The World Bank and International Monetary Fund will have to "adapt and refine" their lending operations as the Third World debt problem moves from the crisis-management stage into a continuing effort to restore adequate economic growth, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker said yesterday.
In a speech to the Bankers' Association of Foreign Trade in Boca Raton, Fla., Volcker said that the World Bank's role "should be larger" as the borrowing countries begin to deal with underlying, long-term structural problems. But he warned that the bank and the IMF have to face the reality that their resources are limited. A copy of his remarks was made available here.
"There is simply no realistic prospect -- and no political support in the United States -- for these organizations to undertake a substantially larger amount of the financing needs of the heavily indebted countries," he said.
"Indeed, the IMF, as a short- and medium-term lender, will before too long need to begin looking toward net repayments by some of the largest borrowers."
At the recent Washington meeting of the IMF Interim Committee, Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III observed that such repayments are expected, but added this warning: "The United States has become increasingly concerned, however, that the prolonged use of IMF resources is undermining the revolving character of IMF financing, and creating undesirable pressures for borrowing and quota increases."
Volcker echoed Baker's concern -- expressed at the Interim Committee meeting and at the Paris meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- that private loans by commercial banks have been falling off. The central bank chairman reported that bank lending to non-OPEC developing countries increased less than 5 percent in 1983 and less than 3 percent in 1984.
The figures for the U.S. banks' loan increases are even smaller -- less than 3 percent in 1983 and only 0.5 percent in 1984. Volcker said the positive side of this is that the exposure of all banks relative to capital "has declined appreciably" from the "excesses of the 1970s and early 1980s," and he forecast that this "encouraging trend should continue."
But the negative side of the lending decline is that some of the publicized new money packages for the more successful borrowing countries such as Mexico "appear to have been offset by leakages elsewhere." Volcker did not cite figures, but the annual report of the West German central bank, which became available last week, said that more than half of $20 billion in these new loans last year was granted in connection with rescheduling arrangements for Brazil and Mexico.
By and large, only South Korea, India and Hong Kong were able to get new Eurocredits that were not tied to rescheduling arrangements, the German central bank said.
"Maintenance of necessary amounts of trade financing and, in time, some restoration of voluntary lending, are logical and reasonable parts of 'phase two,' when justified both by effective policies by the borrowing countries and by declining relative exposures," Volcker told the bankers.
He said that the willingness of political leaders in the Third World to address their short-term problems at home should not be allowed to fail "for lack of understanding by creditors and others."
In the longer run, economic success will depend on sound macroeconomic policy, including "disciplined fiscal and monetary policies, appropriate exchange rates and flexible pricing policies," Volcker said. "That is a familiar and essential lesson for any country -- including, as we well know, the United States."