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Posts Tagged ‘IMF’

On rare occasions, I dream about being a politician or high-level international bureaucrat. Not because I want to be a moocher (please put me out of my misery if that ever happens), but because I periodically read about some sleazy interest group making petulant demands for handouts and I think about how much fun it would be to tell them to go jump in a lake.

In some cases, the sleazy interest group is an entire nation. Greece recently took a bailout from both the European Union (i.e., European taxpayers) and the International Monetary Fund (i.e., all taxpayers). In exchange for getting a handout, Greek politicians agreed to implement a bunch of deficit-reduction policies.

But like many welfare recipients, the country of Greece has an entitlement mentality and is now whining and complaining about having to live up to its side of the bargain.

All I can think about is how rewarding and satisfying it would be to say, “okay, a__h___s, have it your way, we’re revoking your bailout. Have fun becoming Argentina on your way to becoming Zimbabwe, you bloodsucking leeches.”

Actually, if I had that power, Greece never would have received a bailout in the first place, but I think you know what I mean.

Here are some excerpts from the Reuters report about Greece’s chutzpah.

Greece accused the EU and IMF of interfering in its domestic affairs on Saturday after the international lenders said Athens must speed up reforms and sell more public assets. On Friday, EU and IMF inspectors visiting Greece to monitor the implementation of a bailout plan that saved Greece from bankruptcy, approved more aid for the country but adopted a more critical tone than on previous visits. In rare harsh words, the Greek government said the inspectors’ approach was unacceptable, after coming under fire from local media for not reacting to criticism of the pace of reforms and the call for privatizations. …Earlier in the day, government spokesman George Petalotis said: “We asked nobody to interfere in domestic affairs … We only take orders from the Greek people.”

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The International Monetary Fund is a great place to work – at least for those who don’t feel guilty about getting extravagant salaries from taxpayers. And what do IMF bureaucrats do for the money we pay them (American taxpayers finance the biggest share of the bureaucracy’s expenses)?

Many of them jet around the world in business class, stay at first-class hotels, and tell nations to raise taxes and devalue their currencies. And to add insult to injury, they specialize in misallocating global saving and investment by bailing out irresponsible nations.

This is not to say the bureaucrats are always wrong. While the IMF often is bad on taxes and monetary policy, the bureaucrats sometimes give good advice on trade, regulation, and government spending.

But even when they give good advice, that doesn’t justify their big salaries (which are tax-free, by the way). The real question, though, is whether the IMF should even exist – especially when the bureaucracy more often than not is on the wrong side of key public policy issues.

Unfortunately, instead of being cut back or phased out, the IMF is getting even bigger. While the rest of us are having to tighten our belts, the bureaucrats at the IMF are having fun spending our money. The gold-plated international bureaucracy now wants to spend big bucks to upgrade it already lavish headquarters in Washington. Here’s a blurb from the UK-based Guardian.

…the International Monetary Fund’s bureaucrats plan to concentrate on a matter closer to home in the new year – sprucing up their offices in downtown Washington DC. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the fund’s managing director, quietly announced last week that he would be asking permission from the organisation’s cash-strapped member states to refurbish its main headquarters building. …Pressure groups greeted the news with scepticism, pointing out that eight years ago the fund spent $150m on a second building, complete with external waterfall, after saying its original site – known as HQ1 – was no longer big enough for its staff of highly-paid international officials.They said the fund was now flush with cash after selling some of its stock of gold and extracting fees and interest payments from troubled countries such as Ireland and Greece. …Peter Chowla, programme manager at the Bretton Woods Project, a think tank that monitors the activities of the IMF and the World Bank, said: “After a nice financial crisis, the IMF’s balance sheet is looking very health – lots of interest to pour in from Greece and Ireland and commitment fees on money never even lent to Colombia, Mexico and Poland. So the fund is thinking about spending some of the proceeds on remodelling its headquarters.”

