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Economics

The IMF Rushed Out Billions for Pandemic Relief. Where’d It All Go?

The fund committed $118 billion to countries during the Covid crisis. The public may never get a full accounting of how it was spent.

A nurse prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the Ngaliema Clinic in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

A nurse prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the Ngaliema Clinic in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Photographer: Hereward Holland/Reuters
Corrected

When Covid-19 convulsed the world last year, the International Monetary Fund disbursed $118 billion in emergency loans to 87 countries to help them through the crisis. In a tweet on April 15, 2020, the fund’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, counseled governments to “do whatever it takes” to fight the pandemic, “but make sure to keep the receipts.”

Now a reckoning has begun, as the IMF is requiring many countries to conduct independent audits of how the emergency funds were spent before approving new loans. In Africa, Latin America, and other regions, the receipts are not adding up, and some officials have landed in jail.