WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday that the lending agency is facing huge demand for support from its members during the global pandemic.
An unprecedented 102 of the IMF's 189 member countries are seeking assistance from the organization, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said. The agency is prepared to commit its full $1 trillion in lending capacity to meet the demand, she said.
“It is a crisis like no other,” Georgieva told reporters, reiterating her agency's assessment that the global economy is in its worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Georgieva spoke at a news conference as the Washington-based IMF and its sister lending agency, the World Bank, began its spring meetings, being held remotely this year.
She and World Bank President David Malpass both praised a decision taken Wednesday by the finance ministers and central bank presidents of the Group of 20 major industrial countries to declare a suspension of debt payments for low income countries.
The debt suspension from May 1 through the end of this year is aimed at allowing poor countries to keep an estimated $12 billion that they can use for meeting health care and other needs stemming from the coronavirus.
In a new economic outlook prepared for this week’s discussions, the IMF forecast that the global economy will shrink by 3% this year, far greater than the 0.1% dip that occurred in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Georgieva said that the IMF has already doubled its emergency assistance programs from $50 billion up to $100 billion. At the same time, the agency is preparing to assist to restart economic growth as countries emerge from the crisis.
“We need to think of the challenges we will face on the other side of this crisis,” she said, noting the likelihood of elevated levels of debt and rising bankruptcies in many nations.
It is important that the IMF and individual governments put measures in place to deal with those issues, she said.
As part of the meetings, the IMF’s policy committee will meet Thursday, with the sessions closing on Friday with a news conference by Malpass following a meeting of the World Bank’s policy panel.