For all the criticism that has been directed at it over the decades, the International Monetary Fund provides vital services to the world economy. In particular, it acts as the nearest thing to an international lender of last resort to countries experiencing external financial crises — and thereby helps to maintain international financial stability.
But the I.M.F. is experiencing a crisis of governance. The governments of big developing countries have become frustrated with the unwillingness of Western countries to adjust the distribution of power in the fund in line with their rising economic weight. Frustration has encouraged some to explore bypass institutions, such as the development bank and the currency-pooling scheme being negotiated among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).
Today the four big BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China) have a combined share of world gross domestic product of 24.5 percent, compared with the 13.4 percent share of the four big European economies (Germany, France, Britain, Italy); but the four BRICS countries have a combined share of votes of only 10.3 percent, compared with the four European nations’ share of 17.6 percent.