The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 188 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
The Bretton Woods agreement
The IMF was conceived in July 1944, when representatives of 45 countries meeting in the town of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in the northeastern United States, agreed on a framework for international economic cooperation, to be established after the Second World War. They believed that such a framework was necessary to avoid a repetition of the disastrous economic policies that had contributed to the Great Depression.
The IMF came into formal existence in December 1945, when its first 29 member countries signed its Articles of Agreement. It began operations on March 1, 1947. Later that year, France became the first country to borrow from the IMF.
The IMF's membership began to expand in the late 1950s and during the 1960s as many African countries became independent and applied for membership. But the Cold War limited the Fund's membership, with most countries in the Soviet sphere of influence not joining.
Fast Facts on the IMF
- Membership: 188 countries
- Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
- Executive Board: 24 Directors representing countries or groups of countries
- Staff: Approximately 2,475 from 156 countries
- Total quotas: US$360 billion (as of 8/9/12)
- Additional pledged or committed resources: US$1 trillion
- Loans committed (as of 8/9/12): US$243 billion, of which US$186 billion have not been drawn (see table)
- Biggest borrowers (amount agreed as of 8/9/12): Greece, Portugal, Ireland
- Biggest precautionary loans (amount agreed as of 8/9/12): Mexico, Poland, Colombia
- Surveillance consultations: Consultations concluded for 128 countries in FY2011 and for 117 countries in FY2012
- Technical assistance: Field delivery in FY2011—198.2 person years
- Transparency: In 2011, about 90 percent of Article IV and program-related staff reports and policy papers were published
- Original aims: Article I of the Articles of Agreement sets out the IMF’s main goals:
- promoting international monetary cooperation;
- facilitating the expansion and balanced growth of international trade;
- promoting exchange stability;
- assisting in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments; and
- making resources available (with adequate safeguards) to members experiencing balance of payments difficulties