The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Qualitative Research Essay

Abstract

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are international organisations created to provide financial aid, and enhance the structures of international payment systems in the world markets. In the year 1944, the two organisations began their operation following the signing of the Articles of Agreement by the member states. During its inception period, the IMF consisted of 45 members.

The two institutions share similar attributes in that they were created at the same time, are based in the US, and have analogous Articles of Agreement. However, the major distinction between the two institutions is that the World Bank is largely owned by the American citizens, while the IMF is largely owned by the European citizens.

According to the economists, the two organisations have great influence on global economic policies and strategies. Their authority over economic policies has contributed to the strengthening of the macroeconomic frameworks, reduction in sector deficits, and decline in public debt accumulations among the member states.

Contrary to what economists assert, sceptics believe that the two international organisations have acted beyond the powers given to them in their Articles of Agreement (Antonio 34). Over time, the World Bank and the IMF have redefined their mandates as financial institutions. On this background, this article seeks to explore the validity of these criticisms by analysing the policies and actions of the two organisations.

Background

World Bank

Before a country becomes a member of the World Bank, it must subscribe to the bank’s shares. Over time, the bank has majored on loan operations. Loans are awarded to banks, public institutions, and private organisations within their member states’ jurisdictions. In case a borrower is from a non-member state, the borrower’s loan needs to be guaranteed by a member state.

In accordance with the banks Articles of Agreement, all lending operations should be preceded by a guarantee agreement from member states. Before the year 1968, the bank was actively engaged in lending loans geared towards project developments.

However, when the Basic Needs approach was adopted, under the leadership of Robert McNamara, the bank focused its operation on tackling poverty in the developing countries. Similarly, the bank started to offer assistance in development projects in developing countries by overseeing Structural Adjustment Loan (SAL) programs (Suvedī 78).

Through these programs, the bank aims to change the national economic policies among the member states. After the arrangement of the SAL, funds are distributed in a systematic manner over time according to the country’s ability to push for changes in specific policy areas. Notably, the bank needs their member states to change their economic policies in line with their requirements.

This condition requires member states to reform their industrial, agricultural, financial, export and import policies. Through these measures, the countries have to share and sometimes relinquish their economic decisions to the World Bank. By doing so, the World Bank has interfered with the member states’ sovereignty contrary to the Articles of Agreement.

Similarly, by interfering with its member state public administration apparatus, labour regulations, and public investment policies, the bank has acted beyond the powers given to them in their Articles of Agreement by compromising on the member state’s sovereignty.

IMF

The IMF allows its member states to contribute to the bank’s deposits. Through this contribution, each member state earns interest, quota, depending on its economy. According to the IMF regulations, the quotas consist of five tranches accessed in times of financial need. The member states have automatic access over one of the five tranches. However, other tranches are accessed under certain conditions and arrangements.

Among these arrangements are Stand-By Arrangements, Poverty Reduction Arrangements, Growth Facility Arrangements, and Extended Fund Facility Arrangements. These arrangements and conditions were incorporated to ensure that the bank resources meet the member states’ goals of resolving balance of payment challenges in accordance with the banks Articles of Agreement.

Under these conditions, the bank can only disburse its money to the borrower on a piecemeal basis. Similarly, the loans can be accredited when the borrowing state meets certain economic and financial policies required by the bank. Through these acts, critics argue that international organisations have not only interfered with the member states sovereignty but also limited their ability to create their own economic and financial policies.

Criticisms

Following the current state of the world economy, the two institutions have been heavily criticised for the ever-increasing gap between the poor nations and the rich nations. Critics argue that the two organisations have acted beyond the powers given to them in their Articles of Agreement. Currently, more than 400 organisations and NGOs have ganged up to call for the restriction and regulation of the two institutions (Lowenfeld 23).

According to these groups, the two institutions lack the expertise to tackle social and environmental challenges affecting each specific country. As such, the organisations should formulate specific policies and measures to be used in each country.

In addition, these groups argue that the IMF has only focused on rectifying short-term balances of payment challenges damaging the social fabric of several countries, rather than helping them as the Articles of Agreement assert.

