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Doubt greets IMF bailout offers

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A thornier question is who puts in new money and what that means for an institution closely associated with Western powers. Just as the G-20 gathering represented a shift in the global financial order, a more inclusive IMF would have to make room for rising economies like China and Brazil. Its current board is dominated by the US, Japan, and European creditors.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last week that countries sitting on surpluses, including oil-rich Gulf nations, should contribute more to the IMF. But Saudi Arabia publicly rejected the argument. Chinese President Hu Jintao also demurred, saying China's main contribution to financial stability is to prime its economy as an engine of global growth.

Behind the scenes is a tussle over how the IMF, World Bank, and other institutions are managed. "Realistically, in order to go much further [in IMF reforms], those countries who would contribute more would want a bigger say in running the institution," says Brad Setser, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

With the exception of troubled Pakistan, until now there have been no takers in Asia for an IMF bailout, despite warning signals in financial markets. In recent days, leaders in Indonesia and South Korea, which are struggling to prop up their currencies and restore confidence, have both explicitly ruled out going to the IMF for help – the idea carries bitter memories of the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98 that many policymakers believe was worsened by bad economic advice from the IMF.

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