For bankers and business leaders, this week's International Monetary Fund/World Bank meetings provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate the globalisation of the world economy, with forecasts of the fastest growth rates for a decade being cited as apparent proof of the prosperity which this will bring. Globalisation is the buzz word of the moment and the IMF's insistence on the irreversibility of this trend is fast becoming accepted wisdom. Even President Jiang Zemin treated it as an accepted fact in his key-note address to the 15th Communist Party Congress, while Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong recently warned of the futility of trying to 'fight the market'. But not everyone is as happy as the IMF with the consequences. Bankers may believe governments are powerless to resist the pressures of globalisation. But that has not stopped some leaders from using this week's forum to signal an interest in at least slowing the process. Premier Li Peng coupled support for the free flow of capital with a warning that bodies such as the IMF must do more to maintain international financial stability. Malaysian Premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad was more explicit, insisting that globalisation cannot be allowed if it is 'anarchic' and attacking the IMF's operating methods. Such a backlash was inevitable in the wake of the recent regional currency crises, which demonstrated the high price that developing nations can be forced to pay in a more global economy. Asian nations have been shaken by the damage the international markets can inflict on their economies and may become more reluctant to accept outside advice as a result. One possible sign of this was the wrangling over a planned multi-billion dollar regional bail-out fund. The IMF fears this will cut them out of the loop and allow less stringent conditions to be attached to future rescue packages. Some rethink is also likely on the pace at which regional markets are opened to the outside world. While Malaysia is probably alone in trying to reverse the globalisation process, others can be expected to proceed more slowly than before. Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji pointedly reminded foreign investors it was economic stability which would determine how quickly they were allowed into mainland markets. Signs of a similar reappraisal can be heard from the World Bank's new chief economist, Joseph Stiglitz, who warned it may not be wise for some countries to move too fast to open their banking sectors to foreign competition. All of this suggests that some of the recent globalisation hype may have been overdone. While the long-term trend is certainly irreversible, this week's meetings have revealed a strong body of opinion in favour of more closely controlling its pace, and some sound arguments in favour of doing so.