Globally, it is widely argued that the two international banks’ policies have worsened the global economic and financial situations. According to critics, the organisations’ policies have not only failed, but also worsened the economic conditions in the borrowing countries. A similar criticism claims that even in countries where the two organisations have led to the enhancement in macro-economic indicators, social disparities have been eminent.

Notably the use of one-size-fits all approach and restrictions of government involvements in their policies have resulted in a vicious cycle of stagnation. These approaches have seen the debtor countries reduce the public expenditure in several sectors including health, education, and other social services.

In the recent past, more debtors have had to privatise their state firms, limit credit lending, and reform their tax policies to meet the requirements stipulated by the two organisations (Schrijver 56). Through these measures, the organisations have triggered conflicts in some nations. For instance, in the year 2000, the World Bank forced the Bolivian government to privatize its water service system.

They had to abide by the World Bank’s directive to qualify for the 25 million US dollars they had requested for from the institution. Through this move, the government of Bolivia had to reorganise its resource management systems to suit the foreign interests rather than the country’s interests. These initiatives later sparked numerous protests and demonstrations from the country’s citizens.

On the other hand, critics have criticised the two organisations for their lack of transparency and democracy in their affairs. Though the institutions claim that they are transparent, their hypocrisy is evidenced every time they carry out their activities in seclusion.

Critics argue that the organisations should exercise transparent governance because as they require from their debtors. The IMF has been heavily criticised by sceptics for its lack of transparency in most of its acts. Sceptics argue that before IMF enters into an agreement with any country, they already have decided on the policy proposals thus limiting the country’s ability to adjust on these proposals.

Through these acts, the IMF does not only contradict its governance procedures as stipulated in the Articles of Agreement, but also perpetuates unresponsive policies leading to severe economic condition in debtor countries (Qureshi 67).

Criticisms on the democratic deficit bases their principles on the fact that the funds lend from these institutions are provided by the G-7 member states. According to the critics, it is wrong for the two institutions to impose inappropriate policies on countries that have no ability to contribute to the decision processes in the two organisations.

Similarly, the restrictions of the debtor countries’ participation in decision-making processes amount to violation of their rights to govern their country directly and indirectly. In addition, the citizens of the debtor countries have limited mechanisms to force the two organisations to be accountable in their acts.

Analysis

The World Bank’s and the IMF’s articles of the agreement are clearly outlined, and any acts by these organisations not covered in the Articles of Agreement are considered ultra vires. Thus, the functions of the two institutions must be in accordance with the Articles of Agreement. In the recent past, the two organisations have been heavily criticised for interfering with political and social affairs of their member states.

According to article 10, of the World Bank Articles of Agreement, the bank and its personnel are prohibited from interfering with political affairs of their member states (Simon & Bryan 34). As such, the articles assert that political individuals in the member state should not influence the bank’s decision.

This implies that the bank should focus on economic affairs rather than political affairs of member states when formulating their policies. As emphasised in their Articles of Agreement, the bank should uphold the political sovereignty of its member states. Similarly, the IMF’s Articles of Agreement prohibit the organisation from participating in political interference among the member states.

From the stipulations outlined above, it is apparent that the international lending institutions embrace the same view on political actions in member states. Contrary to this rule, these organisations are accused to be working under the preference of the United States and other industrialized countries. These countries are alleged to be providing structural constraints within which the IMF and the World Bank work.

Beyond these constraints set by the industrialised nations, activities of the IMF and the World Bank are subjective to professional economists whose intentions are in accordance with particular institutional environments. Owing to this, the IMF and the World Bank prescriptions have been accused of aiding political pressures and institutional constraints from their stakeholders’ countries.

Since their inceptions, corruption has been a great concern for the two organisations. The organisation has condemned on the vice recognising as a major challenge in the developing countries. In the affected countries, corruption has drained their national resources and negatively affected their economy.

The organisations have been advocating for the formation of anticorruption bodies in the affected member states to thwart the practice. Challenges arise when the affected member state borrows money from the international organisations. According to their Articles of Agreements, the institutions are supposed to ensure that the money borrowed is used in the intended purpose.

