What is the Bretton Woods system?
Ever wondered what the IMF or the World Bank are, and what they do? This 5-minute lecture tells you all you need to know about these powerful institutions, known collectively as the Bretton Woods Institutions. It looks at how they work, their advantages and disadvantages and what we can expect from them.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was created to fight against temporary imbalances of payments. The Bretton Woods system was the first monetary order that organized monetary relations among independent nation-states and was the first system that controlled the value of money between different countries and kept if fixed between certain levels in terms of gold.
Plans to rebuild the international economic system after the end of World War II started before the war ended. 730 delegates from all 44 Allies of World War II came to Bretton Woods, New Hampshire for the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference. The delegates discussed and then signed the Bretton Woods Agreements during the first three weeks of July 1944.
The planners at Bretton Woods set up a system of rules, institutions, and procedures to regulate the international monetary system. They started the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (now one of five institutions in the World Bank Group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These organizations became active in 1946 after enough countries had ratified the agreement.
Until the early 1970s, the Bretton Woods system worked. It controlled conflict and achieved the common goals of the leading states that had created it, especially the United States. But in 1971, In the face of increasing strain, the United States decided not to allow the conversion of dollars to gold and the system collapsed.
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