Sunday, October 4, 2009

Istanbul Sketch

Istanbul, Oct-3:

On Saturday, several small press conferences were held at the annual IMF/Worldbank meetings. Three separate conferences targeted specific regions, Europe, Central Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, and consisted of IMF officials prescribing economic medicine to reporters from their home countries.

A press conference for the G-24, an organization of developing countries that predates the G-7 failed to attract more than a dozen journalists and two unmanned cameras. Two of its very own panelists failed to turn up for the conference, despite the moderator’s insistence that they would show up soon.

The only exciting moment came when, failing to draw more than two questions from the reporters gathered, the Brazilian representative, Rogerio Studart, took it upon himself to add some commentary. Much his speech was international economic cooperation pablum. However, at the end, he seemed to suggest that the G-20 accept a representative from the G-24. Pushed by a reporter if he meant to call for the creation of a G-21, the Brazilian backed off. However, his counterpart Amar Bhattacharya piped up and said that it was an “efficient way to make the G-20 inclusive”

All this G-confusion led the U.S Secretary of Treasury, Timothy Giethner to announce at his press conference at night “no G-innovations,” and “no more!” G-questions after repeated queries from reporters.

Geithner’s press conference was by far the most frustrating for the gathered reporters. He was the first speaker of the day to use the podium, refusing to sit down. He was the first to appear on stage by himself. He was the first, and probably the only one at the meetings, to speak in the absence of translators. With his knuckles clenching the sides of his podium turning white, sweat glistening on his upper lip, Secretary Geithner marched through his prepared statement, adding the occasional flourish to the text to appear more down to earth, more like the common man, someone you can relate to.

Journalists didn’t bother to introduce themselves before asking questions. Dutifully, the gathered press posed questions and received no answers. Some questions highlighted contradictions in the Administration’s rhetoric, for example the desire to simultaneously keep a strong dollar and for trade balances to come together. Geithner obliged those gathered in weaving the rhetoric together without any apparent contradiction, or synthesis for that matter.

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