Cover Story

Reality Check

The pros and cons of IMF programmes and World Bank loans have been widely debated across the globe.

By Farhat Ali | October 2023

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank share a common history, both being established in 1944 with the primary goal of promoting global economic stability and development after the 2nd World War. Subsequently, the Marshall Plan (European Recovery Programme) under the American initiative was enacted in 1948 to provide foreign aid to Western Europe with the United States, transferring $13.3 billion in economic recovery programmes to Western Europe. Japan also received similar support from US-sponsored donors. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-torn regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, improve European prosperity, and prevent the spread of communism.

This marked the beginning of the hegemony of the USA over Europe and other countries that opted for IMF and World Bank support, notably the emerging nations, in the quest for donor funding to build their economy and infrastructure. Only recently, BRICS (the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) has somewhat posed a challenge to it.

Both institutions took initiatives to combat poverty, with the World Bank’s focus on long-term development projects and the IMF’s role in stabilizing economies to create conditions for poverty reduction, fiscal discipline, and managing financial crises triggered by natural disasters or other emergencies. These institutions accumulated wealth through member contributions, loan interest, and service fees. The resources they gather are used to provide loans and grants to developing nations.

The IMF has, in particular, assisted emerging countries, notably in South Asia, like Pakistan, in stabilizing their economies through fiscal discipline and structural reforms. This has helped these nations reduce budget deficits and manage debt more effectively, improving fiscal sustainability. The World Bank has financed numerous infrastructure projects across South Asia. The World Bank has funded many infrastructure projects in Pakistan, such as the Indus Basin irrigation system, contributing to agriculture development. These projects have been instrumental in enhancing transportation networks, electricity generation, and access to clean water, thus fostering economic growth and poverty alleviation programmes in South Asia.

Read More