From the ashes of global prosperity the IMF emerged this week as the bulwark against the economic crisis, its role and finances heavily bolstered by world leaders.
The IMF was the main beneficiary at the G20 London summit where leaders agreed to triple its war chest to US$750 billion by adding US$500 billion, some of it already pledged.
The 20 industrialized and developing countries backed an extra US$250 billion to increase the fund’s reserve assets and pump liquidity into the gridlocked financial system.
The summit on Thursday also set a target to more than double the IMF’s concessional lending to poor countries and endorsed the use of a portion of the IMF’s planned gold sales to help finance it.
The G20 not only sharpened the IMF’s firepower to fight the global contagion, but placed the 185-nation institution at the center of what summit host British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said is a “new world order” based on international cooperation.
The summit decisions represented that new order, as China, India and other emerging powerhouses reached accord with the established G7 powers — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US — on a way forward to deal with global economic crises.
The IMF was called on to improve its early warning systems to head off crises before they can spill over into the broader world economy, in collaboration with the Financial Stability Board, a beefed-up successor to the Financial Stability Forum.
The G20 also committed themselves to implementing IMF reforms under way and called for further reforms to make the 185-nation more transparent and more representative of the globalized economy.
The summit stamp of approval on the IMF, albeit forged in the most devastating economic crisis since World War II, marked a milestone for the developing countries which long have criticized the fund’s lending conditions as harmful and railed against its G7 domination.
It was only a year ago the IMF was struggling to reinvent itself.
Member countries overwhelmingly approved major voting and quota reforms last April, yet they are still awaiting approval by their legislatures.
Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn launched an employee buyout program to cope with a budget shortfall due to dwindling demand for its loans.
Hopes grew that the credit crisis that began in the US mortgage sector in August 2007 would be contained.
Then Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed last September, triggering the worst financial mayhem since the 1930s Great Depression.
The IMF has seen its fortunes rise as others fall.
“You will see that it’s the beginning of increasing the role of the IMF, not only as a lender of last resort, not only as a forecaster, not only as an advisor in economic policy and its old traditional role, but also in providing liquidity to the world, which is the role finally, and in the end, of a financial institution like ours,” Strauss-Kahn said.
Analysts hailed the G20’s generous outlay as a boon to global stability and to the developing countries.
Uri Dadush at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said the G20 communique was “striking in the degree to which it accommodates the interests of developing countries in various ways; they are the greatest likely beneficiaries of the increase in IMF and multilateral development bank resources.”