Organizers of a new committee to reappraise the role of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund said after their first meeting yesterday that both institutions will need to change to solve current and prospective international problems.
The bank and the IMF were created in 1944 at a world international monetary conference at Bretton Woods, N.H. Cochairmen of the bipartisan group, which is called the Bretton Woods Committee, are former Treasury secretary Henry H. Fowler and former Treasury deputy secretary Charls Walker.
It was formed to generate grass-roots support for the two institutions, which have come under sharp attack recently, especially from conservative groups in the United States.
Fowler told a press conference that "we see both the bank and the IMF playing an increasingly important role in international trade, finance and economic development, but the model may not be entirely the 1944 model. The institutions undoubtedly are due for modification, adaptation and some degree of change. Change is the order of the day: They will have to be adapted to the future."
Walker also stressed that "we are not going to be apologists for the management." The members are "dedicated" to the contributions that the institutions have made, but criticisms of the way they have operated will be carefully examined, he said.
A total of 136 business leaders -- many of whom had served in recent Democratic and Republican administrations -- were present for yesterday's initial session, which was addressed by bank President A. W. Clausen, IMF Managing Director Jacques de Larosiere, and Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Paul A. Volcker. Fowler said the aim is for a total membership not to exceed 200. The committee has set two years to complete the reappraisal.
Reporters were not admitted to the conference session yesterday, but Clausen, in welcoming the efforts of the new pressure group, is understood to have stressed the importance of a successful bank operation to American business interests. In a similar vein, de Larosiere said that he hoped the committee's work could help dispel some "misconceptions" about the IMF.
Chief among these, he said, is the complaint that the IMF unnecessarily promotes austerity in the developing countries to which it offers loans. The IMF's opponents, in coming within seven votes of defeating legislation in 1984 to increase IMF funding, also charged that IMF loans "bail out the banks."
Fowler mentioned the emergence last year of the Free the Eagle group that organized opposition to the IMF inside and outside of Congress, clouding the outcome despite strong support from the Reagan administration and Democratic liberals. He said that is one of the major reasons for formation of his group.