- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 17, 2000

The Times bails out on the facts of the IMF

Your editorial on the International Monetary Fund ("Bailout Inc.," Feb. 14) misrepresents the policies and record of this institution. To cite but a few examples:

Taxpayers do not "foot the bill" for IMF "bailouts" because the Fund makes loans, repaid with interest, using the capital contributed by its 182 member countries. For these countries and, thus, their taxpayers the contributions are interest-bearing assets.

You incorrectly portray IMF lending as aimed at letting reckless investors in profligate countries off the hook. The Fund lends support to well-designed economic adjustment and reform programs to help countries overcome balance of payments problems and return to economic health. Without the Fund's financial support, countries would have to adjust more abruptly, with damaging consequences for their people, their trading partners and the world economy. IMF loans benefit not only the borrower, but the world community, including taxpayers and private enterprises.

The benefit of IMF-supported programs should be evident from the recent experience with the financial crises in emerging markets, where IMF loans to countries like South Korea, Thailand and Brazil helped spur the strong economic recoveries that are now occurring. And, far from being bailed out, most investors in these countries, and Russia, suffered substantial losses as a result of the crises that hit them. It is true that a byproduct of restoring stability to the financial markets has been that banks with short-term claims on financial institutions may have been protected from the consequences of their lending decisions, but the IMF is working with the international community to establish better methods to secure the involvement of the private sector in the resolution of financial crises. And the Fund is also working with its members to put in place more effective ways of preventing crises from occurring.

Finally, the contingency credit line you refer to was established in 1999 to help countries that follow sound economic policies and yet face difficulties because of contagion from other crises. Contrary to your assertion, it was not employed to assist either Russia or Brazil.

The experiences of the past decade make clear both that the IMF plays a vital role in the world economy and that reform of the international financial system, including the IMF, is necessary. This reform is ongoing. Debate over reform is welcome, but it would serve all parties better the Fund, its member countries and your readers if it were a discussion based on the facts.

GRAHAM HACCHE

Deputy director

External Relations Department

International Monetary Fund

Washington

Congressman depending too much on strength of marriage legislation

Rep. Bob Barr's confidence in the Defense of Marriage Act ("1 Man + 1 Woman = Marriage," Op-Ed, Feb. 9) may or may not be misplaced, but it is certainly premature.

What DOMA proposes to do and what DOMA will be able to do are two separate things. Since the contingency it has been legislated to address has yet to occur, the law still waits testing.

The Constitution is a timeless and powerful document. It is neither a respecter nor a defender of tradition, fashion or fad. The Constitution concretely codifies the concept that human rights are universal and inalienable and that no government formed under its articles will ever be able to abridge those rights.

This case is about civil rights, not religious rites. The state has no power to defend marriage as a sacrament. And supporters of DOMA are going to have to reach very far to demonstrate that the state has any compelling interest to favor economically, legally or politically one household over another.

If Mr. Barr thinks DOMA is a sure thing, I have my doubts.

SCOTT HARRIS

St. Albans, W.Va.

An important factor omitted from letter on improvements in India

Steven W. Mosher is certainly correct that no demographic disaster looms for India and that substantial economic and social development has occurred there in recent decades ("Thank economic reforms, not population control, for Indian improvements," Letters, Feb. 13). But, curiously, in his list of India's impressive achievements he falls to note that the spread of contraceptive practices is itself part of this success story.

Over the last 20 years, the total fertility rate in India has fallen from six births per couple to just over three, and the rate of natural increase similarly declined. Nearly half the married women in India now practice some form of birth control. Infant and maternal mortality, which are closely connected to high fertility, have also been sharply reduced. This success has been achieved through modern and traditional methods of contraception and has been a totally voluntary process, although admittedly with support of the government at all levels.

India's brief flirtation with a coercive approach, during the Sanjay Gandhi era, proved that coercion is actually counterproductive, and India has taken that lesson to heart. Government supplies information and supplies, but works frequently with private non-governmental organizations and to a growing extent through the commercial sector.

Population control and economic development are not an either/or policy choice. They are mutually supportive and inescapably linked.

WARREN C. ROBINSON

Washington

Warren Robinson is a retired professor from Pennsylvania State University.

Clarifications needed in article on newsstands

The Feb. 7 article, "Old-fashioned newsstands threatened by competition" (Business Times) misstates not only what I told The Washington Times, but also the facts.

I am attributed in the article as drawing a correlation between a shift from newsstand sales for newspapers and magazines to on-line readership. I did not discuss the impact of the Internet with your reporter. What I told the reporter, and what the reporter quoted me on, was that single-copy sales have declined, particularly in newsracks, as sales have shifted to over-the-counter sales by grocery and convenience stores and other retailers.

Your reporter also chose to ignore the results of a Newspaper Association of America (NAA) study sent by my colleague, that contrary to the reporter's conclusion, Internet users tend to be strong users of the print product as well at least when it comes to newspapers.

The results from "Synergize for Success," an NAA report released last fall, show that among all adult Internet users in the top 50 markets, 61 percent read a daily newspaper on paper, and 74 percent read one on Sunday higher figures than for overall general readership. The report also discovered that on-line newspaper users still use the print product; 67 percent of on-line users who looked at an on-line newspaper in the past six months also read a printed daily newspaper, and the figure jumps to 78 percent on Sunday.

And, the study found, nearly three-quarters of on-line newspaper users are using their print product with the same frequency, and 8 percent say they use the printed product more.

My only comment regarding the Internet applied to out-of-town newspapers. Some circulation executives believe that on-line newspapers may have an impact on mail subscriptions (i.e., people who move away but still want to receive their hometown newspaper retirees, snowbirds , etc.), since they can receive the paper quicker on line than through the mail.

In addition, not to quibble, but your reporter also misidentified where NAA is located. We are headquartered in Vienna not Reston. Also, my title is vice president of circulation marketing (no "and").

JOHN M. MURRAY

Vice president of circulation marketing

Newspaper Association of America

Vienna

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