The IMF: Purpose and Activities

International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
March 2004
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The IMF, an international organization of currently 184 member countries, was established in 1946 to promote international monetary cooperation, exchange stability, and orderly exchange arrangements; to provide temporary financial assistance to countries with balance of payments difficulties; and to foster economic growth and high levels of employment. To achieve these objectives, the IMF carries out three types of operational activities: surveillance, financial assistance, and technical assistance.

Surveillance is the process by which the IMF maintains a policy dialogue with each of its members and appraises country and global macroeconomic conditions. Generally once a year, it appraises members’ exchange rate policies within the overall framework of their economic policies in what is known as an Article IV consultation. The IMF also carries out multilateral surveillance, the results of which are summarized in the World Economic Outlook, prepared and published twice a year, and in the Global Financial Stability Report, which is also published twice a year.

Financial assistance includes credits and loans extended by the IMF to member countries with balance of payment problems so that they can restore conditions for sustainable economic growth. The financial assistance provided by the IMF enables countries to rebuild their international reserves, stabilize their currencies, and continue paying for imports without having to impose trade restrictions or capital controls. The IMF makes its financial resources available to its members through a variety of financial facilities—for example, Stand-By Arrangements and the Extended Fund Facility. It also provides concessional assistance under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) and debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.

Technical assistance consists of expertise and training provided by the IMF to help member countries strengthen their human and institutional capacity and design and implement effective macroeconomic and structural policies. Technical assistance is offered in several broad areas, namely fiscal policy and management, monetary policy and financial systems, and macroeconomic and financial statistics. See Box 1 for a list of the core areas of IMF technical assistance.4

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