Adding Fuel to Fire: How IMF demands for austerity will drive up inequality worldwide



The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a huge blow to every country, and many governments have struggled to meet their populations’ urgent needs during the crisis. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stepped in to offer extra support to a large number of countries during the pandemic. However, Oxfam’s analysis shows that as of 15 March 2021, 85% of the 107 COVID-19 loans negotiated between the IMF and 85 governments indicate plans to undertake austerity once the health crisis abates.

The findings in this briefing paper show that the IMF is systematically encouraging countries to adopt austerity measures once the pandemic subsides, risking a severe spike in already increased inequality levels. A variety of studies have revealed the uneven distribution of the burden of austerity, which is more likely to be shouldered by women, low-income households and vulnerable groups, while the wealth of the richest people increases. Oxfam joins global institutions and civil society in urging governments worldwide and the IMF to focus their energies instead on a people-centred, just and equal recovery that will fight inequality and not fuel it. Austerity will not ‘build back better’.