Throwing Money at the IMF

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WASHINGTON: How ironic -- the IMF just got a bailout. The G-7 industrial nations Friday put their names to a line of credit aimed at refilling the IMF's coffers, just in case the world's lender of last resort needs to start lending again after tossing its last stake down the vortexes in Russia and Asia. At the White House, President Clinton rejoiced. "The world's leading economies have linked arms to contain the financial turmoil," Clinton said. "This line of credit gives us a powerful new tool that can be used when it will do the most good."

Which would be now. Though it went unstated in Friday's announcements, Brazil -- having just embarked on an IMF-suggested austerity program -- will almost immediately get $30 billion from those newly overflowing coffers. Beyond Brazil -- well, just having the money at hand is half the battle. "The IMF's solvency is helpful in and of itself," says TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl. "It encourages foreign investors that other economies like Brazil's, which has been hit harder than it deserved by the crisis, will get the assistance they need." Let's just hope it works out better this time around.