International Monetary Fund

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What we do

Video (1:14): How the IMF Works

Highlights of this section:

With its near-global membership of 188 countries, the IMF is uniquely placed to help member governments take advantage of the opportunities—and manage the challenges—posed by globalization and economic development more generally. The IMF tracks global economic trends and performance, alerts its member countries when it sees problems on the horizon, provides a forum for policy dialogue, and passes on know-how to governments on how to tackle economic difficulties.

The IMF provides policy advice and financing to members in economic difficulties and also works with developing nations to help them achieve macroeconomic stability and reduce poverty.

Marked by massive movements of capital and abrupt shifts in comparative advantage, globalization affects countries' policy choices in many areas, including labor, trade, and tax policies. Helping a country benefit from globalization while avoiding potential downsides is an important task for the IMF. The global economic crisis has highlighted just how interconnected countries have become in today’s world economy.

Key IMF activities

The IMF supports its membership by providing

  • policy advice to governments and central banks based on analysis of economic trends and cross-country experiences;
  • research, statistics, forecasts, and analysis based on tracking of global, regional, and individual economies and markets;
  • loans to help countries overcome economic difficulties;
  • concessional loans to help fight poverty in developing countries; and
  • technical assistance and training to help countries improve the management of their economies.

Original aims

The IMF was founded more than 60 years ago toward the end of World War II (see History). The founders aimed to build a framework for economic cooperation that would avoid a repetition of the disastrous economic policies that had contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s and the global conflict that followed.

Since then the world has changed dramatically, bringing extensive prosperity and lifting millions out of poverty, especially in Asia. In many ways the IMF's main purpose—to provide the global public good of financial stability—is the same today as it was when the organization was established. More specifically, the IMF continues to

  • provide a forum for cooperation on international monetary problems
  • facilitate the growth of international trade, thus promoting job creation, economic growth, and poverty reduction;
  • promote exchange rate stability and an open system of international payments; and
  • lend countries foreign exchange when needed, on a temporary basis and under adequate safeguards, to help them address balance of payments problems.

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Video (11:38). In this short film, we hear about the IMF and its role during the global economic crisis that brought the world economy to its knees.

An adapting IMF

The IMF has evolved along with the global economy throughout its 65-year history, allowing the organization to retain its central role within the international financial architecture

As the world economy struggles to restore growth and jobs after the worst crisis since the Great Depression, the IMF has emerged as a very different institution. During the crisis, it mobilized on many fronts to support its member countries. It increased its lending, used its cross-country experience to advise on policy solutions, supported global policy coordination, and reformed the way it makes decisions. The result is an institution that is more in tune with the needs of its 188 member countries.