In this regard, the organisations cannot separate themselves from the issues of corruption in the affected countries. However, their involvements must be in accordance with the Articles of Agreement. Through this, they are required to advise, encourage, and support the affected countries in fighting corruption only without being involved in their political affairs.

However, over the years, the World Bank and the IMF have formulated policies that have deprived the lawfully governments’ abilities to create their own economic policies and programs. Though the two organisations have refuted the claims, these acts are eminent from the way they distribute their loans to various governments.

Several literatures have focused on how the IMF and World Bank have trampled on the national sovereignty of its member states. These literatures assert that the institutions have compromised on the national sovereignty of the member states through imposing conditionality on their loans.

Remarkably, international organisations including the World Bank and the IMF have imposed western cultural values on emerging economies disregarding on their autonomy. According to Graham Bird, when countries turn to IMF for fiscal assistance they have to aware that they are losing their national sovereignty over economic policy to the institution.

Another writer, Catherine H. Lee, believes that the IMF and the World Bank have greatly interfered with the internal affairs of developing member states.

Thus, it is a fact that the two international organisations are interfering with the political affairs of their member states indirectly through their conditionality arrangement. By doing so, critics’ allegations that the organisations are acting contrary to the powers bestowed to them by the Articles of Agreement are confirmed.

Over the last decade, the two organisations have evolved immensely astonishing the critics and their founders. Their expansion has come to be referred to as economic creep by the sceptics. Between the two organisations, the IMF has been greatly criticised due to its dramatic expansion.

During its inception, the IMF was only mandated to provide fiscal assistance and assist countries manage their balance of payment challenges. However, over time the institution has expanded its boundaries to include development and poverty eradication programs. Through these initiatives, the IMF has acted contrary to its Articles of Agreement since these acts were not envisioned in the original articles.

Those against this move argue that it is illegal for the institution to engage itself in activities meant for other organs of the UN agencies. Through these changes, conditionality measures have been introduced.

Over time, these conditionality measures have expanded to oversee adjustment of national currencies. In the recent past, the measures have expanded to include trade liberalization, bankruptcy legislation, poverty eradication measures, anti terrorism measures, and bankruptcy legislations.

IMF and ultra vires acts

Through their massive expansion, the IMF has been accused of overstepping its mandate outlined in the Articles of Agreement. The IMF has compromised its original mandate of facilitating payment adjustments through these dramatic expansions. If the organisation had stuck to its original mandate, it could have generated little business.

However, by redefining its roles to meet with the current economic challenges, the institution has had to deal with issues tackled by the multilateral development banks leading to the conflict of interests. For instance, the IMF’s shift to finance the long-term balance of payment had long been initiated by the World Bank.

The World Bank had tried to tackle the issue before they changed their mandate to finance projects aimed at eradicating poverty. Equally, the IMF has overstepped its mandate by availing its funds to all developing countries.

As stated in the Articles of Agreement, the IMF’s balance of payment support is limited to low income developing countries. Through these acts, the IMF has denied some countries with chronic payments deficits chances to revive their situations.

In its attempt to enhance the development and poverty alleviation programs in the developing countries, IMF strategies and structural conditionality have covered all areas related to development policy. Through this act, the organisation has not only acted contrary to the Articles of Agreement, but also created numerous problems in development policy. It is alleged that the institution is not competent to tackle such complex issues.

Those opposed to this move argue that there are serious risks in relinquishing development matters to international organisations mandated to tackle short-term financial challenges. It is a fact that the IMF’s involvement in poverty reduction programs may yield fruits; however, this does not imply that that the organisation is acting in accordance with the Articles of Agreement by working in such areas.

The IMF should realise that there are other recognised institutions, with expertise and resources, mandated to work in such areas. In this regard, the IMF should stop with immediate effect duplicating other institutional projects, and rather cooperate and coordinate development projects directed by these institutions.

