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IMF Lending & Socio-Economic Development: The Evolution & Consequences of Structural Adjustment, 1985-2014

Aims & objectives

The general aim of this project is to develop the definitive assessment of the past 30 years of IMF-supported economic adjustment. The proposed project seeks to examine the evolving character of IMF-supported policies, document in detail country experiences with the IMF, and assess the effects of such policies on selected policy areas.  

Despite voluminous literature on the IMF - indeed, recent years have witnessed a rapid proliferation of regression-based studies on the effects of IMF programmes - the organisation's practices remain insufficiently understood. This continuing lack of analytical clarity is a product of two substantial weaknesses in existing research. First, quantitative studies employ a simple dummy variable for IMF participation, despite the fact that IMF programmes vary dramatically in number, type and implementation of mandated policy reforms. Second, these studies are yet to be matched with in-depth case studies documenting how the IMF affects policy space and policy choices of developing countries.  

The project seeks to overcome these limitations by utilising a diverse range of sources, including archival data, interviews with stakeholders, and our newly developed data base on IMF conditionality (that is, policy reforms required to obtain funds), to provide an assessment of the organisation. The research will result in a series of journal articles, a book, and a range of impact activities. 

Background

After years of decline for its services, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently experienced a revival. New lending has been plentiful, its capital was increased, and high-profile programmes - in Greece, the Ukraine and Tunisia - have placed it at the centre of the policy response to the global financial crisis. In addition, according to the IMF, the organisation has taken on-board criticisms and reformed past practices. For instance, the IMF's Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, recently appeared puzzled by a journalist's question: ‘Structural adjustments? That was before my time. I have no idea what it is. We do not do that anymore’.  

Given the re-emergence of the IMF as the central institution in directing and managing economic reforms across the globe, there is good reason to probe into these changes, put them in context, provide historical depth, and re-assess the relevant evidence. This project takes on this task, and utilises a mixed-methods approach and a battery of new data to examine three interrelated questions: How has the practice of IMF lending evolved over the past 30 years? What have been the correlates of IMF conditionality? What consequences have IMF programmes had on key issues (e.g. environment or health policy) and selected countries? This project aims to provide a definitive contribution to central debates concerning the IMF in international political economy and development studies.

Progress

The project on has progressed as planned, with a range of research already published and additional outputs in preparation or under review. The initial, agenda-setting piece on this project recently appeared as the lead article of a Review of International Political Economy issue, and received wide media attention. The members of the core research team have already produced a range of papers that explore the consequences of structural adjustment programmes on health systems, health outcomes, social expenditures, state capacity, corruption, income inequality and related topics. Several articles have already been published in high-ranking academic journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Social Science & Medicine, and the Socio-Economic Review, and additional articles are currently under review. 

Journal articles

Daoud, A., Nosrati, E., Reinsberg, B., Kentikelenis, A., Stubbs, T., & King, L. (2017) ‘Born into adjustment: child health, parental education, and the International Monetary Fund’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 144(25), 6492-6497.

Eichenauer, V. Z., and Reinsberg, B. (2017) ‘What determines earmarked funding to international development organizations? Evidence from the new multi-bi aid data’ Review of International Organizations, 12(2): 171-197.

Kentikelenis, A. E., and Seabrooke, L. (2017) ‘The politics of World Polity: script-writing in international organizations’ American Sociological Review , 82(5).

Kentikelenis, A., Stubbs, T., and King, L. (2016) ‘IMF conditionality and development policy space, 1985-2014’ Review of International Political Economy, 23(4): 543-582.

Kentikelenis, A. E. (2017) ‘Structural adjustment and health: a conceptual framework and evidence on pathways’ Social Science & Medicine, 187: 296–305. 

Kentikelenis, A. E. (2017) ‘The social aftermath of economic disaster: Karl Polanyi, countermovements in action, and the Greek crisis’ Socio-Economic Review, forthcoming.

Michaelowa, K., Reinsberg, B., and Schneider, C. (2016) ‘Multi-bi aid in European development assistance: the role of capacity constraints and member state politics. Development Policy Review, 35(4): 513-530.

Reinsberg, B. (2017) ‘Organizational reform and the rise of trust funds: lessons from the World Bank’ Review of International Organizations, 12(2): 199-226.

Stubbs, T., Kentikelenis, A., Stuckler, D., McKee, M., & King, L. (2017) ‘IMF conditionality and government health expenditure: a response to Sanjeev Gupta’ Social Science & Medicine, 181: 202-204.

Stubbs, T., Kentikelenis, A., Stuckler, D., McKee, M., & King, L. (2017) ‘The impact of IMF conditionality on government health expenditure: a cross-national analysis of 16 West African nations’ Social Science & Medicine, 174: 220-227.

Stubbs, T., and Kentikelenis, A. (2017). Targeted social safeguards in the age of universal social protection: The IMF and health systems of low-income countries. Critical Public Health.

Stubbs, T., Kentikelenis, A., and King, L. (2016) ‘Catalyzing aid? The IMF and donor behavior in aid allocation’ World Development, 78: 511-528.

Thomson, M., Kentikelenis, A., and Stubbs, T. (2017) ‘Structural adjustment programmes adversely affect vulnerable populations: a systematic-narrative review of their effect on child and maternal health’ Public Health Reviews, 38: 13.

