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The IMF And Civil Society Organizations
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Civil Society Newsletter
Recent Developments in IMF-CSO Relations
Letters from the Field:
The 2005 Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank provided an important opportunity to assess progress in the effort to reduce global poverty, and offered an overview of the international efforts to define the next stage of the poverty-reduction strategy. The meetings followed the release of several key reports by the United Nations, the British government, and the Bank and Fund themselves on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and related aid programs, especially in Africa. At the meetings, various officials offered perspectives on the discussions among donor countries on the future of overseas development assistance, including debt relief (see, for example, the press conferences of IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato on April 14, and that of U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and the Managing Director on April 16). Now, all eyes will be on a series of meetings that will take place before the 2005 IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings: the G-8 summit in Gleaneagles, Scotland next June; the high-level dialogue at the UN under the auspices of the Financing for Development program also in June; and the Millennium Summit in September.
The 2005 Spring Meetings coincided with several events involving the IMF, World Bank and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). Apart from the biennial Civil Society dialogues, IMF and World Bank staff participated in a meeting with labor union leaders on Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and participated in a multistakeholder dialogue with CSOs feeding into the 2005 PRSP review.
The Spring Meetings Civil Society dialogues covered a wide range of topics, including the IMF's role in low-income countries; resource revenue transparency in natural resource-rich countries; the IMF's conditionality review; and the macroeconomics of HIV/AIDS. CSOs attending these dialogues were also busy lobbying the G-7 countries for movement on the campaign for additional debt relief. Even though no final decision was taken in that regard, the communiqués of the G-7, the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) and the Development Committee reiterated the need for action regarding the MDGs. The feature article reports on the IMFC meeting.
The technical meeting with labor unions was part of the regular dialogue between the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and the labor movement, with high-level meetings held every two years and technical meetings focusing on specific issues held in the intervening years. The last high-level meeting took place in October 2004. Both Fund and Bank staff and labor unions welcomed the session, as an article on the meeting illustrates.
The largest event was the multistakeholder dialogue on the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) process, which involved around 200 representatives from CSOs, governments, parliaments, donor agencies and the Bank and Fund. It was part of a World Bank-Civil Society Global Policy Forum that also discussed World Bank-CSO relations. The conference will feed into the 2005 PRSP Review, an in-depth assessment of progress, challenges, and good practices related to several key issues of the PRS five years after the launch of the strategy.
The International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), which brings together 24 of the Fund's governors and other officials representing the Fund's 184 member countries for high-level discussions of global economic policy issues and IMF policies and operations, met April 16 in Washington, D.C. The meeting addressed the outlook for the global economy, IMF support for low-income members' efforts to reduce poverty, and the Fund's strategic direction.
The IMFC welcomed the continuing global expansion, which is expected to continue through 2005 and beyond. However, the committee also noted that widening imbalances across regions and the continued rise in oil prices and oil market volatility have increased the risks facing the world economy. It concluded that the IMF's own policy consultations with its members should focus on promoting policies for reducing global imbalances over time; addressing the impact of higher oil prices, in particular on the most vulnerable countries; managing the policy response to potential inflationary pressures; and ensuring the sustainability of medium-term fiscal frameworks.
The Committee particularly welcomed the recent strong growth in sub-Saharan Africa, but noted with concern that most of the members in that region are at risk of falling well short of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With improved macroeconomic stability in most countries, the IMFC observed that the key challenge for these countries remains to press ahead with reforms to strengthen the investment environment and foster private sector-led growth. The global community, in turn, needs to support these reform efforts through meeting commitments to increased and better coordinated financial and technical assistance; further debt relief; policies to improve remittance flows; and improved market access for developing countries.
The Committee underscored the conclusion of this year's IMF-World Bank Global Monitoring Report that bold actions are urgently needed by the developing countries and their partners to realize the MDGs. It said that the U.N. Summit in September 2005 will mark an important milestone to review progress in this area and lay out actions going forward. The IMFC said that the IMF has a critical role in supporting-through policy advice, capacity building, and financial assistance, including debt relief-low-income countries' efforts to achieve macroeconomic stability, debt sustainability, and strong, sustainable high growth needed to make progress toward the MDGs.
