Skip to main content


Policy reforms mandated by the IMF between 1980 and 2019:


IMF Conditionality Dataset, 1980-2019

The purpose of this project is to compile a systematic, comprehensive, and publicly available database of IMF conditionality. Detailed information on conditions included in loans are sourced from internal IMF documents.

How to cite the dataset:

Kentikelenis, A., & Stubbs, T. (2023). A Thousand Cuts: Social Protection in the Age of Austerity. Oxford University Press.

What is IMF Conditionality?

Among its various activities (including data collection, research, and training policy elites), International Monetary Fund (IMF) lending programmes to countries in economic trouble have attracted most attention. In exchange for financial support, borrowing countries agree to implement a package of obligatory policy reforms, or ‘conditionality’, phased over one or more years. The implementation of conditionality is then assessed on a quarterly or bi-annual basis determining the disbursement of IMF funds.

As a general principle, loans come with conditions attached, such as repayment in an agreed-upon timeframe at a specified interest rate. This practice is consistent with the motives of private financial institutions interested in making a profit using their capital. However, such conditionality does not necessarily reflect the motivations of loan-granting intergovernmental institutions, which typically have politically-determined priorities that go beyond profit-making, including economic development, poverty reduction, infrastructure financing, education expansion, and other such objectives.​

Over the years, the IMF’s conditional lending practices have changed significantly. Until the 1980s, conditionality primarily required reforms to fiscal and monetary policy, as well as exchange rate adjustments, with the aim of reaching sustainable balance of payments. In the mid-1980s, the IMF expanded conditionality to bring about ‘structural adjustment’. This new approach advanced four main types of reforms: stabilization, liberalization, deregulation, and privatization. These policy conditions had a substantial impact on the underlying economic architecture of borrowing countries.

Conditionality has been linked to several detrimental economic, social, and political outcomes. On the economic side, IMF conditionality has been linked to reductions in economic growth and increases in inequality. On the social side, studies have found detrimental impacts to health systems in Africa and Europe, and identified adverse effects on population health. On the political side, research has linked conditionality to decreases in unionization and greater incidence of civil war.​

Conditionality Policy Areas

External Debt Issues

18,089 external debt conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Debt management
  • External arrears
  • Public debt, guarantees, and contingent liabilities

Financial Sector, Monetary Policy & Central Bank Issues

16,576 financial sector, monetary policy, and Central Bank conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Financial institutions
    • Legal reforms, regulation, and supervision
    • Corrective actions in problem banks
    • Privatization of financial institutions
    • Bankruptcy proceedings of financial institutions
    • Audits of financial institutions
    • Policies related to insurance companies
  • Treasury bill issuance and auctions
  • Government securities
  • Monetary policy
    • Reserve money
    • Interest rates
    • Base money
  • Central Bank
    • Legal reforms, regulation, supervision
    • Auditing, transparency, financial controls

Fiscal Issues

11,815 fiscal conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Expenditure policy and administration (includes single treasury account)
  • Expenditure audits, accounting, and financial controls
  • Fiscal transparency (publication, parliamentary oversight, posting data online)
  • Audits of ministries
  • Budget-related issues (preparation, submission to parliament, or approval)
  • Domestic government borrowing or debt
  • Public investment decisions
  • Public sector arrears (includes to state-owned enterprises)
  • Wage and non-wage arrears

External Sector (Trade & Exchange System)

5,697 external sector conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Trade-related issues
    • Trade liberalization
    • Tariffs / quotas changes
    • Custom duties changes
  • Exchange system
    • Foreign exchange rate regime
    • Exchange rate policy
  • Capital account liberalisation
  • Foreign direct investment
  • Surrender requirements
  • Excludes: customs administration reforms (see revenues and tax issues)

Revenues & Tax Issues

4,970 revenue and tax conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Revenue issues
  • Audits of private enterprises
  • Tax policy, legislation and administration
  • Customs administration
  • User fees (excludes those falling under social policy)
  • Excludes: trade-related tax (see external sector)

State-Owned Enterprise Reform & Pricing

2,677 state-owned enterprise reform and pricing conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Restructuring of public enterprises, pricing policies and subsidies
  • Transference of state-owned enterprise management to the private sector
  • Regulatory reforms in utilities, price controls and marketing restrictions
  • Audits of state-owned enterprises
  • Marketing board-related conditions
  • Corporatization, rationalization, etc.
  • Clearance of arrears to the public sector, other state-owned enterprises, or elsewhere
  • Excludes: financial sector (see financial sector, monetary policy, and Central Bank issues)

Labour Issues (Public & Private Sector)

2,137 labour conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Wage and employment limits
  • Pensions
  • Social security institutions
  • Excludes: conditions that are beneficial to labour (e.g. payments of wage arrears, see fiscal issues)
  • Excludes: measures related to personnel in social sectors (if concerning reductions in numbers, see social policy; if concerning increases in numbers, see redistributive policies)
  • Excludes: Salary, wage and income taxes (see revenues and tax issues)

State-Owned Enterprise Privatisation

1,059 state-owned enterprise privatisation conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • All activities related to the privatisation of non-financial state-owned enterprises (includes joint stock companies, tenders, etc.)
  • Liquidation of state-owned enterprises (under the rationale that government is relinquishing ownership)
  • Bankruptcy proceedings of state-owned enterprises
  • Excludes: financial sector (see financial sector, monetary policy, and Central Bank issues)

Redistributive Policies

1,292 redistributive policy conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Poverty reduction measures
  • Increases in social sector spending
  • Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper development and implementation
  • Minimum employment in health and education sectors, social safety nets, etc.
  • Excludes: changes in any social policy that contain both restrictive and redistributive measures or are ambiguous, i.e. that could be either restrictive or redistributive (see social policy)
  • Excludes: conditions that refer to collection on spending data for monitoring ‘priority sectors’ (see fiscal policy)

Institutional Reforms

855 institutional reform conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Legal reforms (e.g. new civil code, bankruptcy laws, judicial system reforms)
  • General anti-corruption measures (e.g. declarations of income sources for politicians, publishing tenders online)
  • Combating economic crimes (e.g. anti-money laundering laws, reforms against the financing of terrorism)
  • Enhancing competition (e.g. granting new licenses for telephone companies, abolishing monopoly sectors)
  • Private sector development (e.g. reducing barriers to entry, procedures to register business, governance/regulation of private sector enterprise, business registry)
  • Devolution, decentralisation, or restructuring of ministries
  • Sectoral policies

Social Policy

359 social policy conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Changes in any social policy (health, housing, education, etc.) as long they are restrictive (e.g., introduction of user fees, closures of hospitals or schools, etc.) or neutral (e.g. agree with the World Bank on X plan)
  • Increases in prices or removal of consumer subsidies for food, water, public transport, or other basic needs goods (includes electricity and gas only in cases where they explicitly target households)
  • Restructuring of health, education, or housing (etc.) ministries
  • Changes in any social policy that contain both restrictive and redistributive measures or are ambiguous

Land & Environment

188 land and environment conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Land issues (includes privatisation of land, land registries, granting property rights; excludes taxation, see revenues and tax issues)
  • Environmental issues (includes environmental regulations, access to the commons)

Residual Category

180 residual category conditions recorded since 1980

Includes conditions on:

  • Statistical or national accounts issues (e.g. national accounts framework, balance of payments measuring / reporting, consumer price index, establishing statistical authorities, household surveys)