IMF Holds Consultation on Transparency Policy

30 April 2009

Article IV Reports Source of Tension

Ana Quiros from Nicaragua had a very direct message for the International Monetary Fund.

We would like to see what you are discussing with Nicaragua, and not just in a press note, said Quiros, who works for the Information Center & Advisory Services in Health (Centro de Informacion y Servicios de Asesoria en Salud). CISAS is a not-for-profit Nicaraguan nongovernmental organization that offers educational, informational, and social communication services in the field of community health.

Last year her government prevented Quiros from attending the annual spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, but on April 23 she was there. She joined about 30 other persons who attended an IMF consultation on its disclosure policy.

Her remarks touched on one of the most controversial limitations of the current policy.

IMF officials opening the session stressed that 87 percent of member countries now agree to the release of the Article IV reportsa key IMF staff document that assesses, usually annually, a member countrys economic, monetary, and fiscal policies.

IMF officials again balked when asked to list the countries that do no permit the release of Article IV reports, indicating they do not support a name and shame strategy. The Funds current disclosure policy permits countries to prevent the release of the full report.

A list put together in 2008 by the Global Transparency Initiative includes Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Thailand, and Bahrain. The last published Article IV report for Nicaragua was for 2005. The GTI list is included in a report that contains a variety of recommendations for reforming IMFs disclosure policies, which were presented at the consultation.

It is rare for citizens from the countries that prohibit the release of Article IV reports to speak up. Those countries, Quiros stressed, are the ones that really have the problems. She also chided the Fund for providing more support to Nicaragua when the government is increasingly less transparent.

Fund official Ulric Erickson von Allmen responded by explaining that the Funds foundational documents do not permit mandated disclosure and that certain members have prevented changing the situation.

Quiros said countries should at least have to give reasons for not allowing publication.

Wheres My Secret Decoder Ring?

Jo Marie Griesgraber, Executive Director of New Rules for Global Finance, suggested that IMF board meetings should be open and that, at the very least, transcripts should be available. The Public Information Notices now provided about Board deliberations, she said, Really should have a secret decoder ring. She also urged public disclosure of the Funds administrative budget.

Another speaker, Ibrahim Makram from Egypt, urged more timely release of reports and recommended the use of clearer language. We want more in-depth dialogue, not public relations, he said. Makram is the Director of the Development Sector of CEOSS, the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services, an Egyptian Christian development organization headquartered in Cairo, Egypt.

Bruce Jenkins of the Bank Information Center, an NGO in Washington, urged the Fund to make its policy a proactive tool of inclusion and dialogue. He said information should be released before decisions are made and said citizens have a hard time learning what positions their country representatives take during Fund deliberations, creating an accountability gap.

Other suggestions included more translation into Arabic, more engagement with trade unions, and release of more timely economic data.

In March, the IMF asked for comments on its disclosure policies by April 30 and offered three questionnaires for three different types of potential respondents: civil society organizations; financial market participants; and think tanks, academics, and other stakeholders.

IMF officials would not commit to releasing a draft of the policy proposal sent to the Board.

By Toby McIntosh

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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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