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The International Monetary Fund: 70 Years of Reinvention

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  • Reinhart, Carmen

    (Harvard University)

  • Trebesch, Christoph

    (University of Munich)

Abstract

A sketch of the International Monetary Fund's 70-year history reveals an institution that has reinvented itself over time along multiple dimensions. This history is primarily consistent with a "demand driven" theory of institutional change, as the needs of its clients and the type of crisis changed substantially over time. Some deceptively "new" IMF activities are not entirely new. Before emerging market economies dominated IMF programs, advanced economies were its earliest (and largest) clients through the 1970s. While currency problems were the dominant trigger of IMF involvement in the earlier decades, banking crises and sovereign defaults became they key focus since the 1980s. Around this time, the IMF shifted from providing relatively brief (and comparatively modest) balance-of-payments support in the era of fixed exchange rates to coping with more chronic debt sustainability problems that emerged with force in the developing nations and now migrated to advanced ones. As a consequence, the IMF has engaged in "serial lending", with programs often spanning decades. Moreover, the institution faces a growing risk of lending into insolvency, most widespread among low income countries in chronic arrears to the official sector, but most evident in the case of Greece since 2010. We conclude that these practices impair the IMF's role as an international lender of last resort.

Suggested Citation

  • Reinhart, Carmen & Trebesch, Christoph, 2015. "The International Monetary Fund: 70 Years of Reinvention," Working Paper Series 15-077, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:15-077
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart & Christoph Trebesch, 2016. "Global Cycles: Capital Flows, Commodities, and Sovereign Defaults, 1815-2015," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(5), pages 574-580, May.
    2. Alice Nicole Sindzingre, 2015. "‘Policy Externalisation’ Inherent Failure: International Financial Institutions’ Conditionality in Developing Countries," Post-Print hal-01668363, HAL.
    3. Giancarlo Corsetti & Aitor Erce & Timothy Uy, 2017. "Official Sector Lending Strategies During the Euro Area Crisis," Discussion Papers 1720, Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM).
    4. Corsetti, G. & Erce, A., 2018. "Debt Sustainability and the Terms of Official Support," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1864, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    5. Irina Balteanu & Aitor Erce, 2017. "Linking Bank Crises and Sovereign Defaults: Evidence from Emerging Markets," Working Papers 22, European Stability Mechanism.
    6. Kai Gehring & Valentin F. Lang, 2018. "Stigma or Cushion? IMF Programs and Sovereign Creditworthiness," CESifo Working Paper Series 7339, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Scheubel, Beatrice & Tafuro, Andrea & Vonessen, Benjamin, 2018. "Stigma? What stigma? A contribution to the debate on financial market effects of IMF lending," Working Paper Series 2198, European Central Bank.
    8. repec:bla:worlde:v:41:y:2018:i:10:p:2669-2690 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Axel Dreher & Katharina Michaelowa, 2008. "The political economy of international organizations," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 3(4), pages 331-334, December.
    10. Trebesch, Christoph & Zabel, Michael, 2017. "The output costs of hard and soft sovereign default," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 416-432.
    11. repec:eee:inecon:v:111:y:2018:i:c:p:190-213 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Beatrice D. Scheubel & Andrea Tafuro & Benjamin Vonessen, 2018. "STIGMA? WHAT STIGMA? A Contribution to the Debate on the Effectiveness of IMF Lending," CESifo Working Paper Series 7036, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. Irina Balteanu & Aitor Erce, 2014. "Banking crises and sovereign defaults in emerging markets: exploring the links," Working Papers 1414, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage.
    14. repec:eee:jimfin:v:88:y:2018:i:c:p:171-190 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:pal:imfecr:v:66:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1057_s41308-018-0066-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Irina Andone & Beatrice D. Scheubel, 2017. "Memorable Encounters? Own and Neighbours' Experience with IMF Conditionality and IMF Stigma," CESifo Working Paper Series 6399, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E50 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - General
    • F33 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Monetary Arrangements and Institutions
    • F40 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - General
    • F55 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Institutional Arrangements
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G20 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - General
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets
    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General

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