In one of his first actions as Managing Director of the IMF, Horst Köhler visited four countries of Latin America—Brazil, Argentina, Honduras, and Mexico—during the week of May 15–19. Köhler, who had assumed the office of Managing Director on May 1, also met on May 8 in Washington with Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the President of Costa Rica.
In a news brief released on May 11, the IMF announced that the purpose of Köhler’s trip to Latin America was to hear perspectives on critical issues facing the global economy. He was particularly interested in the views of emerging market countries on the role of the IMF, which will be an important input in the consideration of reform of the institution. The news brief added that Köhler plans similar trips to Africa and Asia, although dates for this travel had not yet been set.
(The text of the news brief is available on the IMF’s website: www.imf.org.)
At a press conference on May 15 at the start of his trip in Rio de Janeiro, Köhler said that “one of the most immediate things that we need to do is to listen more to member countries like Brazil.” He added that he and Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso agreed on the principle that the IMF should play a central role in the international financial system. He also said that, while globalization had provided comparative advantages to different economies, the IMF would need to study ways to ensure that emerging market countries obtain a larger share of the growth that results from globalization.
Speaking of moves under way to reform the international financial system, Köhler said, “among the reforms being considered are more comprehensive surveillance of IMF member economies, lending that seeks to provide a bridge back to capital markets for countries suddenly denied private sector funding, streamlining of IMF loan facilities, and provision of debt relief for the world’s poorest countries.”