Effectiveness of IMF Lending Programs

May 2019

The IMF is currently lending close to $200 billion to over 35 countries, notably: Argentina, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, Ukraine — and 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In recent years, the IMF has helped to address financial crises and vulnerabilities in countries around the world, including Angola, Barbados, Colombia, Malawi, Morocco and Sierra Leone.

In the years following the Global Financial Crisis, the IMF provided access to $540 billion to nearly 90 countries, including financing to Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia and Portugal, and precautionary arrangements to Colombia, Mexico and Poland. The Fund revamped its lending toolkit to better serve its members and extended zero-interest loans to help low-income countries. This assistance helped contain the impact of the crisis and enabled recovery of the global economy. 

The IMF has provided vital financial assistance around the world throughout its 75-year history. This includes:

• Reconstructing the international payments system post-World War II
• Assisting newly-independent African nations in the 1960s
• Supporting economies navigate oil shocks in the 1970s
• Helping Former Soviet Union nations transition to market-based economies
• Providing financial assistance to Mexico, Turkey, and key emerging market countries in Asia in the capital flow crises of the 1990s
• Catalyzing and providing multilateral debt relief to over 30 heavily indebted and low-income countries in the late 1990s/2000s
• Supporting major economies, particularly in Europe, following the Global Financial Crisis
• Bringing timely financial support to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to fight the 2015 Ebola outbreak

How does IMF financing help countries?

• It serves as a shock absorber, enabling countries to meet immediate financial needs and cushion economic distress.
• It acts a catalyst for private-sector investments and for financial support from international financial institutions – sending a strong signal that underlying issues that led to the crisis can be resolved through reforms.
• It protects and often increases social spending, notably on health – this is especially so for low-income countries.
• It promotes prudent macroeconomic policies that support financial stability and growth.


 IMF Lending: Country Case Studies


Cyprus approached the IMF for a three-year lending arrangement of about €1 billion with two goals: putting the banking sector on a sound footing and returning public finances to a sustainable path.

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In early 2015, Ghana turned to the IMF for a $918 million loan to help stabilize the economy. IMF advisors, working with the Ghanaian government, developed a three-part program.

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The IMF-supported program of $2.1 billion remains among the largest relative to the size of the economy—18 percent of Iceland’s GDP, or 1,190 percent of Iceland’s quota in the IMF.

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In November 2010, the Irish government sought help from the IMF and the European Union, which together provided loans totaling €67.5 billion—equal to 40 percent of Ireland’s economy. 

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Jamaica once again turned to the IMF in spring 2013 for financial support. Jamaica needed a second debt exchange and a primary surplus of 7.5 percent of GDP to help stabilize the economy and address long-standing structural challenges. 

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The agreement between Portugal and its international partners extended financial assistance worth €78 billion ($116 billion; £70 billion)—of which one-third was committed by the IMF. The deal was described by the country’s then caretaker prime minister as “a good agreement that defends Portugal.”  

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When the three-year precautionary Stand-By Arrangement was approved in 2015, Serbia’s economy faced large fiscal imbalances and protracted structural challenges.

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