At the ANC’s recent national policy conference, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba stated that the struggling South African economy could, in the future, require financial assistance from abroad if economic growth is not re-ignited. Many have interpreted this as suggesting a "bailout" from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Sovereign states are able to approach the IMF for financial and technical (non-financial) support during both calm and stormy conditions. The latter is certainly better known, with Greece a prime example in recent times. Good-weather assistance varies in magnitude and nature. In troubled times, the IMF can consider what it calls "crisis lending" — bailout is a term popularised by the media in a similar manner to "junk status". This includes stand-by arrangements that address short-term or potential balance of payments problems. For countries with sound policies, the IMF offers flexible credit line, and precautionary and liquidity line programmes. These help preve...

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