IMF governance reforms to go ahead following approval by US Congress

21 Dec 15

The United States Congress has approved reforms to the International Monetary Fund’s governance that will give China and other emerging economies greater clout within the institution after stalling the proposals for five years.

The changes, which had been approved by the fund’s board of governors in 2010, had been delayed by the legislature due to concerns they would diminish US influence within the IMF.

However, the alterations will now go ahead. The overhaul will see a doubling of all IMF member states’ contributions and a reallocation of voting shares to developing countries. This will increase their representation within the fund and is intended to address concerns that emerging market were under-represented in the fund’s decision making.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde welcomed the congressional approval as a “crucial step forward” in strengthening the IMF’s role of supporting global financial stability.

“A more representative, modern IMF will be even better equipped to meet the needs of all of its 188 member countries in the 21st century,” she said.

In particular, the reforms will see four emerging markets – Brazil, China, India and Russia – become among the top ten largest members of the IMF, which already includes the US, UK, Germany and Japan. China will become the third largest shareholder.

It will see the quota shares of such countries increase to 6%. China’s voting power previously stood at 3.7%. The quota shares and voting power of the fund’s poorest members will also be protected.

The US’ share will be shaved slightly, although its veto power will remain intact, while European economies will see their voting rights diminish the most.

Other changes include a doubling of contributions from member states, which will increase the fund’s resources from approximately $329.83bn to $659.67bn.

The IMF’s board will now exist entirely of elected directors, rather than those appointed by the five largest members.

The fund said that the reforms mark a significant step forward in overhauling its governance, but some have noted that the delays from Congress have already hampered the IMF’s effectiveness, disenfranchised many industrial nations and hurt the US’s credibility and global leadership.

The five-year delay is seen by many as accelerating a shift towards alternative institutions where the US has no presence, such as the recently established, China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and strengthening their position by helping Beijing secure backing from many US-allies such as Europe.

The IMF also recently announced the Chinese renminbi will be included in its currency basket, which determines the value of the body’s Special Drawing Rights reserve asset.

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