Kentikelenis, A., Stubbs, T., and King, L. (2016) 'IMF conditionality and development policy space, 1985–2014' Review of International Political Economy, 23:543–82. 

Chapters in books

Kentikelenis, A., T. Forster, and T. Stubbs (2017) ‘Neoliberalism and health in global context: the role of international organizations’, in T.S. Schrecker and K.S. Mohindra (eds.) Handbook of Global Health Politics (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar).

Reinsberg, B. (2016) ‘The implications of multi-bi aid on multilateral agencies: the example of the World Bank’ in T. Mahn, M. Negre, M. and S. Klingebiel (eds.) Fragmentation versus Pluralism? The Future of Development Cooperation Revisited (Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan) 185-198.

Babb, S., and Kentikelenis, A. (2017) ‘International financial institutions as agents of neoliberalism’, in The SAGE Handbook of Neoliberalism, edited by D. Cahill, M. Cooper, and M. Koning (Thousand Oaks: SAGE). 

Kentikelenis, A., Stubbs, T., and Forster, T. (2017) ‘Neoliberalism and health in global context: the role of international financial institutions’, in T. Scherecker and K. Mohindra (eds.) Handbook of Global Health Politics (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar), forthcoming. 

Kentikelenis, A. and Babb, S. (2017) ‘International financial institutions’, in J. Peyehouse and L. Seabrooke (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of International Political Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press). 

Stubbs, T., and Kentikelenis, A. (2017) ‘Conditionality and human rights: an overview’, in I; Bantekas and C. Lumina (eds.) Sovereign Debt and International Human Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press). 

Working papers

Forster, T., A. Kentikelenis, B. Reinsberg, T. Stubbs, and L. King. Under Review. ‘How Structural Adjustment Programs Affect Inequality: A Disaggregated Analysis of IMF Conditionality, 1980–2014.’

Forster, T., A. Kentikelenis, T. Stubbs, and L. King. Article in Preparation. ‘Cross-National Evidence on Structural Adjustment and Health Equity, 1990–2014.’

Honig, D. and A. Kentikelenis. ‘Global Economic Governance in Action: Why and when states act on the IMF's Executive Board.’

Kentikelenis, A. and S. Babb. ‘Institutional Transformation in the World Polity: The Rise of Structural Adjustment at the International Monetary Fund.’ 

Kentikelenis, A., T. Stubbs and L. King. ‘IMF Conditionality, 1985–2014: Introducing a new data set.’

Reinsberg, B., A. Kentikelenis, T. Stubbs, and L. King. ‘Structural Adjustment and State Capacity: Evidence from IMF programs.’ 

Reinsberg, B., A. Kentikelenis, T. Stubbs, and L. King. ‘Do IMF programs fuel or abate corruption? A disaggregated analysis of conditionality.’ 

Reinsberg, B., T. Stubbs, A. Kentikelenis, and L. King. ‘IMF Programs and the Legal Protection of Labor: A Disaggregated Analysis.’ 

Stubbs, T., A. Kentikelenis, B. Reinsberg, and L. King. ‘Evaluating the effects of IMF conditionality:  A review and extension of quantitative approaches.’ 

Conference/Workshop papers

Kentikelenis, A. ‘Do IMF programs fuel or abate corruption? A disaggregated analysis of conditionality.’ 22nd Spring Meeting of Young Economists, Halle Institute for Economic Research, Halle, 23-25 March 2017.

Kentikelenis, A. ‘Evaluating the effects of IMF conditionality: A review and extension of quantitative approaches.’ Political Methodology Conference of the Political Studies Association, University of Oxford, Oxford, 13 January 2017.

Kentikelenis, A. ‘How structural adjustment programmes affect inequality: A disaggregate analysis of IMF conditionality.’ 10th Annual Conference on the Political Economy of International Organizations, University of Bern, Bern, 12-14 January 2017.

Kentikelenis, A. ‘Structural adjustment and state capacity: Evidence from IMF programs.’ 10th Annual Conference on the Political Economy of International Organizations, University of Bern, Bern, 12-14 January 2017.

Kentikelenis, A. ‘How Structural Adjustment Programs Affect Inequality: A Disaggregated Analysis of IMF Conditionality, 1980–2014.’, Development in the Face of Global Inequalities Conference, Barcelona, May 2017.

Kentikelenis, A. ‘How Structural Adjustment Programs Affect Inequality: A Disaggregated Analysis of IMF Conditionality, 1980–2014.’ Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Montreal, August 2017.

Kentikelenis, A. ‘IMF programs and the legal protection of labor: Evidence from a disaggregated analysis’, European Political Science Association Annual Conference, Milan, June 2017

Media

Stubbs, T., & Kentikelenis, A. 'The truth behind IMF’s claims to promote social protection in low-income countries', Bretton Woods Observer, 16 June 2017.

Stubbs, T., & Kentikelenis, A. 'How years of IMF prescriptions have hurt West African health systems', The Conversation Africa, 22 February 2017. 

Principal investigator

Larry King

Project status

Ongoing

Project dates

2015-2018

Funding

Cambridge Political Economy Society Trust