Coronavirus drives IMF, World Bank to hold ‘virtual’ spring meetings

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank said on Tuesday they would adopt a “virtual format” for their spring meetings instead of convening in person in Washington amid growing concerns about the fast-spreading coronavirus.

“Given growing health concerns related to the virus, the Management of the IMF and World Bank Group and their Executive Boards have agreed to implement a joint plan to adapt the 2020 IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings to a virtual format,” the leaders of the two Washington-based institutions said.

The spring meetings, taking place this year on April 17-19, usually gather some 10,000 government officials, journalists, business people, and civil society representatives from across the globe to a tightly packed, two-block area of downtown Washington, which houses their headquarters.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank President David Malpass said in a joint statement that their goal was to serve their membership effectively while ensuring the health and safety of participants and staff.

Georgieva and Malpass said the IMF and World Bank would leverage IT-related and virtual connection capabilities to hold essential policy consultations while continuing to share institutions’ analyses.

“With this adapted format, we are confident that our member countries will be able to effectively engage on pressing global economic issues at these spring meetings,” they added.

The fast-spreading flu-like virus had raised concerns inside the IMF and the World Bank that the close interactions among people from their 189 member countries during the spring meetings could inadvertently contribute to the problem.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the IMF and World Bank canceled their annual fall meetings scheduled for later that month in the U.S. capital. The meetings were later taken place in November 2001 but in Ottawa, Canada.