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IMF Meddling Disturbing
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Discussions about the renminbi exchange rate were not unexpected at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank semi-annual meetings held during the weekend in Washington.


But the insistence - rising, in some cases - of those advocating "a more flexible exchange rate" for the Chinese currency is disturbing.


Efforts made by some to strengthen the IMF's role in monitoring member countries' exchange rate policies are even more disturbing.


While China firmly believes that radical steps in increasing the yuan's flexibility would hurt its economy, US financial officials and IMF economists continue to contend that a more flexible renminbi - for the moment, a euphemism for appreciation - will be in China's interests.


China has enumerated its reasons for a cautious approach in dealing with the foreign exchange rate - unfinished banking reform, overcapacity in the industrial sector and enterprises generally inexperienced in dealing with big currency fluctuations, among others.


Drastic moves regarding the flexibility of the renminbi could cause deflation and even a financial crisis, China argues.


None of the flexibility proponents have provided convincing counter-arguments. Instead, they have been using classic economic dogma to support their idea and act as if they know better than China itself about what the country should do.


The US advice for renminbi flexibility is largely a result of political maneuvering; it is a pity that some IMF economists say they share the American view.


It is said that the IMF has always been heavy influenced by the US, its biggest shareholder; we wish it were not.


The IMF has an important role in safeguarding global economic stability and it did achieve much. But it has also had its share of debacles in the past decades in attempts to salvage economies plagued by financial crises.


The institution's wrong prescription for those countries should serve as a reminder for the IMF when it brushes aside what its members think about their own interests.


(China Daily April 17, 2007)


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