Definition of IMF

International Monetary Fund (IMF): an international organisation financed largely by industrialised countries that provides funds (often with strict policy conditions) to countries with debt or balance of payments difficulties. Set up under the Bretton Woods agreement. [1]

The International Monetary Fund was born out of international discussions at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944, and opened for business in 1947. Its original aim was to lend to governments to smooth balance of payments problems arising under the pegged exchange rates system named after the 1944 conference.

With the breakdown of that regime in the early 1970s, the IMF shifted into more general lending to governments, increasingly in emerging markets. It was heavily involved in the Latin American debt crises of the 1980s and the Asian and Russian crises of 1997-98. But its focus has swung back to Europe, where it has assisted governments that have built up huge fiscal deficits or been forced to rescue their troubled banking systems. [2]

Q&A: IMF members fight over representation
In depth: IMF
Interactive graphic: the IMF bank plan explained
Q&A: IMF succession process