The IMF and the World Bank have refuted claims that they are duplicating their functions. The two organisations argue that they are closely working together to coordinate their programs and to minimise overlap. However, reality indicates that indeed the two organisations are duplicating their roles contrary to their Articles of Agreement.

Through these acts, opponents have called the two organisations to merge their roles. Similarly, the two organisations leadership has been accused of being undemocratic. The voting rights in the two institutions are not allocated on the principles of democracy. As such, most of their votes are allocated to wealthy industrialized nations. This implies that the more money a country has the more votes they earn from the two organisations.

Allegations against the IMF in Asia

In Asia, IMF’s and the World Bank strategies in the past have conflicted with their Articles of Agreement. During the Asian crisis, Indonesia was adversely affected by the economic challenges due to poor policies and strategies, which were implemented by the IMF to reverse on the situation. During this period, 1997 to 1998, the Indonesian currency lost its value by 83% owing to forceful interactions of politics and economics policies.

As a result, Indonesia’s economic imbalances were rated among the worst in Asia. In their attempt to reverse on these situations, the IMF had to step in and help the country from further economic plunders. Through this, the IMF advised the Indonesian government to reduce on their expenditure, cut down expenditure on social services, privatise its state firms, and adopt appropriate fiscal policies.

Before the country could be funded, to bail its state institution out of the fiscal challenges, they had to meet IMF’s conditions. Later on the IMF’s program in the country led to several problems. The structure of the program adopted was so complex that the country could not incorporate. Similarly, the provisions provided by the IMF strained the Indonesian government’s ability to ease its social pressures.

On the other hand, restructuring led to a rapid decline in the economy’s expansion raising the level of public frustration. During the crisis, the Indonesian market confidence was greatly affected by the financial catastrophe.

Under the IMF’s program, the country was prohibited from bailing out banks and private companies that succumbed to the crisis. As a result, Indonesian businesses suffered.

Later on when the government implemented tight monetary policies under directives from the IMF and the World Bank, the country witnessed the closure of several unprofitable banks, reduction in budgetary spending, and the failure of extended companies. Because of these, the IMF realised that their acts were going to trigger social tension.

To prevent such occurrence, the IMF approved that under no circumstances could the elites be exempted from the sternness. Through this move, the IMF moved in to fight corruption to restore market confidence in the country. Critics argue that the IMF and the World Bank initiatives during the crisis were out of their power as stated out in their Articles of Agreement.

The IMF’s structural reforms in the short term had negative implications on the country’s economy. As such, when Indonesia adopted these structural reforms in accordance with the IMF’s directive, they increased their country’s future indebtedness.

Economists assert that if the country could have used $10 billion IMF standby finance during the crisis, the country’s debt stock could have increased by 70%. According to the economists, these figures could have been extremely high, and could have led to further economic crises such as defaults in the long-term foreign debt payment.

Another challenge experienced in Indonesia during the crises was that the public was under-informed on the roles of the IMF during the crises. According to economic analysts, the challenges in Asia at the time were unique. In this respect, the analyst believed that the IMF deployed the wrong policies and strategies worsening the situation.

This implies that, the budget cutting, credit tightening and emergency bank closures were inappropriate. Therefore, the banking sector should have been strengthened by the government and the IMF rather than enhancing their hasty closures. Through this, the IMF and the Indonesian government should have advised the weaker banks to merge with the stronger banks and encourage them to raise their capital bases.

Economic crisis in Russia

The Russian economic crises of the year 1988 proved that international lending organisations interfere with economic, social, and political activities of their member states. By examining, the IMF’s involvement in Russia for the last decade, we can affirm this allegation. The institution has not only interfered with the country’s political structures, but also objected the second phase of reforms desired by the Russian citizens.

From the beginning of their involvement in Russia, the IMF’s interests were driven by the western interest and aspirations in the region. As such, the institution was not competent to tackle the issues faced by the Russians during the economic crisis. It is alleged that the institution was largely preferred over the EU since it solved the country’s crisis in accordance to the US’ wishes.

At the same time, the US interest in the region promoted its overall rating. Similarly, by engaging itself in the Russian economic crisis, the IMF saw this as an opportunity to take a lead in policy alteration economies.

