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Who runs the IFIs?

By Riccardo Faini and Enzo Grilli

Abstract

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund play a key role in the international economic architecture. Yet, they are also ‘political’ institutions and their activities inevitably respond to the national interest of one or a group of shareholders. Assessing the role of ‘influential’ shareholders is however made difficult by the fact that votes in the Boards of either institutions are rarely recorded and at any rate are not made public. We take a different route and look at the pattern of lending of both institutions as a function of their institutional mission and the commercial and financial interests of their main shareholders. We find that the Bank and especially the Fund are quick to respond to the borrowing needs of their members, particularly during a balance of payments crisis. Apart from that, however, the lending pattern of the two institutions is influenced by the commercial and the financial interests of the US and, to a lesser extent, of the EU. European countries in particular seems to be much more concerned by their commercial interests. The role of Japan is even smaller and more regional, being largely confined to decisions concerning Asia.

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