The IMFC noted that work is underway to refine the operational aspects of the PRS approach, improve the design of programs under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF), and embrace alignment between PRGF-supported programs and PRSs. This will be underpinned by more extensive analyses of the sources of, and obstacles to, growth, and of the linkages between growth and poverty reduction. The Committee looked forward to further work to ensure adequate financing of the PRGF to meet future demands, and other IMF instruments to assist low-income countries (LICs), including to help members deal with shocks. It also looked forward to further work on a policy monitoring arrangement to enhance the IMF's signaling role for countries that do not need or want IMF financing.
While ministers agreed that more aid would be needed to help countries-particularly in Africa-reach the MDGs, there was no consensus on how to mobilize those additional financial resources. Various proposals were discussed, but no decisions were taken. Decisions are expected later this year as other international meetings proceed, including the G-8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland, the UN Summit in New York, and the IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington D.C. in September.
On debt, the IMFC noted the recent progress in providing debt relief under the HIPC initiative, and expressed its support for the joint IMF-World Bank framework to help LICs achieve and maintain debt sustainability. It welcomed the IMF's work and the preliminary discussion of key issues regarding proposals for further multilateral debt relief and its financing options, and called for further discussion with shareholders and examination of these issues, including the possible use of the IMF's resources.
On the strategic direction of the Fund, the committee welcomed discussions underway within the institution on a medium-term strategy and confirmed that the central elements of the IMF's mandate under its Articles of Agreement remain as important as ever. The Committee called for further work to strengthen IMF consultations with member countries-called surveillance-and its work on financial sector issues and international capital markets; further reflection on the Fund's lending facilities; adaptation of Fund policies to the needs of low-income countries; and improvement of internal management standards. In addition, the IMFC said that adequate "voice and participation by all members must be assured, and distribution of quotas should reflect developments in the world economy."
The civil society dialogues at the 2005 IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings covered a range of topics of interest to CSOs and the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs), including the IMF's role in LICs, the IMF's conditionality review, and the macroeconomics of HIV/AIDS. Many of the meetings were organized by the IMF and World Bank, but several events were sponsored by CSOs and other organizations. The regular dialogues also coincided with a labor union technical meeting on the PRSP process (see article) as well as the World Bank Civil Society Global Policy Forum (see article). The full list of dialogues is available at http://www.worldbank.org/civilsociety.
During a panel discussion on transparency in extractive industries, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and representatives from Global Witness and Human Rights Watch discussed with IMF and World Bank staff the recently published draft Guide on Resource Revenue Transparency. The April 15 panel discussion was moderated by Peter Heller, Deputy Director of the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department (FAD).
The IMF had posted the Draft Guide for public comment in December 2004, and comments submitted were taken into account during the preparation of the final version of the Guide (see Civil Society Newsletter February 2005). In the Guide IMF staff said institutional strengthening to improve transparency in resource-rich countries should provide an ample payoff for a relatively modest investment. Transparency of current revenue transactions is an area in which many low and middle-income countries can make immediate, visible progress, if necessary with technical support, it said.
Diarmid O'Sullivan, campaigner with Global Witness's oil campaign, said the NGO has some reservations but likes the Guide, believing it is the clearest and most comprehensive articulation of the information that needs to be in the public domain, and of needed oversight measures. Global Witness also says it approves of the way the Guide does not limit the freedom of governments to choose their own policies, and the Guide's understanding that both oil and mining companies that pay revenues and governments that receive the revenues have a responsibility to be transparent.
Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, said the IMF has taken a "really progressive stance on transparency and ... a very positive line with governments ... to push their practices forward." He said the guide is a good starting point-provided it actually is implemented. The key is that there be a minimum commitment to transparency across the board, regardless of country, Ganesan said.
Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala said that implementing resource revenue transparency is at the center of an anticorruption drive in Nigeria. Her country's government has tried, since its election in 1999, to be clearer than in the past about the role and responsibility of government in the resource sector. Okonjo-Iweala said the Nigerian government's transparency drive is not an isolated effort, but part of an overall reform program that includes improved public expenditure management; privatization; public sector reform; and banking reforms. She said Nigeria is trying hard to overcome a reputation of corruption and mismanagement, including improper use of its natural resources.
In the Nigerian government's effort to put in place reforms that can turn the economy around and enable the private sector to create jobs, fighting corruption and improving transparency are key goals, Okonjo-Iweala added. She said the Guide's reference to institutional strengthening and improved transparency providing significant benefits to government and taxpayers precisely captures Nigeria's recent experience. Okonjo-Iweala also noted that oil is the center of the Nigerian economy, providing over 75 percent of government revenues and comprising 90 percent of exports. Since corrupt behavior has affected the oil sector in the past, the government must improve the transparency of its revenues.Other CSO policy dialogues
A joint IMF-World Bank technical meeting with labor union leaders on the subject of trade union involvement in the preparation of PRSPs was held in Washington, D.C., on April 19, 2005. The meeting was organized to coincide with the IMF/World Bank Civil Society Dialogues that traditionally take place around the Spring Meetings of the two institutions, and with a World Bank Civil Society Global Policy Forum that sought the views of civil society organizations on the ongoing IMF/World Bank review of the PRSP approach.
The meeting was part of the regular dialogue between the IFIs and labor unions; high-level meetings are held every two years and technical meetings focusing on specific issues are held in the intervening years. The last high-level meeting took place in October 2004 (see story in the November 2004 issue of the CSO newsletter). A summary of that discussion can be found at: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2004/pr04212.htm.
In the first session of the day-long meeting with labor unions, IMF and World Bank representatives reviewed the outcome of the Spring Meetings, particularly with regard to low-income country issues (see feature article).
The second session focused on the PRSP review. Fund and Bank staff reviewed the experience with the PRS process over the first five years of implementation, and outlined some of its achievements and weaknesses. They noted that the approach had helped to strengthen countries' focus on poverty reduction efforts, but that it needed to provide a better framework for creating growth and making progress on the MDGs. Some preliminary findings of the review indicated that this required, among other things, a stronger medium-term orientation, better prioritization, broader and deeper participation of stakeholders, and improved donor coordination mechanisms.
Trade union representatives focused their presentations on how to achieve more meaningful participation, particularly of labor. They said studies and examples from individual country cases indicated that trade union consultation and participation in the elaboration of PRSPs had been uneven; the representatives said that it was rare at the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation stages. This was largely due to deficient participation structures and processes in many countries, but sometimes also to a lack of technical capacity on the part of unions that detracted from their ability to contribute. The trade union representatives suggested several actions to enhance the quality of the participatory process and trade unions' capacity to help improve the reflection of trade union concerns in final PRSPs.
In the third session, a representative from the International Labor Organization's Bureau for Worker's Activities (ILO-ACTRAV) presented a study of trade union involvement in PRSPs, based on pilot country cases. Among ACTRAV's recommendations was to institute formal mechanisms for participation, on a tripartite model involving workers, employers, and government, and place the goals of "decent work"-including employment, social protection, rights, and social dialogue-at the heart of PRSP discussions and strategies.
Speakers at the concluding session broadly welcomed the fact that the PRSP approach had increased attention to the issue of poverty reduction, and had led to greater involvement of stakeholders in national discourses on the best way to achieve that goal. They generally agreed, however, that the approach needed to be refined in various ways, including to improve the quality of participation by civil society, and better reflect "decent work" objectives. IMF and WB staff welcomed the dialogue with the trade unions, and noted that their views would be considered and reflected in the final report on the PRSP review, which will be ready by the Fall.
Some 200 representatives from civil society, governments, parliaments, donor agencies and the Bank and Fund came together in Washington in late April to assess the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) process. The conference was part of the 2005 Review, an in-depth assessment of progress, challenges, and good practice related to several key issues of the PRS five years after their launch. Civil society organizations (CSOs) from over 50 countries attended, representing labor unions, NGOs, faith-based groups, foundations, and community-based organizations.
