The Bretton Woods Institutions are the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They were set up at a meeting of 43 countries in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, USA in July 1944. Their aims were to help rebuild the shattered postwar economy and to promote international economic cooperation.
The World Bank is the largest public development institution in the world, lending around US$ 25 billion a year to developing countries. The main purposes of the Bank, as outlined in Article One of its Articles of Agreement, are: "to assist in the reconstruction and development of territories of members by facilitating the investment of capital for productive purposes" and "to promote the long-range balanced growth of international trade and the maintenance of equilibrium in balances of payments by encouraging international investment ... thereby assisting in raising the productivity, the standard of living and conditions of labour in their territories".
The IMF was conceived primarily as a supervisory institution to promote international monetary cooperation and facilitate the growth of international trade. This is to be achieved through maintaining monetary exchange stability and assisting member countries who are experiencing balance of payments problems.
The World Bank mainly lends to governments, although certain Bank facilities can also provide direct support to private businesses and to non-profit organisations. Middle-income countries and poorer countries termed as "creditworthy" borrow from the IBRD, while the poorest countries borrow from the IDA. Loans granted by IDA are interest-free but borrowers are required to pay a fee of less than one percent of the loan to cover administrative costs.
The IMF provides various types of loans to member governments. Concessional loans are granted to low-income countries at a concessional interest rate through the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) while non-concessional loans are provided with a market-based interest rate through five mechanisms: the Stand-By Arrangements (SBA); Extended Fund Facility (EFF); Supplemental Reserve Facility (SRF); Contingent Credit Lines (CCL); and the Compensatory Financing Facility (CCF).
Criticism of the World Bank and the IMF encompasses a whole range of issues but they generally centre around concern about the approaches adopted by the World Bank and the IMF in formulating their policies. This includes the social and economic impact these policies have on the population of countries who avail themselves of financial assistance from these two institutions.
The World Bank Group is made up of five institutions, four of which were created after 1944, all sharing a similar mandate of reducing poverty and facilitating economic growth in developing countries. The original institution is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), often simply known as the World Bank. Other institutions have been added: the International Development Association (IDA); the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).