The World Bank and the IMF adapt their approaches in line with new demands
Typically, the Bank and the IMF are thought of as international agencies that offer only financial assistance. But both institutions have always complemented such assistance with general policy advice, as well as advice and training in a variety of specialized policy and technical areas. In recent years, this latter aspect of their work, which fits into the generic category of “technical assistance,” has undergone significant changes. For both, the catalyst has been their growing support of structural adjustment programs in countries facing severe domestic and external economic conditions. A further impetus has come from the major economic transformations underway (in Eastern Europe and elsewhere), and the increasing recognition that sustainable economic development cannot take place—and proper economic policies cannot be carried out—if the national institutions and economic management are inadequate to the tasks.
Broadly speaking, technical assistance (TA) can be considered any activity that enhances human and institutional capabilities through the transfer, adaptation, and use of knowledge, skills, and technology. For budgetary purposes, both institutions designate certain activities of this type under the rubric of “TA.” But in practice, the technical help actually offered encompasses a much wider field, often a natural outgrowth of regular contacts and missions, consultations, and negotiations. This article takes a look at how this wider TA has evolved at the Bank and the IMF, focusing on plans to meet the changing needs of member countries in the 1990s.
See also “The World Bank’s technical assistance,” by Francis Lethem and Vincent Riley, and “The Fund’s technical assistance,” by IMF staff, Finance & Development, December 1982.