WASHINGTON – The world’s top finance officials pressed Europe to do more to address debt problems, saying the global recovery remains fragile and that the eurozone shouldn’t relax now that it secured more resources to fight the crisis.
Finance ministers meeting in Washington this weekend called on euro-area policymakers to strengthen their banks and continue to make reforms that would lead to stronger and more balanced growth. They pledged to boost the International Monetary Fund’s emergency lending capacity by $430 billion.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, while welcoming the new commitments to bolster the IMF’s firepower, said, “The success of the next phase of the crisis response will hinge on Europe’s willingness and ability, together with the European Central Bank, to apply its tools … flexibly and aggressively to support countries as they implement reforms.”
Earlier in the week, Japan pledged $60 billion to expand the IMF so-called firewall to contain the eurozone’s long-running crisis. China, Russia, Brazil and India also were expected to contribute.
Czechs protest budget cuts, reforms
PRAGUE – Tens of thousands of people rallied in the Czech capital on Saturday to protest government reforms and austerity cuts in one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations here since the collapse of communism almost 23 years ago.
The protesters from all over the country urged the government to abandon the cuts and resign. They also are demanding early parliamentary elections.
Blowing vuvuzelas and beating drums, the protesters marched to Prague’s Wenceslas Square, disrupting downtown traffic.
The Czech Republic’s center-right government says the budget cuts and reforms of pension and health care plans are needed to bring the budget deficit back below 3 percent of GDP and maintain market reliability.
Prime Minister Petr Necas said in a statement Saturday he respects the people’s right to express their view but defended the measures. “As the prime minister, I feel a great responsibility for our country not to fall into a debt trap.”
The protest was organized by major labor unions and nongovernmental groups.