Die Schweiz und die internationale Währungszusammenarbeit

Hans Meyer, Chairman of the Governing Board

Society of Statistics and Economics, Basel, January 25, 1999, 25.01.1999

Sufficiently stable currency relations are an essential prerequisite for economic co-operation across national borders. Institutional regulations are a necessary albeit insufficient requirement for success. The purpose of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is to promote international monetary cooperation. The main elements of its activities are providing economic policy consultation, specialist technical support and financial assistance in the form of loans to help ease adaptation processes. Since its inception the IMF has had to strike a balance between stressing the self-reliance of individual countries and being ready to facilitate adaptation processes. Walking this tightrope has been hampered by various kinds of pressure from its members with different degrees of power. In spite of this, the IMF’s activities can be judged positively overall. Improvements are most likely to occur in small steps toward reform.

Efficient surveillance of financial markets plays a central role. Improved transparency is an essential goal which should enable private participants in the market and official bodies to assess the situation properly. Failure to act and misjudgements, however, are often not the result of a lack of transparency but insufficient evaluation of information which is definitely available. With regard to transparency, the demand has been rightfully put forward that the IMF itself try harder to help explain what it does and does not do.

The private sector’s taking part in crisis prevention and therapy remains an important topic. It ought to be a basic principle that the private sector is responsible for its own actions. Official emergency aid should not lead to a situation whereby the private sector is absolved of its own responsibility. Otherwise the market’s control function will fail, which is bound to lead to a setback in prosperity.

Switzerland’s voice in the IMF should be guided by the following considerations: the IMF must concentrate on the area of monetary policy and adhere to free-market principles. It ought to combine its role of providing consultation and financial assistance in a balanced way and take into account social and ecological concerns adequately. Help from the outside can only be help which leads to self-help.