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Criticizing the critics

Allan Meltzer and his cabal of fellow iconoclasts obviously hit something when they fired their round in the debate about the IMF and the World Bank.

Carnegie Mellon University's Meltzer, chairman of a congressional panel called the "International Financial Institution Advisory Commission", and his conservative colleague in the American Enterprise Institute, Charles Calomiris of Columbia University, joined forces with Harvard's Jeffrey Sachs, a card-carrying Democrat and long-time IMF critic, to forge a common view in favour of radical restructuring. Three members of the group, all Democrats, split from the majority and refused to sign the report.

The document arrived at a propitious time.

Public support for the multilaterals, at least in the US, is waning and their legitimacy has been increasingly challenged. Now, with a new managing director preparing to take the helm at the IMF, an opportunity to change course could be at hand although incoming boss Horst Köhler has hinted against radical reform.

Neither the IMF nor the World Bank has been doing an effective job, says the report. It condemns the IMF for not spotting and not dealing with such debacles as the Asian crisis.

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