WASHINGTON - The U.S. government issued a barbed riposte yesterday after the IMF suggested Washington institute health insurance for all Americans and balance its budget faster than planned.
Tim Adams, the Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, demanded that the International Monetary Fund get back to its "raison d'étre" of monitoring global currency rates rather than commenting on health care.
He also said an IMF call for the United States to balance its budget by 2010, rather than just aiming to halve it by 2009, would put the global economy in "peril."
"We have been the product of IMF scrutiny for a long time. They don't mince any words or waste any time talking about the U.S.," Mr. Adams told a news conference after the IMF released its semi-annual World Economic Outlook.
"In fact it appears . . . that they were once again delving into issues that are questionable topics for the IMF to be looking at," he said.
"But if it's good enough for the U.S., it's good enough for everyone else, and we look forward to seeing what the IMF is producing for other countries," he said, reaffirming calls for the IMF to criticize China more forcefully.
Speaking at the launch of the Outlook report, IMF chief economist Raghuram Rajan said earlier that the United States was not always the poster child for the policies long advocated by the Fund.
"In a globally competitive economy, it is very important you insure the individual, you have a safety net for the individual, because they're at serious risk of losing their job and so on," Mr. Rajan said.
"Which means you have to have some form of universal health care. It is very, very hard, in this competitive economy, for 40-million-plus Americans to be uninsured, of which eight million are children," he said.
"So you need universal health care, you need strong educational systems, so the challenge of improving education in the United States, especially in poorer areas, is extremely important."
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