Even for men well accustomed to continent hopping, international conferences and crucial decision making, the managers of the free world's money last week set something of a record for activity. In Uruguay, in Cannes, in Paris and in Basel, they met over the conference tables to make decisions that could affect the fate of governments, to cast their appraising eyes on the economic eddies of the West and to indulge in important shoptalk that ranged from the performance of the New York stock market to the rising prices of international hotels. Over lunches, at dinner parties and in evening strolls, they continued their business in the atmosphere of camaraderie that marks them as a most exclusive and influential international fraternity.
At Punta del Este's Cantegril Country Club on Uruguay's sunny coast, the central bankers of 19 hemisphere nations gathered to discuss Latin America's economic problems and to weigh President Johnson's program to stem the dollar drain. On the Riviera at Cannes, the Common Market Monetary Committee, including a select group known as the Club of Six (see box), met to pass judgment on the British pound and Europe's growing inflation. In Basel, both the Bank for International Settlements and a subgroup called the Basel Club met behind carefully guarded doors to review Europe's most pressing monetary problems and to try to guess future trouble spots.
The most important meetings, however, took place in Paris, where top monetary men from 21 nations met as Working Party III to make one of the crucial monetary decisions of the decade: whether to advance a $1.4 billion loan to Britain to enable it to prop up the pound. Britain needed the money to repay the $750 million that it has already used out of the $3 billion lent it by central banks last November, when the pound was being attackedand to provide a cushion that would make unnecessary any further drawing.
Though there were some early doubts about whether the loan would go through smoothly, the moneymen were encouraged by Britain's new austerity budget, the $22.4 million gain in gold and hard-currency reserves in April and the Labor government's announcement last week of tougher credit restrictions. After a two-day meeting of Working Party III, the Dun & Bradstreet of such matters, the loan was unanimously approved. Another group of moneymen called the Paris Club then sat down to decide what mix of gold and currencies will make up the loan. The loan will be made through the International Monetary Fund, the daddy and inspiration of all the clubs. It thus raises Britain's debt to the IMF's maximum limit of $2.4 billion, makes the sterling rescue the biggest bailing-out operation in the IMF's 20-year history.