IMF Financial Operations 2016 provides a broad introduction to how the IMF fulfills its mission through its financial activities. It covers the financial structure and operations of the IMF and also provides background detail of the financial statements for the IMF's activities during the most recent financial year. This publication (currently in its third edition) updates a previous report entitled Financial Organization and Operations of the IMF, first published in 1986 and last issued in 2001 (the sixth edition). That 2001 report reflected the seismic shifts in the global economy and in the IMF's structure and operations that occurred after the fall of the Soviet Union and the various currency and financial crises of the 1990s. This revised and updated report covers more recent developments, including reform of the IMF’s income model, measures taken in response to the global financial crisis of 2007–09, and the institutional reforms aimed at ensuring that the IMF's governance structure evolves in line with developments in the global economy.
The International Monetary Fund was founded some 70 years ago near the end of World War II. The founders aimed to build a framework for economic cooperation that would forestall the kinds of economic policies that contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s and the global conflict that ensued. The world has changed dramatically since 1944, bringing extensive prosperity to many countries and lifting millions out of poverty. The IMF has evolved as well, but in many ways its main purpose—to support the global public good of financial stability and prosperity—remains the same today as when the organization was established.
The IMF resources are held in the General Department, which consists of three separate accounts: the General Resources Account (GRA), the Special Disbursement Account (SDA), and the Investment Account (IA). The GRA is the principal account of the IMF and handles by far the largest share of transactions between the IMF and its members. The GRA can best be described as a pool of currencies and reserve assets largely built from members’ fully paid capital subscriptions in the form of quotas (Box 2.1).
Special drawing rights (SDRs) were created in 1969 as an international reserve asset to supplement other reserve assets whose growth was seen as inadequate to finance the expansion of international trade and finances under the Bretton Woods system in the postwar period and to support the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system. The creation of the SDR was intended to make the regulation of international liquidity subject, for the first time, to international consultation and decision. The SDR is not a currency, nor is it a claim on the IMF. Instead, it is a potential claim on the freely usable currencies of IMF members. The IMF may allocate SDRs unconditionally to members (participants) who may use them to obtain freely usable currencies in order to meet a balance of payments need without undertaking economic policy measures or repayment obligations.
This chapter explains the sources of income for the IMF. It elaborates on how the IMF has adapted its financial structure to finance its administrative expenditures. The IMF’s income is generated primarily through its lending and investing activities (Figure 5.1).
The IMF’s Articles of Agreement call for adequate safeguards for the temporary use of its resources.1 Risks stem from interactions with the membership in fulfillment of the IMF’s mandate as a cooperative international organization that makes its general resources available temporarily to its members. The IMF has an extensive risk-management framework in place, including procedures to mitigate traditional financial risks as well as strategic and operational risks. The latter risks are addressed by a variety of processes, including surveillance reviews, lending policies and operations, capacity building, standards and codes of conduct for economic policies, the communications strategy, and others.