How to Reform the IMF Now

WASHINGTON, DC – More than four years have passed since an overwhelming majority of the membership of the International Monetary Fund agreed to a package of reforms that would double the organization’s resources and reorganize its governing structure in favor of developing countries. But adopting the reforms requires approval by the IMF’s member countries; and, though the United States was among those that voted in favor of the measure, President Barack Obama has been unable to secure Congressional approval. The time has come to consider alternative methods for moving the reforms forward.

The delay by the US represents a huge setback for the IMF. It stands in the way of a restructuring of its decision-making process that would better reflect developing countries’ growing importance and dynamism. Furthermore, with the reforms in limbo, the IMF has been forced to depend largely on loans from its members, rather than the permanent resources called for by the new measures. These loans, meant as a temporary bridge before the reforms entered into effect, need to be reaffirmed every six months.

In our view, the best way forward would be to decouple the part of the reforms that requires ratification by the US Congress from the rest of the package. Only one major element – the decision to move toward an all-elected Executive Board – requires an amendment to the IMF’s Articles of Agreement and thus congressional approval.

The other major element of the reform package is an increase and rebalancing of the quotas that determine each country’s voting power and financial obligation. This change would double the IMF’s resources and provide greater voting power to developing countries. Congress would still need to ratify the measure before the US’s own quota increased, but its approval would not be required for this part of the reform package to take effect for other countries.