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The IMF: A Bird's Eye View of its Role and Operations

  • Graham Bird

    (University of Surrey)

The International Monetary Fund is the world’s premier international financial institution with 184 member countries and active programmes in a significant number of them at any one time. The Fund attracts a great deal of attention, much of it critical. But the discussion is often polemic in style. Strongly held, but frequently opposing, views are expressed. This survey attempts to examine, in an objective way, the theory and evidence relating to the Fund’s operations. Many aspects of the empirical research are relatively recent and a universal consensus is yet to emerge; as a consequence there is scope for disagreement to persist. However, the research is also gradually clarifying many important issues. The format for the survey is to examine the life cycle of IMF arrangements. What makes a country turn to the Fund for assistance? Should the IMF be lending? What influences the outcome of negotiations and the design of programmes? Are IMF programmes effective? And why do some countries make prolonged use of IMF resources? For completeness there is also some discussion of the history of the IMF, the extent to which Fund policies have been influenced by advances in economic theory and the Fund’s systemic role. Important organizational and governance issues are also covered briefly. Although primarily adopting an economist’s perspective, the survey reflects the growing recognition that in order to understand the IMF’s operations, economics has to be combined with politics. Examining the IMF is an exercise in applied political economy.

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Paper provided by School of Economics, University of Surrey in its series School of Economics Discussion Papers with number 0407.

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Length: 116 pages
Date of creation:
Date of revision: Jan 2007
Handle: RePEc:sur:surrec:0407
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