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The Bretton Woods Institutions, 75 years on: reform or risk irrelevance.

The Bretton Woods Institutions were built on the ruins of an old world-order, at the end of World War II, and the dawn of a new world order, marked by the birth of many new nation-states and the onset of the cold-war. Ostensibly, the Institutions were created to preserve the peace by ensuring macroeconomic stability, supporting development and discouraging the creation of hostile trade or currency blocs. Yet, right from their beginnings, they have been the source of critique and concern. There were concerns about asymmetries of power, particularly in favour of the US. Then came concerns about uneven-handed treatment of countries in very similar circumstances. On the one hand, post-war Europe could quickly recover thanks to the US stepping in and instituting the Marshall fund. On the other, ...
The 2019 World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Annual meetings last week marked the 75th anniversary of the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs). However, there was little cause for celebration. The meetings took place amid a bleak global ...

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UN Independent Expert links International Financial Institutions’ austerity push to Human Rights impacts

Gino Brunswijck

12 Sep 2019 13:00:36

This week, the UN Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, released a report on the role of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in imposing economic reforms that violate human rights. In particular, the report highlights how widespread promotion of austerity measures has had an adverse effect on human rights impacts in a number of countries. The document is due to be presented to the UN General Assembly in October, In line with Eurodad findings, the Independent Expert questions the basic assumptions used to justify the introduction of austerity measures. Rather than contributing to economic growth, they tend to aggravate economic recession, worsening debt ratios and inequality. The IFIs widely prescribe such policies through lending and attached conditionalities, ...

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Delivering human rights and the SDGs: Does IMF Conditionality pass muster?

Gino Brunswijck

29 May 2019 17:54:58

Last week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published its Review of Program Design and Conditionality 2018, which provides an overview of the IMF’s lending programmes between 2011 and 2017. While the review includes some positive elements, such as the acknowledgement to improve debt sustainability analysis (DSA), it falls short of fully accounting for the impact of conditionality on:inequalitypublic service provisionlabour rightsgender equality.  It is, therefore, a missed opportunity to evaluate IMF-lending practices against international agreements, in particular the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and international human rights and labour standards.   The review is timely - debt crises are brewing in several low-income countries – and offers the IMF’s view on ...

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Challenges rise fast, reforms proceed slowly as political blockades remain an issue – Spring Meetings round-up

Finance ministers from around the world gathered in Washington DC last week for the IMF and World Bank spring meetings. Held amid an economic downturn and emerging risks of a new round of debt crises, the key task was to discuss how the two organisations can be made more effective to address these challenges, which threaten to affect people’s lives and derail progress toward development goals.  A gloomy scene for development A dramatic scene was set by the IMF’s flagship publication, the World Economic Outlook, which underlined rising inequality, while revising projections for the global economy down. Economic growth is now expected to slow to 3.3 per cent in 2019, a reduction of 0.4 per cent as compared to their overoptimistic projections from last year.  When economic growth ...

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The IMF and PPPs: A master class in double-speak

Maria Romero, Gino Brunswijck

08 Apr 2019 15:21:37

While the IMF cautions against the fiscal risks of public-private partnerships (PPPs), the institution is simultaneously backing them at a country programme level and advocates austerity measures that push governments towards expanding PPPs through constrained budgets. The fiscal risks of PPPsAs far back as 2004, the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department (FAD) published a paper stressing that “one particular concern is that PPPs can be used mainly to bypass spending controls, and to move public investment off budget and debt off the government balance sheet, while the government still bears most of the risk involved and faces potentially large fiscal costs.”Concerns over the fiscal risks of PPPs have also underpinned the work of the IMF to quantify the macro-fiscal impact of PPP projects. ...

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International financial institutions, social protection and gender: missing the target

Gino Brunswijck

18 Mar 2019 16:54:17

Social protection has been at the forefront of discussions of late, with it playing a central role in the Sustainable Development Goals, featuring heavily at this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and as the International Monetary Fund developing an institutional view on social protection. Social protection, including floors, is an important component of the 2030 Agenda for  Sustainable Development, including SDG target 1.3, which reflects the collective pledge to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems for all, including floors” for reducing and preventing poverty. Moreover, target 1.3 commits all UN Member States to “achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable” by 2030. While the UN links social protection ...

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Argentina: More lending guarantees creeping austerity

Gino Brunswijck

31 Oct 2018 16:40:12

Against a backdrop of public protests, on 25 October the Argentinian government approved the 2019 budget including US$10 billion worth of cuts in essential areas such as education and public works. The next day, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the first review of a loan agreement paving the way for the disbursement of a tranche of US$5.7 billion to the debt-stricken country. At the same time, the Board gave the green light to increase Argentina’s bailout loan to US$56.3 billion. However, this loan comes with a significant price tag. The higher the bailout, the greater the austerity The IMF review calls for stronger and faster fiscal consolidation in Argentina. The budgetary targets for the short and medium term were tightened compared to the initial ...