What roles do IMF and BIS play in prevention of monetary crises?

Published 15 Mar 2017

Much has been said and written about how financial crises and monetary policies should be handled in different situations, but it will be interesting to have a closer look at how the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of International Settlements work for the prevention of monetary crises on the global level.

IMF and crisis prevention

The International Monetary Fund has always been criticized for its argumentative role in the prevention of the monetary crises and their resolution when they occur. However, this argumentativeness is only seen on the surface, and in reality the role of the IMF in prevention of crises should not be underestimated. It is important to see that the role of IMF in the support of the global financial system was changing with the changes in the world financial system. The requirements of time were always different and the IMF had to adjust to those requirements. ‘Exacerbated by changing economic and political conditions, criticisms of the Fund stem overwhelmingly from differing views of its role in the world economy’. (Wood, 2006)

In order to clearly define the role of the IMF in preventing monetary crises, it would be useful to start with the initial Articles of Agreement (Kahler, 1985) and on reading them we will find that actually the role of the IMF can be characterized as being two-fold: on the one hand, the IMF is to improve general monetary outcomes, by creating the important institutional framework for cooperation, especially in the sphere of multilateral payments system, (Wood, 2006), and on the other hand, the IMF is also meant for the promotion of international economic stability, as well as reducing and eliminating the imbalances of payments and other related disequilibria.
However, these statements are rather theoretical, it should be admitted, and the IMF has often been accused of exchange rates manipulations and minute attention to the countries borrowers, the crisis of 80s has become one of the stages at which the role of the IMF was not only displayed, but was changed with the changing financial environment. During that period the IMF found out that its ‘traditional short-term loans for balance-of-payments problems with 3- to 5-year repayment periods were not adequate for LDCs with protracted payment problems’. (Wood, 2006) Thus to deal with that debt crisis, the IMF decided to provide medium terms SALs, the repayment period for which was from 5.5 to 10 years. Though, of course, it is the example of how the IMF can deal with crises, and not prevent them, but these actions can also be looked at as the means of preventing further development of such crises and the appearance of new ones.

BIS and monetary crises prevention

Of course, crisis prevention is much better than crisis management and resolution. The aim of the BIS activity is clearly put through the phrase ‘our aim must be crisis prevention where possible, and crisis resolution where necessary’. (Giovanoli, 1989) One of the advantages of the BIS is that it mostly concentrates on the activities, which prevent monetary crises both within the countries and at international level. The BIS sees the central element of its crisis prevention activity in the assistance for the development of countries’ financial systems, their strengthening and robust performance. The activity aimed at prevention of monetary crises can be viewed through the number of international agreements, which have been proved to effectively operate within the matrix of the three world financial pillars – financial institutions, financial markets and financial infrastructure. In April 1997 the Basle Committee has released the Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision, which was aimed at prevention of any serious monetary crises. (White, 1998) Those principles have been developed as a result of Asian crisis, and it is again, as the analogy with the IMF, not the prevention but resolution of the already existing crisis; though the actions undertaken after it, and the creation of those 25 Core Principles as a result of understanding that the crises are easier to prevent than to cure, show active performance of the BIS on its way towards elimination of monetary crises, though these principles are still not viewed as panacea and still need to be implemented internationally to become effective.


It is seen, that due to certain doubts, both the IMF and the BIS show clear striving for prevention and elimination of the monetary crises. Though the examples of such efficient activities are mostly seen not through prevention of such crises, but as a result of the already existing crises, but it should be borne in mind, that through the experience of those crises both organizations have learned valuable ideas which are reflected in the new standards and agreements, and which ultimately serve for the primary aim of both organizations – the prevention of monetary crises.


  • Giovanoli, M 1989, ‘The role of the Bank for International Settlements in international monetary cooperation’, The International Lawyer, vol. 23, no. 4
  • Kahler, M 1985, ‘Politics and international debt: Explaining the crisis’, International Organization, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 357-360
  • White, W 1998, ‘Promoting international financial stability: The role of the BIS’, in: Teunissen, JJ (eds) Regulatory and Supervisory Challenges in a New Era of Global Finance, Hague: Fondad.
  • Wood, N 2006, ‘The globalizers in search of a future: Four reasons why the IMF and the World Bank must change, and four ways they can’, Center for Global Development Brief.
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