IMF, World Bank switch to virtual spring meetings due to coronavirus

World Bank president David Malpass (left) and IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva. PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, citing concerns about the fast-spreading coronavirus, on Tuesday (March 3) said they will adopt a "virtual format" for their Spring Meetings instead of convening in person in Washington.

The institutions' Spring Meetings, scheduled this year for April 17-19, usually bring some 10,000 government officials, journalists, business people and civil society representatives from across the globe to a tightly packed, two-block area of downtown Washington that houses their headquarters.

"Given growing health concerns related to the virus, the Management of the IMF and World Bank Group and their Executive Boards have agreed to implement a joint plan to adapt the 2020 IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings to a virtual format," the leaders of the two institutions said in a joint statement.

The coronavirus outbreak is plunging the world economy into its worst downturn since the global financial crisis more than 10 years ago, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development warned on Monday.

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank president David Malpass said their goal was to serve their membership effectively while ensuring the health and safety of participants and staff.

They said the institutions would leverage IT-related and virtual connection capabilities to hold essential policy consultations, while continuing to share IMF and World Bank analyses.

"With this adapted format, we are confident that our member countries will be able to effectively engage on pressing global economic issues at these Spring Meetings," they said.

The rapid spread of the virus had raised concerns inside the IMF and the World Bank that the close interactions among people from their 189 member countries at the Spring Meetings could inadvertently contribute to the problem.

After the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the IMF and World Bank canceled their annual meetings scheduled for later that month in the U.S. capital. The meetings were reconvened in November 2001 in Ottawa, Canada.

The by-laws of both institutions state that their annual meetings of boards of governors, normally held in the fall, must be held in person.

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