Former West German central bank president Otmar Emminger warned Tuesday that "there is no way out" of the present international financial crisis unless the International Monetary Fund and other lenders encourage Third World countries to curb excessive spending and otherwise make "adjustment" to realities.
"There has been overlending, and this has to be somewhat reduced," Emminger said. He acknowledged that there is a danger that banks might go to the other extreme, and move to "underlending" that would have a serious impact on world trade. He urged, instead, that "banks take normal risks, and that means scaling down their loans."
Emminger pointedly criticized a comment Monday by former secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who warned against imposing austere conditions on poor debtor countries, especially those in Latin America. Unless countries such as Mexico are forced to adjust quickly, the problem will worsen later on, Emminger said.
Emminger also challenged an assurance by Willard C. Butcher, chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, that rescheduling of debt by Third World borrowing countries "indicates a willingness to service pay interest on the debt." Butcher, a Tuesday panelist on international financial problems along with Emminger, said that fear about the stability of the banking system had been overdone.
But Emminger warned that too casual an attitude on rescheduling might encourage some countries to ask for stretching out their debt, "even if they don't need it."
Another member of the panel, Federal Reserve Board member Henry C. Wallich, said that conditions now favor a further decline in long-term American interest rates, assuming a continued decline in inflation, and further narrowing of the federal budget deficit. Wallich's forecast was taken by European participants in the conference as a hopeful indicator for world recovery.
Butcher defended not only the commercial banks' recent role in financing Third World development, but bank managements as well, although he conceded that, "I happen to be in an institution that has made some mistakes, all well-publicized."
And as for the word "bankruptcy," Butcher said it was inapplicable to sovereign nations. "Countries do not fail to exist, but reneging on debt has serious consequences," the Chase Manhattan executive said. He predicted that the huge Third World debt would be paid off, and that "loss of interest [by the banks] over the long term is highly improbable."
Kissinger had argued that the intensified crisis called for emergency measures that would go beyond mere rescheduling. He called for steps to restore confidence in the system. But he warned, as well, that imposing tough "conditionality" on bail-out loans to some of the weaker countries could do more harm than good.