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The first export credit agency, the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) of the United Kingdom, was established in 1919. Its original purpose was to encourage and support exports (initially to Russia) that would not otherwise have taken place. Similar motivations led to the establishment of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (the U.S. Eximbank) in 1933. There was little further activity on the export credit front in the 1920s and 1930s, but many such agencies were founded after World War II. As it appears in hindsight, the chain of reasoning for governments becoming involved in this area probably went along the following lines:


The export credit world has been changing for as long as most people who work in it can remember. However, the changes that have taken place in recent years have seemed more rapid, more frequent, and more significant than before. Some of the principal changes, especially those that relate to the role and position of governments, have been mentioned in previous chapters. This chapter reviews these changes in more detail, first in relation to the short-term business of export credit agencies, and second in relation to their medium- and long-term business, since rather different considerations apply in the two areas.


One of the most common—and most difficult—problems that export credit agencies face is what to do about small exporters. And one of the most common complaints of these agencies is that they alone, unlike their private sector counterparts or even their opposite numbers in some other countries, face the political and other pressures to produce special facilities for this category of exporter.


Even if only some of the points raised in the previous chapters are valid, and if only some of the changes described there come to pass, export credit agencies may well be at a watershed. This is especially true of the way in which their political risk business is done.

Paul K. Freeman, Mr. Michael Keen, and Mr. Muthukumara Mani

This paper highlights that the Washington Consensus helped fill the need for an economic policy framework following the discrediting of central planning and import-substitution trade strategies. Latin American governments championed the Consensus in the early 1990s, and the policy agenda delivered some of the things it was supposed to—healthier budgets, lower inflation, lower external debt ratios, and economic growth. But unemployment rose in many countries and poverty remained widespread, while the emphasis on market openness made states vulnerable to the side effects of globalization.

Abol Hassan Ebtehaj

In a statement issued on March 8, IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus announced his intention to recommend to the IMF Executive Board that it approve the revised economic program for 1999-2001 proposed by the Brazilian government. The text of News Brief 99/10 follows.


Export credit agencies play an important role in international trade and investment flows. Exports insured or financed by the approximately 50 export credit agencies that are members of the Berne Union account for about 10 percent of their countries exports, which, in turn, represent about 78 percent of world exports. The IMF estimates that in 1997 debts to Berne Union members accounted for more than 21 percent of the total indebtedness of developing countries and economies in transition. Edited by Malcolm Stephens, this book provides useful background information to those whose involvement in international trade and investment brings them into contact with the services of export credit agencies.

Mr. Paolo Mauro, Mr. Torbjorn I. Becker, Mr. Jonathan David Ostry, Mr. Romain Ranciere, and Mr. Olivier D Jeanne


This paper focuses on what countries can do on their own—that is, on the role of domestic policies—with respect to country insurance. Member countries are routinely faced with a range of shocks that can contribute to higher volatility in aggregate output and, in extreme cases, to economic crises. The presence of such risks underlies a potential demand for mechanisms to soften the blow from adverse economic shocks. For all countries, the first line of defense against adverse shocks is the pursuit of sound policies. In light of the large costs experienced by emerging markets and developing countries as a result of past debt crises, fiscal policies should seek to improve sustainability, taking into account that sustainable debt levels seem to be lower in emerging and developing countries than in advanced countries. Although much can be accomplished by individual countries through sound policies, risk management, and self-insurance through reserves, collective insurance arrangements are likely to continue playing a key role in cushioning countries from the impact of shocks.

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
This paper analyzes the impact of economic development on the environment. The paper highlights that the environmental impact of the industrial process includes everything from the effects of withdrawing the inputs for industry from nature, through the effects of transforming the inputs into salable products, the effects of using the products, and the effects of disposing of what remains after the product no longer has an economic use. The heart of the problem is that almost none of these impacts of industrial processes can readily be costed.