Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 11/2010

Austerity and the IMF

Kenneth Rogoff

October 2010

Center for Global Development


I will argue that the simplest and perhaps most cutting version of the IMF austerity charges is simply confused. IMF loans typically relieve austerity; they do not make it worse. IMF support helps a country engage in less procyclical budget contraction than it might have been forced to do otherwise. That said, the IMF's judgments in calibrating programs involve a huge range of subjective decisions about politics, psychology, and economics, judgments that are difficult to get "right" consistently. Toward the end of my remarks, I will argue that in many respects, the greatest problem with IMF programs is not excessive austerity with debtors but excessive generosity toward creditors.