IMF Board Discusses Transparency, Announcement Expected

1 July 2003

The International Monetary Fund Executive Board met June 27 to discuss the Fund’s current transparency policy and possibly increasing the accessibility of IMF documents to the public.

Although no immediate announcement has resulted, Fund officials said a press release, and a staff report, will be issued soon.

“It should be concluded this week, there are just some technical things to be worked out,” said one IMF official, referring to the week of June 30.

Current transparency policy at the IMF is one of voluntary publication, meaning that the IMF leaves final approval of publication up to the member state’s government. Since many of these documents determine economic policy in IMF member countries, nongovernmental organizations around the globe have demanded reforms to the current transparency policy that would allow increased public access to these documents.

In a letter sent in late June to IMF executive directors, NGOs including the Bank Information Center and the Bretton Woods Project called for heavy revision of IMF transparency policy. The proposed policy changes include the mandatory publication of Article IV Staff Reports and Use of Fund Resources Staff Reports, both of which are IMF evaluations of how well a member state has managed its economy.

These NGOs have similarly called for the mandatory and timely publication of all Letters of Intent, Memoranda of Economic and Financial Policies, and Technical Memoranda of Understanding. These three documents often signal the intentions of a country seeking IMF financial support.

The groups further asked that this trio of documents be released in draft form before Board approval. “This would allow borrowing governments to involve legislators and other stakeholders before an agreement is reached, rather than negotiate in secret and risk parliamentary or public protests rejecting the conditions of IMF assistance.”

The groups also urged public release of “side letters” containing “confidential measures” that are conditions of the loans.

Other policy reforms outlined in the letter include a call for publication of Executive Board minutes within a few months of any meeting. The current policy is to release these minutes ten years after the meeting, with the idea that they would be of use to historians. Issuance of a work program for the Executive Board also was recommended.

NGOs have also proposed that IMF documents be available in multiple languages and as jargon-free as possible so that they might better foster public debate and understanding of IMF operations.

The NGO letter is available on the website of the Bretton Woods Project.

By Greg Holt

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Filed under: IFTI Watch


In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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