IMF Begins Delayed Review of Transparency Policy

31 March 2009

The International Monetary Fund on March 25 requested public comment on its transparency policy.

The IMF asked for comments by April 30 and offered questionnaires for three different types of potential respondents: "civil society organizations," "financial market participants," and "think tanks, academics and other stakeholders."

Questionnaires

Other e-mail comments are to be directed to transparency@imf.org

The IMF is seeking opinions on its 2005 transparency policy, but does not propose specific changes.

Nor does the announcement describe the review process.

The IMF promoted its current policy, which has been criticized by transparency activists, including the Global Transparency Initiative.

The GTI in January 2008 has expressed concern about the decision by the IMF’s decision to delay by a year a planned review of its Transparency Policy, originally scheduled for 2008.

As described by the IMF: "The transparency policy establishes guidelines for the release of IMF Executive Board documents to the public. The publication status of most categories of documents is "voluntary but presumed … and once a document is issued to the Executive Board, any changes are limited."

The announcement states that "the review of the policy will focus on the experience with the policy against the background of increased global financial integration and greater emphasis on external communication since the last evaluation of transparency. For the review, we would like to obtain external stakeholders’ views on the usefulness, accessibility, candor, and impact of IMF reports and other IMF information."

The questionnaire seems oriented as much to the quality of IMF information as it is to the traditional elements of disclosure policy, the delineation of what should be released, when and under what conditions.

For example, the questionnaire asks for respondents’ views on the statement: "The IMF is candid about its lending operations and policy recommendations to countries with IMF-supported programs?"

The questionnaire asks respondents to check a box if they agree with a dozen sentences, some of which are "Published IMF country reports influence the financial markets," and "The IMF recently implemented major improvements in its lending policy."

The survey further asks how IMF disclosure policy could be improved, offering the options of easier to understand, more timely, more frank, easier to access, and other.

The survey does not directly address a long-standing issue with IMF policy, whether to require disclosure of all Article IV reports, a subject addressed in a February 2008 freedominfo.org report.

The latest IMF tables on implementation of its disclosure policy, dated Feb. 23, 2009, indicate only slight improvement in the rate of disclosure of Article IV reports and the number of deletions allowed.

By Toby McIntosh

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ABOUT 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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