If you have difficulty distinguishing the World Bank from the International Monetary Fund, you are not alone. Most people have only the vaguest idea of what these institutions do, and very few people indeed could, if pressed on the point, say why and how they differ. Even John Maynard Keynes, a founding father of the two institutions and considered by many the most brilliant economist of the twentieth century, admitted at the inaugural meeting of the International Monetary Fund that he was confused by the names: he thought the Fund should be called a bank, and the Bank should be called a fund. Confusion has reigned ever since.
Known collectively as the Bretton Woods Institutions after the remote village in New Hampshire, U.S.A., where they were founded by the delegates of 44 nations in July 1944, the Bank and the IMF are twin intergovernmental pillars supporting the structure of the world's economic and financial order. That there are two pillars rather than one is no accident. The international community was consciously trying to establish a division of labor in setting up the two agencies. Those who deal professionally with the IMF and Bank find them categorically distinct. To the rest of the world, the niceties of the division of labor are even more mysterious than are the activities of the two institutions.