Birds of a feather? The determinants of impartiality perceptions of the IMF and the World Bank

Cover Birds of a Feather
Heinzel, Mirko; Jonas Richter, Per-Olof Busch, Jana Herold, Hauke Feil and Andrea Liese 2020: Birds of a feather? The determinants of impartiality perceptions of the IMF and the World Bank. In: Review of International Political Economy,

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank ascribe to impartiality in their mandates. At the same time, scholarship indicates that their decisions are disproportionately influenced by powerful member states. Impartiality is seen as crucial in determining the effectiveness and legitimacy of International Organizations (IOs) in the literature. However, we know little about whether key interlocutors in national governments perceive the international financial institutions as biased actors who do the bidding of powerful member states or as impartial executors of policy. In order to better understand these perceptions, we surveyed high-level civil servants who are chiefly responsible for four policy areas from more than 100 countries. We found substantial variations in impartiality perceptions. What explains these variations? By developing an argument of selective awareness, we extend rationalist and ideational perspectives on IO impartiality to explain domestic perceptions. Using novel survey data, we test whether staffing underrepresentation, voting underrepresentation, alignment to the major shareholders and overlapping economic policy paradigms are associated with impartiality perceptions. We find substantial evidence that shared economic policy paradigms influence impartiality perceptions. The findings imply that by diversifying their ideational culture, IOs can increase the likelihood that domestic stakeholders view them as impartial.