Global Rescue Squad

All the financial heavyweights are weighing in. First the finance ministers and central bankers of the seven top industrial nations heard pleas in London for a coordinated lowering of interest rates.

Then the heaviest of those heavyweights, Americans Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin invited their opposite numbers from 21 other major nations to join them in Washington in early October. The US wants joint action to douse today's global economic fires. And it hopes to devise systems to prevent future flareups from spreading, as the 1997-98 Asian fire has.

For some time we have strongly urged a joint interest rate cut by rich nations. That would help protect North America and Europe from the growth-slowing effects of the Asia-Russia-Latin America economic slide. Coupled with higher interest rates in the troubled economies, such a cut could encourage flight capital to return to lands where it's sorely needed.

In short, it would curb recession and stimulate growth. First call for action: the US central bank's meeting Sept. 29. Second call: the early October meeting of the 22 in Washington.

Meanwhile, mega-financier George Soros, badly scorched by Russia's debt collapse, is urging the US Congress to do two things:

1. Refuel the International Monetary Fund's coffers with the $18 billion President Clinton requested.

2. Study Soros's earlier proposal for a new global credit insurance agency. He argues that such an insurer could prevent defenses erected by central banks from falling like dominos.

Certainly the world needs better defenses against collapsing currencies and debt default - with the anguish they cause billions of people. Backsliding toward the failed Soviet system of central planning, now a specter in Russia, is not the answer.

So the 22-nation meeting will need to find better ones. The best start would be that joint lowering of interest rates. The sooner the better.

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