IMF, which, after all, is not a development institution. And I have always maintained that one of the central purposes of the IMF is to promote economic development and thereby raise living standards, broaden opportunities and choices, and increase the general welfare among its members. There is no doubt: development is one of the IMF’s central concerns. And if the adjustment and reform policies we are mandated to promote were not perceived as a precondition for development, they would lose any chance of being readily implemented.
More than ever in today’s highly integrated world, we must look at the development challenge as a large, interconnected puzzle, which includes not only macroeconomic issues, but also other ingredients. To name a few, there are environmental and social concerns, labor standards, health, education, poverty reduction, and ethical concerns—not the least being the fight against corruption.
A critical aspect of addressing these concerns is the need for all countries to pursue the broader objective of what I call high-quality growth. By this I mean growth that is sustainable, so that, for example, it does not crumble in the face of slight external shocks. It means growth that is dynamic, that leads to job creation and poverty reduction, provides equal opportunities for all—including women—and respects the environment and countries’ traditional cultures. High-quality growth is concerned with the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable.
Last September, the Development Committee, a joint advisory body of government ministers for the IMF and the World Bank, considered a draft paper on principles and good practices in social policy that can guide national authorities in formulating domestic social policy. Such social principles and practices—equity, equality of opportunity, and participation of all—are essential if the new millennium is truly to mark a new age for countries to develop a surer, firmer foundation for the progress in improving living standards that we seek.
The world’s knowledge of the links between economic policy and equity is improving, but it remains limited. We at the IMF are attentive to the research that is going on in academia, other international organizations, and member countries. We have organized two conferences (in 1995 and 1998) to further our understanding on this critical question. And in providing advice to member countries, the IMF—in cooperation with such other institutions as the World Bank, the ILO, and other specialized UN agencies that have the primary responsibility and expertise on social issues—will continue to take every opportunity to move forward on these issues.
This pamphlet provides a limited idea of our dialogue with civil society around the world. But dialogue is not only about exchanging information and explaining the institutional constraints within which we must move. It is much more than that. There is no such thing as a genuine dialogue that does not lead in some way or another to change for the better. This is at the heart of human experience. And it is also true for institutions. This has been the experience of the IMF.
In September 1999, a significant agreement was reached to put poverty reduction at the heart of the reform programs for the poorest countries to be supported by the international community. Already, we have taken steps in this direction by transforming our concessional loan facility—the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF)—into the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, in parallel with new steps for debt reduction, an explicit link with poverty reduction, and a new level of cooperation with the World Bank. However difficult the task, our objective is to create the conditions for the emergence of a world that could be a better place for all—and above all for the poor.
In my interactions with civil society, and in particular, with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), I am asked many questions related to the IMF’s role in development. This pamphlet collects questions I have frequently heard all around the world, most recently in Abuja (Nigeria) when spending a morning in a dialogue with the leaders of the women’s association of that country. My responses here should not be viewed as comprehensive, but as an attempt to sincerely formulate the IMF side of the story.