IMF Programs: Who is Chosen and What Are the Effects?
Robert J. Barro
IMF loans react to economic conditions but are also sensitive to political-economy variables. Loans tend to be larger and more frequent when a country has a bigger quota and more professional staff at the IMF and when a country is more connected politically and economically to the United States and other major shareholding countries of the IMF. These results are of considerable interest for their own sake. More importantly for present purposes, the results provide instrumental variables for estimating the effects of IMF loan programs on economic growth and other variables. This instrumental estimation allows us to sort out the economic effects of the loan programs from the responses of IMF lending to economic conditions. The estimates show that a higher IMF loanparticipation rate reduces economic growth. IMF lending also lowers investment but raises international openness. In addition, greater involvement in IMF programs tends to lower the rule of law and democracy. We conclude that the typical country would be better off economically if it committed itself not to be involved with IMF loan programs.
IMF loan program, economic growth, instrumental variables
IMF lending practices respond to economic conditions but are also sensitive to political-economy variables. Specifically, the sizes and frequencies of loans are influenced by a country's presence at the Fund, as measured by the country's share of quotas and professional staff. IMF lending is also sensitive to a country's political and economic proximity to some major shareholding countries of the IMF -- the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. We measured political proximity by voting patterns in the United Nations and economic proximity by bilateral trading volumes. These results are of considerable interest for their own sake but also provide instrumental variables for estimating the effects of IMF lending on economic performance. Instrumental estimates indicate that the size of IMF lending is insignificantly related to economic growth in the contemporaneous five-year period but has a significantly negative effect in the subsequent five years.
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