International Monetary Fund:

Observations on the IMF's Financial Operations

NSIAD/AIMD-99-252: Published: Sep 30, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1999.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on the International Monetary Fund's financial operations, focusing on the: (1) Fund's liquidity position as of April 30, 1999, including its experience with borrowed resources to meet its members' financing needs; (2) role of gold holdings in the Fund's operations; and (3) Fund's process for determining the amount of quota contributions required from its members.

GAO noted that: (1) for the financial year ended April 30, 1999, the Fund had about $287 billion in resources consisting primarily of currency holdings of members' national currencies, Special Drawing Rights, and gold holdings in the General Resources Account; (2) these resources were primarily obtained from members' quota contributions; (3) of this amount, about $195 billion was considered usable, that is, was from members that were sufficiently strong economically to permit their currencies to be used for fund operations; (4) of the $195 billion of usable resources, about $118 billion had been lent, committed, or reserved as working balances, leaving about $77 billion in liquid resources available for additional credit to Fund members and to meet members' drawings on their reserve assets held by the Fund; (5) the Fund has not drawn from its working balance reserve in over 20 years, as of April 30, 1999; (6) its resources available for lending, as of April 30, 1999, may be greater than reported; (7) with the end of the gold standard in the early 1970s and the passage of the second amendment to the Fund's Articles of Agreement in April 1978, gold's formal role in the Fund and in international currency transactions was eliminated; (8) the Fund's gold holdings as of April 30, 1999, had a market value of $30 billion; (9) the decision to hold gold has resulted in tens of billions of dollars in forgone realized gains and investment income since 1980; (10) the Fund has never formally adopted a method for determining members' initial quotas and subsequent quota increases because it believes that quantitative measures cannot fully reflect the considerations that appropriately bear on each member's position or on the total size of the Fund's resources; (11) the Executive Board uses several factors to decide on members' quota levels; (12) as part of its role in the international monetary system, the Fund provides balance-of-payments assistance to members when needed; (13) since the late 1970s, there has been an increase in arrears, and the Fund has taken various measures that have reduced the number of countries in arrears to five as of April 30, 1999; and (14) the Fund has increased its reserves for potential loan losses and adopted a program to share the cost of overdue obligations between debtor and creditor members.

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