The IMF at a Glance

The IMF's responsibilities: The IMF's primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other. The Fund's mandate was updated in 2012 to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.

Our Work

The IMF’s fundamental mission is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system. It does so in three ways: keeping track of the global economy and the economies of member countries; lending to countries with balance of payments difficulties; and giving practical help to members.

Surveillance

The IMF oversees the international monetary system and monitors the economic and financial policies of its 189 member countries. As part of this process, which takes place both at the global level and in individual countries, the IMF highlights possible risks to stability and advises on needed policy adjustments.

Learn how the IMF helped Vietnam.

Lending

The IMF provides loans to member countries experiencing actual or potential balance of payments problems to help them rebuild their international reserves, stabilize their currencies, continue paying for imports, and restore conditions for strong economic growth, while correcting underlying problems.

Capacity Development

The IMF works with governments around the world to modernize their economic policies and institutions, and train their people. This helps countries strengthen their economy, improve growth and create jobs.

Organization & Finances

The IMF has a management team and 17 departments that carry out its country, policy, analytical, and technical work. One department is charged with managing the IMF’s resources. This section also explains where the IMF gets its resources and how they are used.

Management

The IMF has a Managing Director, who is head of the staff and Chairperson of the Executive Board. The Managing Director is appointed by the Executive Board for a renewable term of five years and is assisted by a First Deputy Managing Director and three Deputy Managing Directors.

Staff

The IMF’s employees come from all over the world; they are responsible to the IMF and not to the authorities of the countries of which they are citizens. The IMF staff is organized mainly into area; functional; and information, liaison, and support responsibilities.

IMF Resources

Most resources for IMF loans are provided by member countries, primarily through their payment of quotas.

Quotas

Quota subscriptions are a central component of the IMF’s financial resources. Each member country of the IMF is assigned a quota, based broadly on its relative position in the world economy.

Special Drawing Rights (SDR)

The SDR is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries’ official reserves.

Gold

Gold remains an important asset in the reserve holdings of several countries, and the IMF is still one of the world’s largest official holders of gold.

Borrowing Arrangements

While quota subscriptions of member countries are the IMF's main source of financing, the Fund can supplement its quota resources through borrowing if it believes that they might fall short of members' needs.

Governance

Governance Structure

The IMF has evolved along with the global economy throughout its 70-year history, allowing the organization to retain a central role within the international financial architecture.

Country Representation

Unlike the General Assembly of the United Nations, where each country has one vote, decision making at the IMF was designed to reflect the relative positions of its member countries in the global economy. The IMF continues to undertake reforms to ensure that its governance structure adequately reflects fundamental changes taking place in the world economy.

Accountability

Created in 1945, the IMF is governed by and accountable to the 189 countries that make up its near-global membership. Decision making at the IMF was designed to reflect the relative positions of its member countries in the global economy.

Transparency

The IMF has policies in place to ensure that meaningful and accurate information—both about its own role in the global economy and the economies of its member countries—is provided in real time to its global audiences.

Corporate Giving

The IMF Giving Together campaign guides the IMF's humanitarian and community outreach efforts.

History

Why the IMF was created and how it works
The IMF, also known as the Fund, was conceived at a UN conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, in July 1944. The 44 countries at that conference sought to build a framework for economic cooperation to avoid a repetition of the competitive devaluations that had contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The IMF has played a part in shaping the global economy since the end of World War II.

Cooperation and Reconstruction (1944–71)

As the Second World War ends, the job of rebuilding national economies begins. The IMF is charged with overseeing the international monetary system to ensure exchange rate stability and encouraging members to eliminate exchange restrictions that hinder trade.
Watch video

The End of the Bretton Woods System (1972–81)

After the system of fixed exchange rates collapses in 1971, countries are free to choose their exchange arrangement. Oil shocks occur in 1973–74 and 1979, and the IMF steps in to help countries deal with the consequences.

Debt and Painful Reforms (1982–89)

The oil shocks lead to an international debt crisis, and the IMF assists in coordinating the global response.

Societal Change for Eastern Europe and Asian Upheaval (1990–2004)

The IMF plays a central role in helping the countries of the former Soviet bloc transition from central planning to market-driven economies.

Globalization and the Crisis (2005 - present)

The implications of the continued rise of capital flows for economic policy and the stability of the international financial system are still not entirely clear. The current credit crisis and the food and oil price shock are clear signs that new challenges for the IMF are waiting just around the corner.