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In his latest Bloomberg column, Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute notes that research from places such as Harvard and the International Monetary Fund confirms that spending restraint is the way to successfully reduce red ink – and it’s also the way to improve economic performance.

The antidote to fiscal crisis is fiscal consolidation… Such consolidations have relied on varying degrees of tax increases and spending reductions. Some have successfully reduced debt, some haven’t. The data tell a clear story: What works is cutting government spending.

A series of influential papers by Harvard University economist Alberto Alesina and various co-authors found decisive evidence that successful consolidations rely almost exclusively on spending reductions, while unsuccessful consolidations seek to close 50 percent or more of the gap with tax increases.

A recent study by the International Monetary Fund supports the principle that cuts, particularly to entitlement programs, are key.

…Cuts to pension and health entitlements had the most beneficial effect on economic growth.

Tax increases fail to achieve sustained debt reduction for two likely reasons. F

irst, they increase the risk that an economy will experience a double-dip recession. Second, they illustrate that the offending government is unwilling to take a tough stand against soaring entitlements. A welfare state that can’t shrink in a recession will possibly never shrink, which means that today’s high taxes provide an ominous foreshadow of even higher rates to come.

The entire column is worth reading. Kevin is not as firmly against tax increases as I would like, but he is always thorough and the information in his column definitely supports the notion that spending is the problem and therefore any fiscal consolidation should be based on restraining the size of government.

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Price fixing is illegal in the private sector, but unfortunately there are no rules against schemes by politicians to create oligopolies in order to prop up bad government policy. The latest example comes from the bureaucrats at the International Monetary Fund, who are conspiring with national governments to impose higher taxes and regulations on the banking sector. The pampered bureaucrats at the IMF (who get tax-free salaries while advocating higher taxes on the rest of us) say these policies are needed because of bailouts, yet such an approach would institutionalize moral hazard by exacerbating the government-created problem of “too big to fail.” But what is particularly disturbing about the latest IMF scheme is that the international bureaucracy wants to coerce all nations into imposing high taxes and excessive regulation. The bureaucrats realize that if some nations are allowed to have free markets, jobs and investment would flow to those countries and expose the foolishness of the bad policy being advocated elsewhere by the IMF. Here’s a brief excerpt from a report in the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Strauss-Kahn said there was broad agreement on the need for consensus and coordination in the reform of the global financial sector. “Even if they don’t follow exactly the same rule, they have to follow rules which will not be in conflict,” he said. He said there were still major differences of opinion on how to proceed, saying that countries whose banking systems didn’t need taxpayer bailouts weren’t willing to impose extra taxation on their banks now, to create a cushion against further financial shocks. …Mr. Strauss-Kahn said the overriding goal was to prevent “regulatory arbitrage”—the migration of banks to places where the burden of tax and regulation is lightest. He said countries with tighter regulation of banks might be able to justify not imposing new taxes.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704627704575204732357395368.html

I’ve been annoyingly repetitious on the importance of making governments compete with each other, largely because the evidence showing that jurisdictional rivalry is a very effective force for good policy around the world. CF&P Foundation and I have done videos showing the benefits of tax competition, videos making the economic and moral case for tax havens, and videos exposing the myths and demagoguery of those who want to undermine tax competition. I’ve traveled around the world to fight the international bureacracies, and even been threatened with arrest for helping low-tax nations resist being bullied by high-tax nations. Simply stated, we need jurisdictional competition so that politicians know that taxpayers can escape fiscal oppression. In the absence of external competition, politicians are like fiscal alcoholics who are unable to resist the temptation to over-tax and over-spend.

This is why the IMF’s new scheme should be resisted. It is not the job of international bureaucracies to interfere with the sovereign right of nations to determine their own tax and regulatory policies. If France and Germany want to adopt statist policies, they should have that right. Heck, Obama wants America to make similar mistakes. But Hong Kong, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, and other market-oriented jurisdictions should not be coerced into adopting the same misguided policies.

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