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Financial reform rifts may overshadow G20 summit
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Currently, many emerging states view the IMF, expected to be both a lender to governments in trouble and an regulatory institution, with grave mistrust, some experts say.

"Most Asian countries would rather be dead than turn to the IMF," the Financial Times said in a recent edition quoting an unnamed finance minister of a developing Asian country as saying. The minister recalled harsh fiscal and monetary conditions imposed on Asian countries after the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

Now, as the United States remains bent on pushing its record stimulus plans, the Europeans seem eager to take a leading role in financial reforms.

Last week, European Union leaders set themselves an end-of-year deadline for an agreement on reforms to strengthen financial oversight to make markets safer for investors. A core part of the plan is to improve supervision of cross-border banks.

A high-level group headed by former Bank of France governor and ex-IMF managing director, Jacques de Larosiere, proposed the creation of a "European Systemic Risk Council," a body chaired by the European Central Bank to monitor system-wide risk.

The group also recommended setting up a European System of Financial Supervisors, a decentralized network which would carry out day-to-day supervision across the EU with the power to override national watchdogs.

The proposal still needs approval from EU states and the European Parliament to become law.

Meanwhile, the world leaders have yet to decide to what extend the financial institutions should be supervised.

At its last summit in Washington, G20 agreed to review and regulate all financial institutions and products in the financial markets. But these ambitious plans have been whittled to compromises, analysts say.

Only big institutions with very large investments should be supervised, said G20 finance ministers at their recent meeting in Horsam, near London.

According to analysts quoted by the German newspaper, Der Tagesspiegel, such a policy would only affect about 100 of more than 10,000 offshore funds.

Despite all the differences, various parties are making progress on a consensus in London on April 2, but the prospect of any concrete step to reform the financial institutions remains dim.

A public disagreement in London would only send a terrible message that could make the current financial situation even worse, analysts say.

(Xinhua News Agency March 26, 2009)

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