IMF Transparency Criticized; Consultations Called Flawed

29 March 2013

The International Monetary Fund “fails to establish a proper system of openness,” according to a submission made by a nongovernmental organization.

The comment quoted above, by the Centre for Law and Democracy, was submitted in response to an IMF call for comment about its disclosure policy.

The consultation process itself has garnered criticisms from transparency activists.

For one thing, the incoming comments will not be viewable online at the IMF site. The IMF later will summarize all comments and “post a summary of the comments received by April 30, 2013,” according to the web page for the review.

The comment quoted above, by the Centre for Law and Democracy, will not be viewable online at the IMF site. The IMF later will summarize all comments and provide its own comments.

Of more concern to critics of the process is that the IMF does not intend to disclose its specific proposals to amend the IMF disclosure policy, according to IMF officials. Officials on a conference call with civil society organizations in early March said they will not make public the staff recommendations to the Board.

In this respect, the consultation process is less transparent than that used for disclosure policy reviews by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and international financial institutions. In particular, they released draft policies for public comment.  The World Bank held consultations not only on a drafted access policy, but also invited comment on the post-consultation version sent to the Executive Board for final action.

The IMF in February invited comments on its disclosure policy, the deadline is March 29. The IMF asked for comments on eleven questions.  The Board is expected to have the topic on its agenda in May. (See previous report by FreedomInfo.org.)

Group Critical of IMF Policy

The Centre for Law and Democracy, an international human rights organization based in Canada which provides expert, publicized its comments to the IMF.

“The focus of the current IMF Transparency Policy is entirely on the proactive or automatic disclosure of information. As such, and as noted above, it fails to establish a proper system of openness which, in addition to the proactive disclosure of information, also involves a system for responding to requests for information. In this regard, it has failed to make the transition that has been made by other IFIs in their information disclosure policies,” according to CLD.

The IMF should adopt “a true presumption of openness,” a “clear set of procedures governing the making of and responding to requests” and an appeals process, CLD’s submission says.

The IMF lacks a time frame for automatic disclosures, according to CLD, and despite the “voluntary but presumed” disclosure policy, member governments can object to disclosures. “Giving members a blanket veto over the disclosure of documents that relate to their dealings with the IMF directly breaches the fundamental principle on which the right to information is founded, as well as the broader principles of openness which the IMF’s Transparency Policy is meant to reflect,” CLD comments.

Unless changes are made, “the IMF is set to languish far behind other IFIs in terms of transparency policy,” and “go against the very values which the IMF has itself proclaimed are served by transparency,” the CLD submission concludes.

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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).
Contact: freeinfo@gwu.edu or
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