International Monetary Fund officials take the relatively optimistic view that the world "can live" with the balance of payments deficit caused by oil imports, provided there is a gradual redistribution of the deficit burden.
But such of shift of the deficit burden - now running at about $65 billion annually, of which about $40 billion represents the oil deficit - will require positive action by West Germany, Japan and a few other countries to reduce their current account surpluses.
If necessary, the IMF, newly charged with surveillance powers over exchange rates, is ready to pressure such surplus countries to let their exchange rates appreciate, that is, go up.
IMF officials believe that a consensus on these and other key international monetary issues can be reached at a meeting of the policy making Interim Committee in Washington on April 27 and 28.
IMF Managing Director H.J. Wittteveen reportedly intends to submit a proposal for a new supplementary IMF credit, which would enable hard-pressed nations to borrow on "high conditionality" to meet their balance of payments problems.
Many such countries would be middle-income countries (among the less developed nations), as well as developed nations, that have already borrowed to the limit from commercial banks.
The IMF is said to be seeking to put together a fund about 14 billion Special Drawing Rights (SDR), the equivalent of about $16.6 billion, for this purpose. SDR are a special credit created by the IMF for member countries. Currently, an SDR is worth about $1.16. In principle, the U.S. is backing a substantial increase in IMF resources.
The view at the IMF is that the new lending scheme must be considered temporary, to meet current exceptional problems over the next few years, after which the agency should rely on an increase in quotas to cover the borrowing requirements of its members.
Within a few years, the policy makers at the IMF believe that it will be possible for the non-oil world's balance of payments to move into a more normal range. Currently, the total deficit is about $65 billion created by about $40 billion in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries surplus, and another $20 to $25 billion in industrial countries' net surpluses.
The IMF would like to see West Germany, Japan, the Netherlands. Switzerland and perhaps a few other countries follow the lead of the United States, which has slipped into a balance of payments deficit. President Carter is expected to drive much the same point home during the summit meeting in London on May 7 and 3.
Given a "better distribution" of oil deficits, and a continuation of normal international assistance, the real "disequilibrium" in the world accounts is much less than $40 billion, and hence tolerable, IMF officials feel.
Until now, the fund has been able to exert more pressure on deficit countries who come to the IMF for loans, than on wealthy countries running large surpluses.
But last year its member nations, gave the IMF the task of "surveillance" of the floating exchange rate system.
A new Article 4 requires the IMF to work out "firm principles" for surveillance. This is a matter for the April 27-28 agenda and may take some meetings beyond the one to settle. But the IMF according to an authoritative source, feels that "exchange rates are no longer purely a national matter."