International Monetary Fund

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization formed in 1944, headquartered in Washington, D.C., consisting of 189 countries working for international financial stability & cooperation.

The IMF's primary mission is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries and their citizens to transact with each other. ~ IMF Factsheet



The IMF at a Glance (22 March 2019)

  • The International Monetary Fund, or IMF, promotes international financial stability and monetary cooperation. It also facilitates international trade, promotes employment and sustainable economic growth, and helps to reduce global poverty. The IMF is governed by and accountable to its 189 member countries.
  • Founding and mission: The IMF was conceived in July 1944 at the United Nations Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire, United States. The 44 countries in attendance sought to build a framework for international economic cooperation and avoid repeating the competitive currency devaluations that contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The IMF's primary mission is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries and their citizens to transact with each other.
  • Providing loans to member countries that are experiencing actual or potential balance-of-payments problems is a core responsibility of the IMF. Individual country adjustment programs are designed in close cooperation with the IMF and are supported by IMF financing, and ongoing financial support is dependent on effective implementation of these adjustments.
  • The IMF provides technical assistance and training to help member countries build better economic institutions and strengthen related human capacities. This includes, for example, designing and implementing more effective policies for taxation and administration, expenditure management, monetary and exchange rate policies, banking and financial system supervision and regulation, legislative frameworks, and economic statistics.

In Conversation with Kristalina Georgieva on Pursuing a Green Economic Recovery" (16 Sep 2020)


(Full text IMF Communications Department)

  • We know that the changing climate is triggering catastrophic weather events. And we know that unless we act decisively to mitigate the causes and adapt to the changes in the climate, we are going to be in very deep trouble. So, why is this relevant for the IMF? The reason is straightforward. Our mandate is stability, growth, employment and improving in living standards. We are not going to have stability unless we address the climate crisis.
  • We can address the COVID the recovery that is necessary and we can address the climate crisis... We are committed to support our members with analytical work and through the programs we finance for an accelerated transition to a future of low-carbon climate-resilient growth... In the near term, giving priority to green investment in the recovery packages would support job-rich growth. As the economies recover, a gradual increase in carbon prices, well anchored in forward guidance, would provide much needed revenues and create a virtuous circle of adjustments in consumer behavior and new investments.
  • The current crisis is both a risk and an opportunity. It would be short-sighted to go back to the economy of yesterday with its problems of growing inequality. We should look forward and take the opportunity to build a bridge to something better: a world that is fairer and more equitable; greener and more sustainable, smarter and above all more resilient.

Quotes about



  • If it is an element of liberation for Latin America, I believe that it should have demonstrated that. Until now, I have not been aware of any such demonstration. The IMF performs an entirely different function: precisely that of ensuring that capital based outside of Latin America controls all of Latin America.
    • Che Guevara, Regarding the International Monetary Fund, in an interview for Radio Rivadavia of Argentina (3 November 1959)
If it is an element of liberation for Latin America, I believe that it should have demonstrated that... The IMF performs an entirely different function: precisely that of ensuring that capital based outside of Latin America controls all of Latin America. ~ Che Guevara
  • The interests of the IMF represent the big international interests that today seem to be established and concentrated in Wall Street.
    • Che Guevara, Regarding the IMF, in an interview for Radio Rivadavia of Argentina (3 November 1959)


  • The concepts formulated at Bretton Woods and Havana, which brought into being the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, were characterized by exchange, trade and development-financing systems based on the interests of a few dominant countries. They evolved at a time when war between the industrial countries of the West and the socialist world seemed inevitable. As always, economic interests and political interest joined forces to overbear the countries of the Third World. Our development was hampered by economic obstacles; and every time a people resolved to make a bid for emancipation, all possible means of attack were used against it. The systems in question established the rules of the trade game. They closed markets to the products of the Third World through the establishment of tariff and non-tariff barriers, through their own anti-economic and unfair production and distribution structures. They set up harmful practices and norms, fixed freight rates, and thus secured a virtual monopoly of cargo. They also left the Third World countries to watch the advance of science as outsiders and exported to us technical know-how which in many cases was simply an instrument of cultural alienation and of increased dependence. For example, in the international telecommunications system a formidable danger is implicit. Today, 75 percent is in the hands of the developed countries of the West; and of this proportion more than 60 percent is controlled by the big United States corporations, with whose policy we are familiar. I wish to point out that, in less than ten years, our community institutions and our homes will be flooded by information and publicity which will be directed from abroad by means of satellites of high transmission power, and which, unless they are counteracted by timely measures, will serve only to increase our dependence and destroy our cultural values. This danger must be averted by the international community, which should demand that control be exercised by the United Nations.
    • Salvador Allende, April 13, 1972, as quoted in Historic Documents of 1972. Washington, DC: CQ Press.


