Each member country's quota broadly reflects the size of its economy: the larger a country's economy in terms of output and the larger and more variable its trade, the larger its quota tends to be. For example, the world's biggest economy, the United States, has the largest quota in the IMF.
Quotas, together with the equal number of basic votes each member has, determine countries' voting power. They also help determine how much countries can borrow from the IMF and their share in allocations of special drawing rights or SDRs (the reserve currency created by the IMF in 1969).
Countries pay 25 percent of their quota subscriptions in SDRs or major currencies, such as U.S. dollars, euros, pounds sterling, or Japanese yen. They pay the remaining 75 percent in their own currencies. The IMF's lending resources come mainly from the money that countries pay as these quota subscriptions when they become members.
Quotas are normally reviewed every five years and can be increased when deemed necessary by the Board of Governors. The 14th General Review of Quotas was completed two years ahead of the original schedule in December 2010, with a decision to double the IMF's quota resources to SDR 476.8 billion.
A review of the formula currently used to determine quotas, which formed the basis to work from during the 14th General Review, will be completed by January 2013. Completion of the 15th General Review of Quotas will be brought forward by about two years to January 2014.
In recent years, the IMF began a number of reforms related to rebalancing members' quotas to ensure they continue to broadly reflect countries' relative size in the world economy.
In 2011, the number of basic votes was nearly tripled, which helped to ensure poorer countries maintained a say in running the institution.
Once they take effect, a further set of quota and voice reforms will produce a shift of 6 percent of quota shares to the dynamic emerging market and developing countries. This will result in a significant shift in the representation of these countries in IMF decision making.