Before the crisis, the institution was actively engaged in tackling balance of payment challenges in member states. Based on these allegations, the IMF overstepped its mandate right from the time it began its involvements in Russia.

As stated above, several challenges emerged from the institutions involvements in the country. During this period, the IMF had little experience of tackling long-term economic issues since this mandate was not stipulated in their Articles of Agreement. In this regard, the institution was not competent enough to enhance the country’s transition from communism to capitalism.

When Russian government was faced with an economic crisis in the late 1980s, they applied for membership in the IMF. Its membership was fully granted in the year 1992. Following this, the institution funded the country’s government in two phases before stopping. Critics assert that although the IMF allowed the country to become part of its members, the institution was slow in responding to the country’s needs.

According to the critics, the slowness to respond implied that the organisation was acting under the policies and interests of the Western countries who are the major shareholders. Through this act, the IMF acted above its powers stipulated in the Articles of Agreement by being influenced by political interests.

Similarly, the institution is criticised for its steps in advising the Russian government to liberalise their markets and privatise their state firms contrary to the Russians wishes. Through this move, several protests and demonstrations were witnessed through Russia.

Similarly, the Russian parliament was involved in objecting the government’s directive. According to the demonstrators, the government had made a wrong decision by accepting foreign assistance in the management of their economic crisis. Those opposed to the move were fully aware that international organisation participations in their country would compromise on their national sovereignty.

Allegations against the World Bank

Having been in the lending business for more than five decades, the World Bank is a major lending institution in its field. The bank provides more than $20 billion annually to its borrowers. Its stakeholders through a board of directors control the bank. During its inception, the bank was mandated to alleviate poverty through funding long-term development projects.

Over time, the bank has expanded its roles and become more bureaucratic, more inwardly focused, and more averse to criticisms. Through this initiative, the bank has fostered a lending culture disregarding the risks of failure. Similarly, its management team has lied to the public on its lending operations, fostering an illusion that the institution is aimed at enhancing world developments.

Because of these, the sceptics have condemned the World Bank for acting above its mandate. Although the organisation management teams are responsible for the bank’s success, they develop and implement economic policies as they are pleased disregarding the Articles of Agreement. It is alleged that the bank’s management teams are the gods of lending.

This implies that they have disregarded the terms stated out in the article of agreement by leading the bank to perform its unintended missions and ignoring their professional obligations. Similarly, it is alleged that the bank is cooperating with some of the third world government officials to fund white elephant projects contrary to the best interest of the citizens in these developing nations.

Critics argue that the bank pretends to be lending their funds for noble initiatives in the third world countries, while the borrowers pretend they will put the funds in the noble initiatives. Through these illegal acts, some of the bank’s staff and borrowers’ leaders have been able to serve their own interests at the expense of the poverty-stricken citizens.

Notably, the World Bank’s initiatives relating to governance and anticorruption have attracted numerous criticisms. In the late 1990s, the World Bank and the IMF activities in the developing world were being faced with numerous challenges owing to rampant cases of corruption in the countries. After decades of lending, the bank realized that the borrowers were losing their borrowed money through corruption.

The bank attempted to stop the prevalence of corruption through investigations, identification, and exposure of fraud committed against Bank projects. Through these acts, it depicted an appropriate step towards fostering accountability and transparency in their projects, which was against the provision stipulated in their Articles of Agreement.

After a futile attempt to stop corruption cases, the World Bank management later realised that they had overstepped their mandate, something that the critics could use against them, the bank changed its focus on fighting corruption.

The bank then shifted from exposing corruption to studying it. Critics argue that the shift of focus has worked well, in that it has allowed them to claim leadership in fighting corruption whilst authorising them to continue funding the corrupt governments.

Through these acts, it is clear that the World Bank and the corrupt governments continue to plunder billions of dollars through white elephant projects each year. Although the World Bank claims that it is making positive steps towards ensuring that their funds meets the intended purposes, they should realise that the gap between the poor and the rich in the developing countries has been on the increase.

