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Momentum stalls at IMF for unified action on economy

WASHINGTON - Meetings of finance ministers and central bankers here over the weekend started with a pledge by wealthy nations to significantly increase the lending capacity of the International Monetary Fund to defend against the possibility of worsening economic conditions in the debt-laden eurozone. But they ended on Sunday without a consensus on just how to speed up the economic recovery, stamp out the European debt crisis, or lower unemployment around the world, officials said.

Heading into the meetings, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the monetary fund and a former French finance minister, had called for a “Washington moment’’ - a shared sense of purpose about the magnitude of the challenges facing world leaders, and building momentum to tackle those challenges.

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“I personally feel that that Washington moment was clearly in the room in the course of the meetings,’’ she said on Saturday.

But Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization, said participants seemed more concerned with political considerations than with international cooperation, yielding little progress on questions about fostering stable, inclusive growth.

“What’s missing is a common road map,’’ Lamy said. “International cooperation is about doing things you don’t want to do for the common good. But they’re all focused on the short term.’’

The additional $430 billion in lending capacity contributed by developed economies like Japan, Britain, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea was seen as a major achievement. The contributions came after IMF economists determined that countries might require up to $1 trillion in loans because of the combined effects of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and sluggish global economic growth. The IMF agreed to raise about half that amount if Europe would raise the other half.

But many governments, particularly in Europe, believe that indebted advanced economies need to cut their budgets to maintain stability in the financial system.

“Fiscal sustainability in the United States and Japan weigh on the domestic and global outlook and require clearly spelled out consolidation strategies to reduce the risk of a sudden loss of market confidence,’’ Jan Kees de Jager, the Dutch finance minister, said at an IMF committee meeting on Saturday.

The United States chose not to contribute to the IMF.

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