IMF Programs: Who Is Chosen and What Are the Effects?

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Original Publication Date

October 1, 2005


Robert J. Barro, Jong-Wha Lee


Journal of Monetary Economics


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 major European countries. 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 loan-participation rate reduces economic growth. IMF lending does not have significant effects on investment, inflation, government consumption, and international openness. However, IMF loan participation has small negative effects on democracy and the rule of law. The reduction in the rule of law implies an additional, indirect channel whereby IMF lending reduces economic growth.