The International Monetary Fund consists of 187 countries and is concerned with its members’ economic health. It promotes co-operation, economic stability and is also there to lend to those countries facing difficulties. The role of the IMF as a lender has come into question, as critics argue that the conditions placed on loans to countries can cause more problems than they solve, as the cause of the problems is not always identified. However, despite the criticisms and the current charges facing the former IMF Chief, the International Monetary Fund continues to play an important role in the global economic environment.
Many countries have used IMF credit and over the past two decades it has predominantly been the transition and the emerging market economies that have demanded the IMF’s resources. Whilst its lending did drop off in the mid 2000s, the global financial crisis of 2008/09 saw an increase in the demand for IMF funds from emerging economies to some $60 billion. In May 2010, we saw the IMF together with the EU put together a rescue package for Greece and it is now the turn of Egypt. The uprisings in Egypt put the stability of the economy in jeopardy, as investment declined, tax revenues decreased and the usually buoyant tourist industry started to struggle. Despite the efforts of the government to stabilise the economy, it remains short of cash and the IMF looks set to agree a loan deal of $3 billion (£1.8 billion). Egypt would have five years to repay the loan at an interest rate of 1.5%, after a three year ‘grace period’.
Other countries to receive loans include Ireland, Belarus, the Ukraine and Iceland, the latter of which owes the IMF $2,828.67 per person of its population. The UK has used the IMF back in 1976 and it may be something to look out for, depending on how our recovery continues. The following articles look at the IMF and its role in promoting global financial stability.
IMF to lend Egypt $3 bn: Ministry Associated Press (6/5/11)
IMF agrees $3bn financing deal with Egypt BBC News (5/6/11)
Timeline: Greece’s debt crisis Reuters (5/6/11)
Egypt strikes $3bn IMF deal to ‘re-launch’ economy Guardian, Jack Shenker (5/6/11)
The IMF versus the Arab Spring Guardian, Austin Mackell (25/5/11)
EU/IMF/ECB statement on Greek bailout Reuters (3/6/11)
Belarus wins $3 billion loan from Russia-led fund, still seeks IMF’s help Bloomberg, Scott Rose and Daryna Krasnolutska (4/6/11)
IMF frees up $225mn for Iceland Associated Press (4/6/11)
IMF loan: which country owes the most? Guardian (24/5/11)
International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund Homepage
IMF outlines $3 billion support for Egypt International Monetary Fund, IMF Survey Online (5/6/11)
- What is the role of the IMF and how is it financed?
- What are the objectives of the loans to countries such as Greece, Iceland and Egypt?
- What other countries has the IMF lent to and what are the conditions that have been placed on these loans?
- What has been the impact on the Egyptian economy of the uprisings? Think about all the industries that have been affected and the wider impacts.
- Can you find any examples of circumstances in which the conditions of an IMF loan have made problems worse for the recipient?
- Why are the conditions of the IMF loan to Egypt favourable and how will the loan help the economy?
- Look at the trend in IMF lending. What factors explain the peak and troughs? In particular, what is the explanation for the incresae in lending during the financial crisis?
Governments and central banks around the world are trying hard to minimise the impact of the economic downturn on their economies. One means of doing this is to cut interest rates. The aim is to boost aggregate demand by giving people more disposable income and making borrowing and investment cheaper. But how responsive will people be to the interest rate cuts? The articles and podcasts below look at the issues.
Combating the recession The Economist (8/1/09)
Economic downturn: ‘Interest rates may not be such a useful tool any more’ Guardian (9/1/09) Podcast
Beyond rate cuts Financial Times (15/1/09)
Beyond retail therapy Guardian (8/1/09)
Uncharted territory for interest rates BBC News Online (8/1/09)
Latest cut in interest rates will not revive flagging economy Times Online (9/1/09)
Interest rates – the setting of the LIBOR rate BBC Biz Daily (9/1/09) Podcast – Tim Harford
- Explain the process by which lower interest rates boost aggregate demand.
- Explain what is meant by the LIBOR rate. Listening to the BBC Biz Daily podcast above may help in answering this.
- Assess the importance of the LIBOR rate in determining the levels of borrowing and investment in the economy.
