Head of IMF fears unrest without action on economy

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Violent unrest may be sparked around the world by a prolonged global slump unless governments act with greater urgency to jump-start stalled economies, the head of the International Monetary Fund said on Monday. 

Dominique Strauss-Kahn sounded a stark warning over the consequences of what he argued was weak and uncertain government reaction to the economic crisis. He used a hard-hitting speech in Madrid to single out eurozone nations over what he attacked as an inadequate response. 

The broadside from the IMF's managing director came as fears over a protracted global recession, and political fallout, mounted after China said that its factories' output registered the weakest growth in almost a decade last month. 

Without swifter and more determined action by governments to boost economies, a world recovery could be delayed until late next year or early in 2010, with grave consequences, Mr Strauss-Kahn said. “A lot remains to be done, and if this work is not done it will be difficult to avoid a long-lasting crisis that everyone wants to avoid.”

The IMF has called for governments in leading economies to spend a combined 2 per cent of global GDP, or $1.2 trillion (£1,075 billion), to try to fend off the danger from global recession.“If we are not able to do that, then social unrest may happen in many countries - including advanced economies,” Mr Strauss-Kahn suggested. 

He also claimed that violent protests could break out in countries worldwide if the financial system was not reordered to benefit everyone rather than a small elite. 

Reinforcing anxieties over a global recession, the IMF chief said that the fund would probably cut its current 2.2 per cent forecast for world growth next year. He blamed governments' being unwilling or unable to use more public funds to bolster economic activity. At the same time, he also predicted that China's once red-hot pace of economic expansion was now set rapidly to run out of steam. 

“We started with China at 11 per cent growth . . . China will probably grow at 5 or 6 per cent [next year],” he said. “The possibility of a global recession is real. We realise something must be done.” 

Concern over China was heightened as industrial output growth from the Asian powerhouse slowed to an annual pace of only 5.4 per cent last month. That was sharply from 8.2 per cent in October and the weakest since 1999. 

Turning his fire on the European Union, Mr Strauss-Kahn put himself sharply at odds with Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank, who yesterday urged European leaders to stick to their fiscal rule books and keep a lid on state borrowing, even as they deliver packages of economic stimulus measures. 

Mr Trichet called for European countries to stick by the EU's controversial Stability and Growth Pact that limits governments' borrowing and total debt. But Mr Strauss-Kahn said that existing rule books should be scrapped, and demanded new rules to match the scale of the economic threat he saw. 

“We are facing an unprecedented decline in output and we have evidence of substantial uncertainty limiting the effectiveness of some fiscal policy measures,” he said, “What was decided by Brussels . . . 1.5 per cent of GDP in the form of stimulus, is a bit below what we need.” 

His comments come amid continued wrangling and sharp clashes between European leaders over how they should react to the crisis. 

Germany has expressed substantial doubts over the wisdom of pumping huge amounts of public money into economies to try to stimulate growth and has resisted pressures to contribute more to a joint EU effort.  continues here

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