After opening remarks by Mark Plant, Senior Advisor in the IMF Policy Development and Review Department (PDR), and Luca Barbone, Director of the Poverty Reduction Group at the World Bank, and a presentation by Bank and Fund staffs on the review and the key challenges faced in the 70 countries implementing PRS, participants attended eight separate roundtables to concentrate on key questions such as the availability of poverty data, relations with a country's Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF-the budgetary translation of the PRS' medium-term objectives and the framework for the formulation of annual budgets), donor harmonization, and CSO participation in the PRS process.
Each roundtable included country-based expertise from government officials, CSO representatives, parliamentarians, and PRS staff from donor agencies. From the IMF, Elliott Harris, Patricia Alonso-Gamo, Thomas Dorsey and Louis Dicks-Mireaux from PDR, as well as Robert Gillingham from the Fiscal Affairs Department and Benedict Clements from the Western Hemisphere Department, participated in the roundtables.The recommendations made by the working groups during the day, which will feed directly into the Review, included:
The notes from the sessions are posted at http://www.worldbank.org/prspreview.
IMF staff also participated in discussions the following afternoon on the World Bank conditionality review (Juan Zalduendo, PDR) and on debt, trade and the MDGs (Andy Berg, PDR).
The PRS Day was followed by a day of discussion of Bank-Civil Society relations. More information can be found at: http://www.worldbank.org/civilsociety/.
New Director of Independent Evaluation Office
Thomas Bernes was appointed Director of the IMF's Independent Evaluation Office (IEO), succeeding Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Bernes is the Executive Secretary of the IMF-World Bank Development Committee and Deputy Corporate Secretary of the World Bank. A Canadian national, he previously served as IMF Executive Director for Canada, Ireland, and the Caribbean constituency.
Grenada, a small island nation in the Caribbean, was devastated on September 7, 2004, by Hurricane Ivan. Ninety percent of houses on the island were damaged or destroyed. The overall damage was estimated at twice the country's annual income. This far exceeds the damage of 2 percent of annual income that natural disasters have, on average, inflicted on countries over the last three decades. The utter devastation of the country brought forth tremendous support from the international community, particularly civil society groups.
On February 25, 2005, the IMF and the World Bank joined the National Coalition on Caribbean Affairs (www.ncoca.org) to discuss Grenada's recovery some six months after Ivan struck and the lessons learnt for disaster relief efforts in general. Prakash Loungani, the IMF's mission chief to Grenada, said that the economic situation remained very difficult. About 8 percent of the labor force had lost their jobs, mainly from tourism and agriculture, as a result of the effect of the hurricane, bringing the country's unemployment rate to over 20 percent. While men were getting absorbed in reconstruction and fishing, women were finding it tougher to get new jobs. Donor agencies and civil society groups were trying to address the providing training for women in construction and home repair. There was also a severe need for "helping people come to grips" with the trauma of the hurricane through counseling, "particularly as the next hurricane season approaches."
Caroline Anstey, the World Bank's country director for the Caribbean, added that in Grenada, as elsewhere in the Eastern Caribbean region, the country's huge public debt adds to the precariousness of the economic situation. "This is essentially going to be a problem for all the people of the region because it is their debt. It will be passed down to their children, and their children's children. I think that there is a need for a real dialogue on the debt issue in the Caribbean," Anstey said.
On the lessons learned from Grenada, Anstey said the success of relief and rehabilitation efforts there shows "the need to involve civil and community groups ... reconstruction can be coordinated top down, but it really needs to take place bottom up to energize the community." She mentioned, as an example, the work of faith-based NGOs in helping with the reconstruction of churches.
Grenada's ambassador to the United States, Denis G. Antoine, said his country still needed help to achieve its goal to "Build Back Better." He asked CSOs and others to keep "Grenada's name in the news and in the international community" so that this help would be forthcoming. Without such public attention, "the Grenadas of the world would remain marginalized based on their lack of economic might."
