The International Monetary Fund

The International Monetary Fund

Distinguishing Reality from Rhetoric

Graham Bird and Dane Rowlands

There is no shortage of opinion about the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Some see it as the agent of austerity, being manipulated by wealthy nations and forcing poorer countries to pursue economic policies that suppress growth and development. A sharply contrasting view regards it as bailing out such countries with large amounts of soft finance, allowing them to avoid necessary adjustment. The challenge is to evaluate the alternative arguments and to distinguish reality from rhetoric. In this book, the authors undertake a careful and detailed empirical analysis of the underlying issues, covering participation in IMF programs, their implementation and effects on economic growth, and on the willingness of international capital markets to lend.

Chapter 2: IMF quotas

Graham Bird and Dane Rowlands

Subjects: economics and finance, financial economics and regulation, international economics, politics and public policy, international relations


The International Monetary Fund’s structure and rules are based on the quota system that was constructed when the Fund was set up in 1946. Quotas affect contributions and resource availability at the Fund, access to resources, the distribution of Special Drawing Rights, and voting rights. Despite periodic reviews and modifications, the quota system has gradually been eroded and undermined. The fundamental problem is that a single system is attempting to serve four separate and incompatible functions. We illustrate how this erosion has taken place, and how an unreformed quota system will compromise the future operations of the IMF and the international monetary and financial system. Although the difficulties associated with reforming quotas are myriad and complex, the legacy of an unreformed quota system may be profoundly undesirable. We argue that a refined IMF structure must accommodate a clearer separation of a member’s contributions to the IMF, its access to IMF resources, and its voting rights at the institution.

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