  • What happens to the political sovereignty of poor countries that do not have the infrastructure that is available in Europe and north America when they are told that, because of the debt crisis, they must open up their economies to multinational capital to do whatever it will, and when the IMF and the World bank tell them that they must cut social expenditure? They are now told that they must pursue free trade policies for farm products. Those policies add up to disaster for poor countries.
    • Jeremy Corbyn Speech in the House of Commons (23 November 1990).


  • When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other Western leaders were starting to plan for the postwar world, they had the recent past very much in their minds in other ways. They wanted to build a robust world order that would prevent the world from sliding, yet again, into another deadly conflict. The interwar years had been unstable ones, partly because the League of Nations had not been strong enough. Key powers, the United States in particular, had not joined or, like Germany and Japan, had dropped out. This time, Roosevelt was determined that the United States should be a member of the new United Nations. He was also prepared to do a good deal to keep the Soviet Union in. What had been a precariously balanced international order was put under further strain in the 1930s by the Great Depression, which encouraged countries to turn inward, throwing up tariff walls to protect their own workers and their own industries. What may have made sense for individual nations was disastrous for the world as a whole. Trade and investment dropped off sharply and national rivalries were exacerbated. To avoid that happening again, the Allies, with the Soviet Union's grudging acquiescence, created the economic institutions known collectively as the Bretton Woods system. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the International Trade Organization (this last did not materialize as the World Trade Organization until much later) were designed to provide stability to the world's economy and to encourage free trade among nations. How much difference these all made to the international order after 1943 will always be a matter of debate, but the world did not get a repeat of the 1930s.


  • A contradiction lies at the very centre of the neoliberal project. On a theoretical level, neoliberalism promises to bring about a purer form of democracy, unsullied by the tyranny of the state. Indeed, this claim serves as the model lodestar for neoliberal ideology - a banner under which it justifies radical market deregulation. But, in practice, it becomes clear that the opposite is true: that neoliberalism tends to undermine democracy and political freedom. More than 40 years of experimentation with neoliberalism shows that it erodes the power of voters to decide the rules that govern the economic systems they inhabit. It allows for the colonization of political forums by elite interests - a process known as political capture - and sets up new political forums, such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO, that preclude democratic representation from the outset. Neoliberalism also tends to undermine national sovereignty, to the point where parliaments of putatively independent nations no longer have power over their own policy decisions, but are governed instead by foreign banks, the US Treasury, trade agreements, and undemocratic international institutions, all of which exercise a kind of invisible, remote-control power.
  • People commonly think of neoliberalism as an ideology that promotes totally free markets, where the state retreats from the scene and abandons all interventionist policies. But if we step back a bit, it becomes clear that the extention of neoliberalism has entailed powerful new forms of state intervention. The creation of a global 'free market' required not only violent coups and dictatorships backed by Western governments, but also the invention of a totalizing global bureaucracy – the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO and bilateral free-trade agreements – with reams of new laws, backed up by the military power of the United States. In other words, an unprecedented expansion of state power was necessary to force countries around the world to liberalize their markets against their will. As the global south has known ever since the Opium Wars in 1842, when British gunboats invaded China in order to knock down China's trade barriers, free trade has never actually been about freedom. On the contrary, as we have seen, free trade has a tendency to gradually undermine national sovereignty and electoral democracy.
    • Jason Hickel, The Divide: Global Inequality from Conquest to Free Markets (2018) p. 218
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) provides funds to governments which have short-term liquidity problems. The World Bank invests in infrastructural projects. Both institutions are based in Washington and are controlled by the US. The head of the World Bank is always an American, and the IMF is always headed by a European, usually French. The IMF provided resources for France and Portugal to resist challenges in their colonies, and without these funds, decolonisation would have begun earlier. In the new Third World states, the World Bank and IMF favoured those states which adopted the American model. They became powerful instruments in the hands of the US and often infl uenced private bank lending as well. When the US left the gold standard in 1971, it became easier for Third World states to access loans. The rapid rise in oil prices after 1973 made more funds available as the oil-rich states sought to invest their new-found wealth, but the Third World fell into the trap of accepting cheap loans and gradually became heavily indebted. US banks were happy to lend to Third World states assuming that Washington would bail them out if these states defaulted on their debts. The newly independent states were often dependent on exporting raw materials, but prices fell as technology advanced. The US aim was to create an international environment which promoted convergence between communism and capitalism, but the opposite occurred. Hence US policy made it more diffi cult for developing states to raise living standards as so much wealth had to be used to service debt. This, inevitably, contributed to the growth of left-wing movements.
    • Martin McCauley, The Cold War 1949-2016 (2017)



See also

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