Government policies matter when it comes to public health. And when a country’s economy is suffering a severe economic crisis, the decisions become even more critical. Over the past few decades, protecting social programs and spending on health has been a cornerstone of the IMF’s support for countries.
The world is now in a much better situation than six months ago when it comes to policy solutions, according to Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance , who is Chair of the IMF's policy-setting committee, the IMFC, speaking about the outcome of the IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Tokyo.
Governments in low-income countries are having to deal with a lot of bad news these days. Slow growth in the advanced economies is dampening demand for their exports and affecting inflows of investment, aid, and remittances. Changes in credit conditions elsewhere influence the availability of trade finance. Volatility in commodity prices creates problems for both importers and exporters. Meanwhile, climactic and other natural disasters continue to occur at the local and regional level.
War-torn Iraq, quake-ravaged Haiti, conflict-devastated Sierra Leone. So many countries around the world face the legacy of terrible hardships that have left them scarred and fragile. Some have questioned whether the IMF has a meaningful role to play in these countries, but they couldn’t be more wrong. A recent review found that the IMF has played an important positive role in fragile states. This doesn’t mean we always got it right. We can do better. There is plenty of scope to adapt how we engage in these countries; to be more flexible and deepen cooperation with other development partners. In this post, Dominique Desruelle discusses a few ideas that we’ll be exploring—and discussing with stakeholders—in the months ahead, including at a high-level public seminar in Washington later this month.
All too often we hear the claim that the programs the IMF supports in low-income countries hurt the most vulnerable by forcing cuts in social spending. This is a misconception. Our study concludes that, contrary to these claims, IMF-supported programs boost education and health spending in low-income countries for as long as countries are engaged with the IMF.
Regional technical assistance centers have gradually evolved to play a major role in IMF technical assistance. These centers, which are largely donor financed, have become important vehicles for helping countries carry out economic reforms. Their objective is to assist countries in designing and implementing their poverty reduction and broader developmental strategies and help countries integrate into the world economy.
At a conference in Tanzania a year ago, the IMF committed to improving its policies and operational approaches in Africa and pledged to ensure Africa’s concerns would be taken into account during the meetings of the Group of Twenty (G-20) industrialized and emerging market countries and be an advocate for Africa. Now, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on a visit Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia--his third trip to the region in the past 12 months--presents the scorecard of how the IMF has delivered on its promises to the continent.