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IMF chief warns European governments may ‘regret’ backing protesting farmers

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European governments should resist calls for greater financial support from protesting farmers across the continent, or they could come to regret it, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said Thursday.

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Farmers from Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Greece have staged weeks of disruptive but largely peaceful protests aimed at winning concessions from European leaders ahead of upcoming elections.

“You see the farmers protesting. On the human level I understand they face more hardship and it is not easy to do the job they do,” Georgieva said during a press briefing at the International Monetary Fund’s offices in Washington.

“But if that sentiment continues and it pushes governments in a corner in which they find themselves unable to do what is necessary for (the) strength of the economies, then there may be days to regret,” she added.

Thousands of farmers from across Europe protested in Brussels Thursday during a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on “the future of European agriculture.”

After the summit, Macron told reporters that France had managed to persuade the EU to “impose stricter rules” for cereal and poultry imports, including from Ukraine.

Georgieva addressed the protests during a wide-ranging briefing with reporters that touched on government debt levels, US monetary policy and Fund negotiations with Argentina, Egypt and Pakistan.

“I was talking to a number of policymakers, especially on the finance minister side, and they recognise the importance of fiscal consolidation,” she said. “But they also recognise how difficult it is to pull back from support.”

“It’s easy to give it; it’s tough to take it back,” she added.

She called on governments around the world to work on rebuilding fiscal buffers depleted by the Covid-19 pandemic by closing tax loopholes and assessing the quality of existing public spending.

(AFP)

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