International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde told Newsmax that the IMF "continues to be disappointed" in the U.S. Congress' refusal to ratify reforms in the fund's governance that were agreed to by President Barack Obama nearly five years ago.
The controversial reforms have been vigorously opposed by conservative Republicans elected to the House since 2010 and strongly pushed by Lagarde and Obama. The reforms would increase the size of the IMF's core source of funding and increase the representation of emerging market countries at the IMF to more accurately reflect their weight in the global economy, moving two of the IMF's 24 directorships from European to developing countries, including China.
"I think the IMF membership continues to be disappointed with the five-year delay in implementing the governance reforms," Lagarde told us at a press conference on Thursday, adding that "the only critical step lacking is ratification by the U.S. Congress."
Without mentioning names, Lagarde said she continues "to have discussions with various members of Congress on that particular matter. I very much hope that this ratification will take place in due course."
The IMF chief went on to make a further pitch for Congress to move on the reforms by citing "the many cases [where] we have demonstrated our ability to mobilize resources, to provide technical assistance, to give support, as was the case, for instance, in the three Ebola-stricken countries recently."
She also referred to Ukraine and Nepal, where the IMF was "one of the first institutions to consider disbursement for that country affected by natural disaster.
"So I very much hope that by demonstrating — day after day, country after country, program after program — that we actually produce public good [that is] helpful to the economy of the U.S., Congress members will be convinced [the reform package she backs] is worth ratification."
The news conference was largely dominated by questions about a possible default by Greece in its repayment of loans to the international community. Voicing confidence that Greece would honor a 300 million-euro installment to the IMF due Friday, the IMF chief noted comments from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday evening in which, she told reporters, Tsipras "said 'payment had been honored and would be honored.' I think his words were 'Don’t worry.'"
Hours later, however, Tsipras did indeed worry the international community by invoking a rarely used procedure under IMF rules to avoid the immediate 300 million-euro payment. Instead, the Greek prime minister announced his country would commit to pay all it owes this month by the end of June (roughly $1.8 billion euros).
Responding to a question from Katerina Sokou of the venerable Greek daily Kathimerini as to the impact of a Greek default on the U.S. economy, Lagarde said, "We don’t believe it's a significant risk."
But she quickly added "that there's so much uncertainty around this risk realization that, to the extent it would affect — nationally, regionally, internationally — the financial markets, I phrase the assessment with a strong caveat."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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