The IMF and Euro Area Crises: Review of a Report from the Independent Evaluation Office

Policy Brief
16-13
September 2016

The economic and financial crises in euro area countries since 2010 have tested the viability of the euro area and continue to challenge the future of the seven-decade European integration project. Euro area leaders reluctantly brought the International Monetary Fund (IMF) into the management of six of these crises—in Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain—through the provision of financing and the design of economic and financial rescue programs. The IMF's Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) reviewed the Fund's handling of four of these crises: in Greece (first program), Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. The report is bureaucratically constrained in its language, but the underlying message is distinctly critical of the IMF: Political influence on IMF decision making was excessive, the IMF did not implement a coherent euro area strategy, and the IMF failed to comply with its own standard for transparency and, therefore, accountability. This Policy Brief provides some background on the IEO and summarizes the conclusions of the IEO report. It then addresses four aspects of the report and its examination of the IMF's performance in these crises: addressing the crises individually rather than as a crisis for the euro area as a whole, the charge of excessive political intervention in the formulation of IMF policies for these countries, the IMF's lack of transparency and accountability both in these programs and vis-à-vis the IEO, and issues surrounding the Greek debt restructuring and the IMF's policy on exceptional access to Fund financial resources.