Set the IMF Free

The IMF is back in business, as now more and more countries need balance-of-payment support, and as the global monetary system needs a body to oversee its overall stability. The IMF is the only candidate for this task, but experience has shown that the Fund can fulfill this role only if its governance is reformed.

BRUSSELS – The International Monetary Fund is back in business. During the bubble years, neither its advice nor its money seemed to be needed. But now more and more countries need balance-of-payments support, and there is general agreement that the global monetary system needs a body to oversee its overall stability. The IMF is the only candidate for this task, but experience has shown that the Fund can fulfill this role only if its governance is reformed.

Granting balance-of-payments support has important fiscal implications, and it is natural that there should be continuing close oversight by those who ultimately provide the capital – the IMF’s member states.

But looking after the stability of the global financial system, including the assessment of exchange-rate policies and global payment imbalances, is a different responsibility. For these analytical functions, there is no need for close oversight. On the contrary, independence and professional expertise should be decisive. Thus, a key change should be to distinguish between the IMF’s financial measures and its analytical functions, especially the surveillance of exchange rates and other sources of global financial risk.

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