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International Monetary Fund

Susan Hagood Lee


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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is a multilateral financial organization that provides short-term lending to governments, promotes free trade and fiscal austerity policies, and collects financial data on the world economy. Its 186 member states agree to follow fiscal and monetary policies conducive to international financial stability and to allow IMF supervision of their national policy regimes. IMF membership is a precondition for membership in its sister organization, the World Bank, the world's leading source of development funding, and IMF loans typically open access to bilateral and commercial loans. The IMF thus serves as gatekeeper to the international financial system. IMF loans typically carry policy conditions such as reductions in government spending, lower trade barriers, elimination of subsidies, and higher interest rates. Critics have charged that these policies hurt the poor, precipitate financial crises, and protect the interests of western financial institutions at the expense of impoverished nations. The IMF originated in the 1944 conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire convened to stabilize the world's economy following the end of World War II. The western allies wanted to avoid the catastrophic financial turmoil following World War I when nations engaged in competitive currency devaluations to gain export advantages. The strategy backfired and world ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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