IMF fears overheating in growth states

soaring oil prices and inflation in emerging economies pose new risks to global recovery but are not yet strong enough to derail it, the International Monetary Fund said yesterday.

The global lender’s latest assessment of world economic prospects marked a departure from recent years when its focus was on the potential peril from a near-financial meltdown and recession in advanced countries.

The fastest growth in recent years has come from emerging markets like China, Brazil and India, which helped to offset the deep downturns in the United States and other rich nations touched off by burst housing bubbles.

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Now, the IMF warns, those very economies risk asset bubbles akin to the ones that sparked the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

“The challenge for many emerging and some developing economies is to ensure that present boom-like conditions do not develop into overheating over the coming year,” the IMF said in its World Economic Outlook report.

IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard said there was no overwhelming threat to the global economy but there were trouble spots that needed to be dealt with.

“There is not any major downside risk at this point... in the way there was a year or two ago,” he said.

The IMF’s central scenario continues to be one of a slow-paced global economic recovery. However, among the dangers the fund sees are rising inflation and hard-to-control inflows of capital into emerging markets.

High debt levels in rich nations, such as the US, are also a cause for concern.

“We are warning emerging market countries that they are getting to the point where things may be too good ... we have a long history of countries waiting too long to do something about it,” Mr Blanchard said.

The IMF highlighted the severe threat that rising food and commodity prices pose to poorer countries.

Soaring costs for basic staples have fuelled the social and economic tensions that have rocked the Arab world. Street protests have toppled dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia, and left leaders in Yemen and Libya fighting to cling to power.