Making the IMF and World Bank Work for the Poor

To remain relevant, the IMF and the World Bank must resist calls to withdraw from emerging countries and engage them more, not less. These countries cannot afford to "go it alone" – and the rest of the world cannot afford to let them try.

The World Bank has long proclaimed its dream of “a world free from poverty.” Likewise, the International Monetary Fund may arguably desire “a world free from financial crisis.” These are crucial and daunting objectives, but they are too narrow for the twenty-first century. To remain relevant, the Bretton Woods institutions must fully adapt to the needs of the world’s rapidly emerging countries, and they can begin that process at this spring’s IMF-World Bank meetings in Washington.

As many now acknowledge, the IMF should look beyond managing financial crises and start addressing non-cooperative economic behaviors – notably in the monetary field. The international community would gain from the IMF’s becoming a center of joint-monitoring and permanent dialogue among the world’s rich, poor and emerging nations. But for that to happen, the latter two need a greater say.

Fortunately, such reform is at last on the agenda. Last autumn’s IMF-World Bank meetings approved an increase in voting quotas for some of the most under-represented emerging economies: China, Mexico, South Korea, and Turkey. A second round of adjustment will need to involve other fast-paced economies without crushing the voice of the poorest.

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