Emerging market countries are working on ways to contribute money rapidly to expand the effective firepower of the International Monetary Fund, with the aim of increasing its role in combating the eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
The discussions, in parallel with talks in the eurozone about creating a bigger “bazooka” to intervene in financial markets, are aimed at producing a confidence-boosting announcement by the Group of 20 heads of government summit next month.
People familiar with the discussions say governments are considering either funding an IMF-run special purpose vehicle (SPV) or lending to the IMF by buying special bonds. Although details have not been worked out, the increased firepower could be used to finance new IMF credit lines to prevent contagion from the Greek crisis spreading to Italy and Spain, or to recapitalise European banks.
A European official said: “We’re increasingly coming to the view that the eurozone crisis is too big a problem for Europe to solve on its own. If you want to sort it out properly you need American and Chinese money, which means the IMF.”
The Bric (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries favoured a procedure used in 2009 when individual governments pledged to buy special bonds issued by the IMF, a person familiar with the Brazilian view said.
The IMF declined to comment.
The size of the funding plan is also still under discussion, but any lending facility for the eurozone crisis will need to run into hundreds of billions of dollars. Such a move would be likely to give the IMF a stronger say in shaping eurozone rescue plans.
In practice, the US may have difficulty contributing significantly but people familiar with the talks say that China and Brazil – one of the driving forces behind the plan – have already shown interest. Guido Mantega, the Brazilian finance minister, spoke of assistance from the Bric countries at last month’s IMF meetings in Washington.
IMF staff have produced a range of options at the behest of emerging market governments, of which two are most likely. One is an SPV that would lend money under the auspices of the fund, but would take in money separately to the normal government contributions to the IMF. The second is the bilateral option currently preferred by the Brics.
Eswar Prasad, formerly head of the IMF’s China division, said the proposals would allow big emerging market countries to help bail out Europe without buying eurozone sovereign bonds directly, which would expose them to loss. The plans could also be wound up after a number of years.
“The emerging markets have now found ways of donating money to the IMF which are likely to be domestically politically acceptable,” Mr Prasad said.
Another person familiar with the discussions said the money could be used for public bank recapitalisation. “This solves the ownership problem of China buying big stakes in a European bank,” he said. “Instead, China gives money to the IMF; the IMF to France; and France to its banks.”