GTI Questions IMF Delay of Transparency Policy Review

18 January 2008

The Global Transparency Initiative has expressed concern about the decision by they International Monetary Fund to postponement review of the IMF Transparency Policy, originally scheduled for 2008.

GTI wrote to IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn Dec. 17 after learning from the IMF’s External Relations Department that the next review of the Fund’s Transparency Policy, originally scheduled for mid-2008, has been put off until 2009.

GTI is a network of civil society organizations promoting transparency and accountability in the international financial institutions (IFIs), including the IMF.

The Fund’s extension of the review time appears to be part of an overall streamlining process within the institution in which policy review cycles are being extended to five years.

“We are seriously concerned about the proposed delay of the review of the Transparency Policy. Transparency is an institutional framework policy that is critical to the IMF’s legitimacy, accountability structure, and operational effectiveness,” the GTI wrote.  The letter indicated that “in important respects, the IMF’s policy fails to conform to the standards set out in the GTI’s leading policy document, the Transparency Charter for International Financial Institutions: Claiming our Right to Know.”

“Furthermore, the IMF’s openness standards now lag behind those of many other IFIs,” the. While we recognize that the IMF has to prioritise its resources, particularly in light of the GTI wrote. The organization recently published a guide to IMF disclosure policy highlighting a variety of deficiencies. The letter said a review of the status quo is “urgent” and requests that the IMF “conduct the review in 2008 as originally planned.”

“We also call for the Fund to participate in consultations, ahead of the publication of the review, with civil society organizations. Such consultations should occur both within the IMF’s Washington, D.C. headquarters as well as within countries where civil society organizations are interested in interacting with Fund staff in person.

The major disclosure issue at the International Monetary Fund remains access to its key reports about member countries, the so-called Article IV reports, the subject of a freedominfo.org report in 2006. In recent years, internal reviews have been conducted on the policy, highlighting, among other things, the slow progress toward the release of the key Article IV reports on member countries, and the degree to which deletions are made in the documents that are released. The 2006 figures show that 15 percent of the countries whose Article IV and/or Use of Fund Resources reports were reviewed by the IMF board opted against disclosure, as reported in a 2007 freedominfo.org article. The last major review of IMF disclosure policy was conducted in 2005, as reported by freedominfo.org. At that point, the IMF extended its disclosure policy review time from two years to three years.

 The GTI Executive Committee includes representatives from Information Network (ATIN), Philippines; ARTICLE 19, United Kingdom; Bank Information Center, United States; Bretton Woods Project, United Kingdom; Cedha, Argentina; CEE Bankwatch Network, Czech Republic; freedominfo.org, United States; Fundar, Mexico; Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA), South Africa; and Parivartan, India.

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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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