IFIs are renewing their focus on Central and Eastern European states. This comes amidst fears that growth in the region needs to be rekindled. The World Bank has promised more funding for countries at risk of instability. However, IMF loans being negotiated with Romania and Hungary have met with controversy.
While the 2007-2010 crisis offered the International Monetary Fund an unexpected opportunity to demonstrate that it was serious about changing its emergency lending practices, Daniela Gabor argues that in Eastern Europe the Fund ended up pushing unnecessary fiscal austerity and privileging private financial interests.
While Hungary has booted out the IMF, Greece is still toeing the line of IMF austerity demands. The IMF has softened its rhetoric in some places, notably on unemployment, but critics worry that many staff are still pushing fiscal retrenchment that may damage growth prospects.
In Hungary, the IMF seems to be modestly improving its flexibility and conditionality compared to its dreadful practices in previous decades. However, a still distinctively neoliberal vision of how economies work is in play attributable as much to the Hungarian government as to the IMF. The deficits of democracy and poor economic governance in Hungary make our indebted future increasingly bleak.
In April, a conference of doctoral students and senior researchers was held to reflect on the past operations, policies and programmes and future directions of the World Bank.