The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is the intergovernmental organization that oversees the global financial system by following the macroeconomic policies of its member countries; in particular those with an impact on exchange rate and the balance of payments. It is an organization formed with a stated objective of stabilizing international exchange rates and facilitating development through the enforcement of liberalising economic policies on other countries as a condition for loans, restructuring or aid. It also offers loans with varying levels of conditionality, mainly to poorer countries. Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C., United States.
The International Monetary Fund was conceived in July 1944 during the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference. The representatives of 45 governments met in the Mount Washington Hotel in the area of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, with the delegates to the conference agreeing on a framework for international economic cooperation. The IMF was formally organized on December 27, 1945, when the first 29 countries signed its Articles of Agreement. The statutory purposes of the IMF today are the same as when they were formulated in 1943.
The IMF’s influence in the global economy steadily increased as it accumulated more members. The number of IMF member countries has more than quadrupled from the 44 states involved in its establishment, reflecting in particular the attainment of political independence by many developing countries and more recently the collapse of the Soviet bloc. The expansion of the IMF’s membership, together with the changes in the world economy, has required the IMF to adapt in a variety of ways to continue serving its purposes effectively.
At the 2009 G-20 London summit, it was decided that the IMF would require additional financial resources to meet prospective needs of its member countries during the ongoing global financial crisis. As part of that decision, the G-20 leaders pledged to increase the IMF’s supplemental cash tenfold to $500 billion, and to allocate to member countries another $250 billion via Special Drawing Rights.
On October 23, 2010, the Ministers of Finance of G-20, governing most of the IMF member quotas, agreed to reform IMF and shift about 6% of the voting shares to major developing nations and countries with emerging markets.
The role of the Bretton Woods institutions has been controversial since the late Cold War period, due to claims that the IMF policy makers supported military dictatorships friendly to American and European corporations and other anti-communist regimes. Critics also claim that the IMF is generally apathetic or hostile to their views of human rights, and labour rights. The controversy has helped spark the Anti-globalization movement. Arguments in favour of the IMF say that economic stability is a precursor to democracy; however, critics highlight various examples in which democratized countries fell after receiving IMF loans.
Major decisions require an 85% supermajority. The United States with a 16.74% voting share has always been the only country able to block a supermajority on its own.