By acknowledging this fact, the World Bank should similarly acknowledge that by the institution acting beyond the powers outlined in its Articles of Agreement has aggravated the situation. Similarly, the World Bank should acknowledge this allegation by lending less and supervising more.

Through this, it should employ all the possible powers outlined in the Articles of Agreement to investigate, prosecute, and punish corrupt staff members who are colluding with the corrupt governments for their own selfish interests.

The bank’s claim that poor governance and corruption are the major obstacles to economic growth has resulted in numerous disagreements between the accused governments and the organisation.

Developing countries insist that the bank’s effort to stem out corruption and promote good governance within their territories is beyond the powers given to them in their Articles of Agreement. Despite the fact that these governments’ claims are true, they should realise that the bank’s funds are meant to uplift the livelihoods of their citizens, and not to benefit some few elites in their respective governments.

Despite the critics’ allegations, legal writers argue that through the acts described above the World Bank and the IMF acted within their legal mandate. According to these scholars, the decision organs of international organisations such as the World Bank have exclusive rights to interpret the article of agreements. By doing so, international institutions are mandated by the provisions to commit illegal acts.

With respect to these legal experts’ concept, the doctrine of ultra vires is not applicable to international organisations, and that their activities and decisions are always legal and valid. The Articles of Agreements of both organisations have clear procedures to be followed in determining whether an individual or the executive board members exceeded their powers in interpreting the provisions.

Through this, the IMF and the World Bank have argued that their acts of expanding the organisations mandates were justified within their Articles of Agreement. The organisations assert that the expansion of their institutions has taken place in accordance with article IV consultations. For instance, before the collapse of the par value system the IMF was largely involved in the macroeconomic issues.

After the collapse of this system, the IMF became involved in the microeconomic issues. The organisations argue that it was within its mandate to change its roles as the article of agreements allows the organisation to tackle payment deficits and to assist countries with balance of payment issues.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we should note that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created as specialized agencies of the United Nations during the World War II. According to their Articles of Agreement, the two institutions function under the directions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Sceptics argue that the two organisations are not functioning in compliance with the ECOSOC directives.

If the two organisations could work under the General Assembly directives, they could not only be more accountable, but also concentrate more on both social issues and banking interests. Informal surveys indicate that the top officials in these organisations are unaccountable to their member states.

According to these surveys, most individuals are not only unaware of the existence of the two organisations, but also unaware of their functions. The organisations spend huge sums of their resources in propaganda that portrays them as institutions aimed at steering acts and policies geared towards enhancing economic development.

However, in the recent years the two organisations have been under heavy criticisms for acting beyond their Articles of Agreements. Notably, academics and NGOs have alleged that the two organisations represent the interest of the transnational corporations and banks that provide them with most of their capital.

As such, individuals mandated to create policies in these organisations operate under the influence of first world bankers and third world elites. This implies that the poor, who are the majority, are shielded from presenting their policies and evaluations. In this regard, this article concludes that the two organisations are reinforcing poverty rather than reducing it.

According to their Articles of Agreements, the two organisations should encourage private corporations to invest in the developing countries in order to spur economic growth in these countries. Instead, the organisations have focused on increasing profits for their shareholders at the expense of the poor in the developing countries.

Similarly, by allocating huge sums of money in the hands of some few elites in the developing countries, the IMF and the World Bank have equipped these few individuals with resources enabling them to hang on to power and resist social pressures (Weiss & Friedl 7).

Works Cited

Antonio Cassese. International law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.

Lowenfeld, Andreas F. International economic law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

Qureshi, Asif H.. Perspectives in international economic law. London: Kluwer Law International, 2002. Print.

Schrijver, Nico. Sovereignty over natural resources: balancing rights and duties. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.

Simon, Lester and Bryan Mercurio. World trade law: text, materials, and commentary. Oxford: Hart, 2008. Print.

Suvedī, Sūryaprasāda. International investment law: reconciling policy and principle. Oxford: Hart, 2008. Print.

Weiss L, and Friedl. International economic law with a human face. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1998. Print.

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