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Voting power in the governance of the International Monetary Fund

By Dennis Leech


In general in an organisation whose system of governance involves weighted voting, a member's weight in terms of the number of votes and the formal power it represents differ. Power indices provide a means of analysing this difference. The paper uses new algorithms for computing power indices for large games. Three analyses are carried out: (1) the distribution of Banzhaf voting power among members in 1999; the results show that the United States has considerably more power over ordinary decisions than its weight of 17% but that the use of special supermajorities limits its power; (2) the effect of varying the majority requirement on the power of the IMF to act and the powers of members to prevent and initiate action (Coleman indices); the results show the effect of supermajorities severely limits the power to act and therefore renders the voting system ineffective in democratic terms, also the sovereignty of the United States within the IMF is effectively limited to just the power of veto; (3) the paper proposes the determination of the weights instrumentally by means of an iterative algorithm to give the required power distribution; this would be a useful procedure for determining appropriate changes in weights consequent on changes to individual countries' quotas; this is applied to the 1999 data. Policy recommendations are, first, that the IMF use only simple majority voting, and discontinue using special supermajorities, and, second, allocate voting weight instrumentally using power indices

Topics: JC Political theory
Year: 2002
DOI identifier: 10.1023/A:1016324824094
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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