Wednesday 17 January 2018

No austerity on menu at IMF's $350,000 Christmas bash

IMF chief Christine Lagarde says Spain is not in need of any loans
IMF chief Christine Lagarde says Spain is not in need of any loans
Thomas Molloy

Thomas Molloy

THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a lengthy report on the Irish economy yesterday, urging the Government to stick to austerity measures, but it seems to be a case of "do as I say, not as I do" for the Washington-based organisation, which is coming under scrutiny this week for its own lavish Christmas party.

The $350,000 (€264,000) annual shindig saw the IMF invite 13,000 bank staff and retirees, who were then able to enjoy seven different world cuisines as well as unlimited drink.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was too busy elsewhere but around 7,000 usually strait-laced staff and their former colleagues turned up at the IMF headquarters for one of the biggest social events on Washington DC's often crushingly dull social calendar.

The first of the seven service stations that acted as a focus for revellers featured various foods rarely associated with austerity such as caviar creme fraiche and "local Choptank sweet oyster shooters with tomato jalapeno broth", "smoked salmon mousse in an edible cone" and "warm truffle braised short rib tartlets."

Those who needed a pick-me-up could knock back a Peppermint Patty or Poinsettia cocktail before wandering on to some of the other stations which served food and drink from India (where there was everything from lentil curry to poppodoms to chicken biryani), Thailand (green papaya salad), the Mediterranean, Spain (paella and patatas bravas), Mexico and even America.


Those who wanted to mix their drinks could down cocktails such as Partridge in a Pear Breeze, the Mr Grinch and the Nutty Jester as well as more traditional drinks, according to menus posted on the website of the 'Washington Post'.

While this year's party made the headlines, it is unlikely to be the first or last time that the IMF year-end soiree causes comment.

The organisation, which frequently plays Scrooge to developing countries by insisting that they tighten their belts, triggered criticism in the 1990s when it hired three large ballrooms, two live bands and a DJ.

IMF officials explained the parties are financed entirely from the "fees paid by borrowers" which is another way of saying that Ireland and the world's other bailout countries paid for the whole show.

While the IMF's annual party has not prompted any dreary calls for resignations, Sweden's secret service was not so lucky when it hosted a party last year with a James Bond theme.

Details of that party slowly leaked out over the spring and summer and shocked a country that prides itself on frugality.

The party, which included 1,000 guests, casino tables, celebrity entertainers and a tuxedo-clad band playing Bond themes, cost €620,000 and took place during a government austerity drive.

The affair, which dominated the front pages of newspapers during the summer, saw accusations that Sweden's spy agency, called Sapa, failed to put the event out to tender and claimed too much tax back.

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