IMF Conditions Are Often Bad Advice From A Political Economy Perspective
One reason is that IMF reforms are often ill advised and not beneficial, and often the proposed reforms implement policy changes that activists in donor countries desire at home, rather than addressing what is really needed locally. As Wikipedia in the previous link explains:
The IMF has been criticised for being "out of touch" with local
economic conditions, cultures, and environments in the countries they
are requiring policy reform. The economic advice the IMF gives
might not always take into consideration the difference between what
spending means on paper and how it is felt by citizens.
Jeffrey Sachs argues that the IMF's "usual prescription is 'budgetary
belt tightening to countries who are much too poor to own
belts'". Sachs wrote that the IMF's role as a
generalist institution specialising in macroeconomic issues needs
reform. Conditionality has also been criticised because a country can
pledge collateral of "acceptable assets" to obtain waivers—if one
assumes that all countries are able to provide "acceptable
One view is that conditionality undermines domestic political
institutions. The recipient governments are sacrificing policy
autonomy in exchange for funds, which can lead to public resentment of
the local leadership for accepting and enforcing the IMF conditions.
Political instability can result from more leadership turnover as
political leaders are replaced in electoral backlashes. IMF
conditions are often criticised for reducing government services, thus
Another criticism is that IMF programs are only designed to address
poor governance, excessive government spending, excessive government
intervention in markets, and too much state ownership. This
assumes that this narrow range of issues represents the only possible
problems; everything is standardised and differing contexts are
ignored. A country may also be compelled to accept conditions it
would not normally accept had they not been in a financial crisis in
need of assistance.
On top of that, regardless of what methodologies and data sets used,
it comes to same conclusion of exacerbating income inequality. With
Gini coefficient, it became clear that countries with IMF programs
face increased income inequality.
It is claimed that conditionalities retard social stability and hence
inhibit the stated goals of the IMF, while Structural Adjustment
Programs lead to an increase in poverty in recipient countries.
The IMF sometimes advocates "austerity programmes", cutting public
spending and increasing taxes even when the economy is weak, to bring
budgets closer to a balance, thus reducing budget deficits. Countries
are often advised to lower their corporate tax rate. In Globalization
and Its Discontents, Joseph E. Stiglitz, former chief economist and
senior vice-president at the World Bank, criticises these
policies. He argues that by converting to a more monetarist
approach, the purpose of the fund is no longer valid, as it was
designed to provide funds for countries to carry out Keynesian
reflations, and that the IMF "was not participating in a conspiracy,
but it was reflecting the interests and ideology of the Western
Keep in mind that many of the IMF conditions are justified by macroeconomic theories that are not empirically validated. Macroeconomic theory has only a little bit better track record than non-economic theory based analysis at making accurate predictions and proven reforms.
For example, many economists (not a consensus, but either a plurality or a large minority) argued based upon economic theory that a large share of the incidents of the December 2017 corporate tax cuts in the U.S. would benefit workers and consumers, rather than shareholders, but in practice, that didn't happen.
Similarly, macroeconomic advise on response to "stagflation" in the 1970s and 1980s was a dismal failure, and lots of the macroeconomic advise given during the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 and for remedies in its aftermath was proven to be inaccurate.
The IMF has even less of an incentive to carefully get the macroeconomics right than domestic politicians (who often get the macroeconomics wrong) because it isn't accountable to the countries that it serves.
Domestic Politicians and IMF Officials Have Different Political Goals
Another problem is that many countries assisted by the IMF are non-democratic or have seriously flawed democracies in which the political interests and incentives of the people dealing with the IMF on behalf of the government do not have the economic growth of the country as a primary goal.
Still, even in a functioning democracy, the IMF reforms often involve short term sacrifice in exchange for long term growth, and the IMF's time horizon is often longer than that of the people running the government.
In general, every domestic policy gets there historically for an important local reason, and if the "reform" changes a policy without addressing the problem that the reformed policy was meant to address (which is often the case), then the change will be resisted.
But, the IMF is rarely sensitive to this reality, because its goal is to make the people who control the purse-strings of its donor nations happy (people whose views are often themselves removed from general public opinion in donor countries themselves).