The International Monetary Fund and the International Financial Architecture
The IMF is a perennial institution in a changing environment. The institutional structure has stayed put, reflecting the lasting prominence of the US in international monetary affairs. However the international monetary system has undergone a sea change : the shift from a government-controlled to a market-led system. It was both an origin and an outcome of the rise of global finance. In adapting to this structural change, the Fund has exerted new ways in providing guidance to member countries and in regulating financial markets. But is has kept its former missions, so that no less than four models of collective action can be depicted within a careful analysis of the Fund's mandate. The Fund has been an insurer in mutual assistance of its member countries, an issuer admittedly aborted of a world currency (the SDR), a financial intermediary for development with respect to the Washington Consensus, and lately an international crisis manager, even playing the role of an international lender of last resort. Playing all those partly contradictory roles has overextended the Fund's capacities and eroded its speed of reaction to disturbances which come more from markets, less from governments. A refocusing on prudential issues, both in prevention and crisis management, is what the new financial architecture is all about.
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