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Highlights

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has significantly increased its total committed lending to countries from about $3.5 billion in August 2008 to about $170.4 billion in August 2009, as countries have been severely affected by the global economic crisis. IMF-supported programs are intended to help countries overcome balance-of-payments problems, stabilize their economies, and restore sustainable economic growth. Critics have long-standing concerns that the IMF has an overly austere approach to macroeconomic policy that does not sufficiently heed country viewpoints. To help address these concerns, the IMF recently stated that it has changed its policies, including by increasing its flexibility. GAO was asked to examine (1) the process for designing an IMF-supported program, (2) the IMF-supported programs in four recipient countries, and (3) the extent to which the findings of empirical economic studies are consistent with the IMF's macroeconomic policies. GAO analyzed IMF and recipient country documents; interviewed U.S., IMF, and foreign government officials, conducting fieldwork in four relatively large recipient countries; and analyzed published or widely cited empirical studies. GAO received written comments from the Department of the Treasury, noting its concurrence with the report's conclusions.

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