World Bank: Told You So

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WASHINGTON: If there's one thing economists love, it's hindsight. The World Bank released a 200-page report on the Asian crisis late Wednesday and accused the IMF and Robert Rubin -- after politely omitting their names -- of throwing gasoline on the fire. TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl says that the IMF's prescription -- propping up plummeting currencies with ultra-high interest rates -- seemed like a good idea at the time. But it was preventative medicine for a crisis that was already out of control.

"If the IMF had it to do all over again, they would definitely do it differently," says TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl. The IMF's plan is working in Brazil, he says, where contagion threatened but hadn't hit yet. "But in a country that's already hitting bottom, the best thing to do is let the currency fall and keep interest rates low -- that's the fastest way to start a recovery." Neither Treasury nor the IMF responded to the report -- after all, they had done their best, and indeed the region seems poised to pull out of recession by the year 2000 or so. Next time, maybe it won't hurt so much.