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Economy

IMF boss Lagarde warns EU, US on last day of Davos

The World Economic Forum in Davos has drawn to a close. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned economies to keep working on "a very fragile and timid recovery."

Former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was among Saturday's key speakers at Davos in her role at the head of the International Monetary Fund. Lagarde was speaking days after the IMF forecast a 0.2 percent contraction in the eurozone economy for 2013, and she warned governments to continue consolidation efforts.

"It is not going to be a stable landscape and a walk in the park for 2013," Lagarde said.

Saying there was room only "for a very fragile and timid recovery," Lagarde also called on US politicians to "indicate very promptly" how they plan to overcome the intransigence between Democrat President Barack Obama and the Republican-dominated lower house.

The US recently passed an eleventh-hour budget for 2013 and was sluggish in agreeing to raise its debt ceiling in order to continue meeting outstanding commitments earlier in January - with political deadlock twice threatening to upset the country's economic affairs.

German minister laments gender gap

Lagarde, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was in a stark minority as a female speaker at the Swiss ski resort, according to German Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

"Only 17 percent of the participants at Davos are women, it's simply a reflection of reality," von der Leyen said in an interview with the AFP news agency. "It's only the world leaders who are there, and women are underrepresented in top managerial positions. Women receive brilliant educations, they have the skills, but there's still a glass ceiling above them."

Lagarde similarly pointed to this inequality in her address, saying that female particiapation was "frankly too often neglected" by the political elite, something she described as "no longer acceptable."

Japan defends spending spree

Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari also took the floor in Davos on Saturday, defending his country's central bank decision to heavily accelerate spending and increase its inflation target to 2 percent. Angela Merkel had said after her Thursday address that she was "not without concern" about these actions from a country whose national debt is more than double annual economic output.

World Economic Forum closes

The move came at the request of newly elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, prompting some to say it suggested a lack of independence for the Bank of Japan.

Amari said that the move was made "voluntarily," however, noting that the annual target inflation rate of 2 percent per year was in line with most other major economies. Japan was in the past renowned for a very cautious approach to inflation.

This week's World Economic Forum in at the Swiss ski resort of Davos attracted some 2,500 political and business leaders from around the world.

msh/mkg  (AFP, AP, dpa)

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