Governments should subsidise food and energy, says IMF boss

Governments need to subsidise the cost of food and energy for the poorest members of society, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has told the BBC.

People around the world are struggling with the rising cost of living.

Kristalina Georgieva said support needs to be provided “in a very targeted manner, preferably by providing subsidies directly to people”.

Many governments are providing some help but critics argue it’s not enough.

When it comes to the cost of living crisis, Ms Georgieva said: “There are two priorities, one the very poor people, segments of society that are now struggling with high food and energy prices”.

The second, she added, is to support those businesses that have been “most damaged” by the war in Ukraine.

The IMF’s role is to work with governments to stabilise the global economy and enhance prosperity.

However, that’s proving challenging because food prices have hit record highs this year, whilst oil and gas prices have also risen sharply.

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This is largely because of the twin shocks of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Between them Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of crops and hydrocarbons.

Recession fears

The importance of these commodities to the global economy has led the annualised inflation rate to reach its highest point in decades in many countries: 9% in the UK, 8.3% in the US and 7.4% in the Eurozone.

Central banks are lifting interest rates to try and slow the increase in prices, which has led some influential figures such as Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein to warn of the risk of recession.

Ms Georgieva is concerned about the impact those higher borrowing costs will have on governments who have to repay huge debts they took on to get through the pandemic.

She said governments needed to be “very careful” about how much money they spent and what they spent it on.

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