- Discuss the relative effectiveness of fiscal and monetary policy in boosting the level of aggregate demand in the UK economy.
In successive months the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England (MPC) has cut Bank Rate from 4.5% down to 2% – the lowest level since November 1951. The dramatic changes show that the Bank is concerned that inflation and economic activity will fall sharply. Indeed the Governor has recognised that there is a possible danger of deflation (defined, in this context, as negative inflation: i.e. a fall in the price index, whether CPI or RPI). To the extent that these cuts in Bank Rate are passed on in interest rate cuts by banks and building socities, they will reduce the cost of borrowing. It is hoped that this, in turn, will result in a boost to aggregate demand – particularly in the run-up to Christmas.
Below is a selection of articles relating to the interest rate cuts, with many commentators wondering if the cuts will be enough and whether interest rates have much lower to go. For some background on interest rates, you may like to look at the History of Britain’s interest rate published by the Times Online. Martin Rowson’s cartoon in the Guardian clearly summarises the view that this may not be enough to revive an ailing British economy!
Bank enters uncharted territory BBC News Online (4/12/08)
Q&A: The Bank Rate cut and you BBC News Online (12/12/08)
Where will interest rates go now? BBC News Online (4/12/08)
Bank of England still has ammunition for the new year Guardian (4/12/08) Video
Farwell, convention Guardian (5/12/08)
No doubt that we’ve got further to go in this rate cutting Guardian (5/12/08) Podcast
Bank cuts rate by 1% to historic low Times Online (4/12/08)
Analysis: Shock and awe of rate cut Times Online (4/12/08)
Rates cut again as recession deepens Times Online (5/12/08)
Unconventional steps may slow the slide into global recession Times Online (7/12/08)
Bank cuts UK rates to 57-year low Times Online (4/12/08)
Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008. He won the prize for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity, but he is also well known in academic circles for his work on international finance. In the article below, he looks at the foundations of the current financial crisis. He explains the history of the crisis, the action that has been taken by governments around the world, the likely success of the policies and also the impact of the crisis on the real economy. This is perhaps the issue that is of most concern to us as economists. With recession having taken a grip on many countries, it is important for governments to understand the root causes of the crisis to ensure that their policies address these. The article is an edited extract from The Return of Depression Economics and The Crisis of 2008, by Paul Krugman.
We all go together when we go Guardian (6/12/08)
- Examine the role of the US housing market in the origins of the current financial crisis.
- What is meant by the ‘shadow banking system’? How does the regulatory approach to the shadow banking system differ from that of the mainstream banking system?
- “What’s really worrying is the loss of policy traction: the economy is stalling despite repeated efforts by policy-makers to get it going again.” What does Krugman mean by policy traction? Discuss the possible causes of this policy traction.
- Explain why Krugman believes that the financial rescue package will not be sufficient to turn the US economy around.
- Assess Krugman’s argument that the only way out of the crisis is a “good old Keynesian fiscal stimulus”..
Governments around the world have been reacting to the global financial crisis by cutting interest rates in the hope that an expansionary monetary policy will help prevent recession or perhaps minimise the length, depth and severity of recession. In the articles below, we look at interest rate cuts in some countries, but there are many others. Why not use Google news or an equivalent site to try to find some more examples?
ECB rate cut sets tone for worldwide attempt to spark stalled economies Times Online (5/12/08)
Is the ECB dragging its heels? BBC News Online (4/12/08)
ECB cuts eurozone rates to 2.5% BBC News Online (4/12/08)
Sweden, like us, seems to have things in hand Times Online (5/12/08)
Sweden cuts interest rates to 2% BBC News Online (4/12/08)
mesSweden cuts interest rates to 2% BBC News Online (4/12/08)
Australia cuts interest rates to seven year low Times Online (2/12/08)
Large cut in Thai interest rates BBC News Online (3/12/08)
China’s central bank cuts rates BBC News Online (26/11/08)
- Explain the transmission mechanism whereby cuts in interest rates are transmitted to an increase in consumer expenditure.
- Using diagrams as appropriate, show how interest rates are determined in the money markets.
- Discuss the relative effectiveness of monetary policy and fiscal policy in boosting consumer expenditure.