CSOs Say IMF Transparency Policy Worst Among IFIs

22 April 2013

The International Monetary Fund is less transparent than other International Financial Institutions, according to civil society organizations that responded to the Fund’s call for comments.

The Fund is undergoing a review of its 2009 transparency policy and expects for the Board to consider the subject in May. The draft of any proposed changes will not be made public, the IMF staff has said, a practice about which the CSOs objected.

The text of the comments submitted by the CSOs is not posted on the IMF website, another operating procedure criticized by at least one of the commenting groups, New Rules for Global Finance. The IMF summary said that Global Research Priorities in Global Governance (UK) also submitted comments, not mentioning a submission from the Centre for Law and Democracy (Canada). (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)  A footnote in the summary does not indicate that FreedomInfo.org participated in a conference call of CSOs with IMF officials. The IMF’s three-page summary of CSO comments was circulated to commenters for their feedback.

Summary Leaves Out Specific Suggestions

The IMF should adopt a presumption of disclosure, commenters said, according to the summary, and not seek consent from country authorities or the Board approval prior to publication. Live streaming of Board meetings and issuance of minutes was also recommended. “More generally, information about the Fund Board’s calendar and activities was seen as limited and often unreliable,” the summary said.  

The IMF lacks clear procedures for making requesters, commenters said.

The emphasis on market sensitivity in the Fund’s transparency policy “was seen as overblown,” and should be more clearly defined, the CSOs said. The summary continued: “The Fund should put the emphasis on keeping the public informed rather than on maintaining market stability in cases when these two objectives come into conflict. In general, the Fund should realize the difference between secrecy and responsibility.”

The generalities of the summary leave out specific suggestions.

New Rules for Global Finance recommended:  “An independent and external body should be designated to define “market sensitive” or other terms for deletions.” It also said that “member country requests for deletions that are rejected by the IMF should be made public – and be used to formulate a comprehensive definition of market sensitive information [Authorization and Consent, Paragraph 7, pg. 18].”

Advice on Consultation Given

Regarding consultation with stakeholders, the Fund was urged to “strike a balance between its duty to advise country authorities and its wider responsibility to countries as a whole” and “step up its interaction with other stakeholders, e.g. parliaments, opposition groups, CSOs and trade unions.”

“The Fund’s handling of consultations with CSOs on policy papers is seen as suboptimal, including the current review of the transparency policy, as CSOs were allowed only to provide general comments ahead of time, limiting their scope to influence decisions. Instead, CSOs should be given an opportunity to review and comment on draft policy papers before issuance to the Executive Board,” the summary said, also noting the request that CSOs’ full comments be posted on its website.

“Greater candor and timely disclosure of information would enhance the Fund’s accountability, and reduce the risk of it being used as a scapegoat by governments,” summarized the IMF.

The emphasis on market sensitivity in the Fund’s transparency policy “was seen as overblown,” and should be more clearly defined, the CSOs said. The summary continued: “The Fund should put the emphasis on keeping the public informed rather than on maintaining market stability in cases when these two objectives come into conflict. In general, the Fund should realize the difference between secrecy and responsibility.”

IMF documents should highlight the internal policy differences policy, thus avoiding the “suppression of views, as flagged by the IEO. ‘More attribution of views was also seen as needed in Board summing ups.”

“The Fund should disclose the list of unpublished and modified documents, as well as modification requests with justifications as to why they have been permitted. If documents are modified, they should be published with black line redactions to clarify the nature of the change,” according to the summary.

 “While the Fund was seen as having made progress at releasing information on `outcomes,’ but information on `processes’ that lead up to decisions is more limited. There is a need for more systematic disclosure on how decisions are made, including on technical assistance funding and program conditionality.”

The Fund” should systematically include a section on stakeholders’ views in staff reports.”

The IMF also was urged to “cut back on jargon and in general use language that makes documents more accessible to the general public,” and to translate policy papers into more that five official UN languages.

Web pages should be created for all resident representative offices, “and those offices should maintain a mailing list of key CSOs and distribute news releases to them electronically.” Information related to a country should be housed in a single location to facilitate searching and improved.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags:

Filed under: IFTI Watch

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
1-(703) 341-5815