A full transcript of the event is available at http://www.imf.org/external/np/tr/2005/tr052505.htm
In May 2005, 41 international charities received awards from the IMF's Civic Program Advisory Committee (CPAC), which is made up of 12 representatives drawn from staff, spouses and partners, retirees, and volunteers from INVOLVE (a grassroots volunteer group started by IMF staff). CPAC supports programs that assist persons facing low-income, socially dependent, and other detrimental and dysfunctional situations. The selected organizations are from a variety of countries, including China, Guatemala, Mali, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Senegal, Togo, Ukraine, the West Bank and Gaza Territories, and Zambia. The other half of the 82 total grantees are organizations from the Washington, D.C. area that are providing social services in the IMF's host city. (See guidelines and past recipients at www.imf.org/external/np/cpac/cpindex.htm.)
Since its founding in 1994, CPAC has given money to nearly 134 charities globally. It is managed by the Civic & Community Relations Office of the IMF's External Relations Department. CPAC's activities also include employee contributions through the "Helping Hands" Campaign and fundraising for humanitarian relief efforts. Fund management personally presents donations to charitable organizations when visiting member countries. (See the "letter from the field" on the Managing Director's visit to India). Donations have placed an emphasis on HIV/AIDS awareness programs, orphanages, rural health clinics, and primary schools. For its fundraising efforts in 2004, the IMF received the "Champion of Health Award" from the Community Health Charities Federation of the National Capital Area, and the "American Red Cross Circle of Humanitarians Award."
On visit to India from March 17-19, IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato met with senior government officials, but also took time to visit two social development projects: a primary education learning center and an HIV/AIDS hospice in New Delhi. De Rato often includes social projects in his visits to member countries because they allow him to better feel the pulse of a country. To achieve higher economic growth in India, wide access to education and health is necessary. By visiting these social development projects, de Rato could see first hand what many have called the "two-speed India"-one in the global fast lane, where entrepreneurial talent and technological creativity are flourishing and where Indian companies are becoming a global presence, and the other where hundreds of millions struggle against poverty.
After his visit to the primary education learning center, de Rato visited the Sahara Centre for Care and Rehabilitation to present a donation of US$5,000 on behalf of the Fund's Civic Program. Among Sahara's projects targeting those affected by HIV/AIDS, are drug treatment, HIV/AIDS care and support, research and advocacy. The Government of India estimates that about 5.1 million individuals are infected with HIV. The NGO consists of a staff that includes 2 doctors, ten nurses and fifty healthcare workers working around the clock, seven days a week. Over 1500 people have participated in Sahara's programs since 1998.
On April 26, I arranged a seminar for CSOs in cooperation with the Fund's External Relations Department here in Guatemala City. Participants included representatives of unions, human rights and peasants organizations, and religious groups. The seminar aimed at providing a broad overview of the IMF and our activities in Guatemala. It also offered an opportunity for these organizations to exchange views on economic developments and policies. During the course of the dialogue, CSOs expressed strong concerns about the high levels of poverty and low social indicators in Guatemala, and emphasized the need for higher levels of social spending. They also indicated concern about the social impact of the rising international prices on petroleum products. In turn, we noted the importance of continued macroeconomic stability as a key ingredient in reducing poverty. We also emphasized the critical policy challenges ahead, such as improving the investment climate and raising economic growth, and increasing public sector revenues to provide more resources for social spending.
Non-government organizations (NGOs) have played a unique role in Afghanistan over the last two decades in terms of the scope of their work, the contribution to alleviating poverty and meeting humanitarian needs, and the harsh conditions under which they had to operate. Over the last three years, however, the fall of the Taliban regime, the subsequent massive inflows of external assistance, and the establishment of a freely elected government, have required a reassessment of this role. Lately, this has led to uneasy relations between the government and the NGO community. Fund and World Bank staff, together with representatives of the donor community, have sought to mediate and assist in establishing a new relationship.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, most donors and international development institutions were forced to leave. Only a handful of dedicated international NGOs (INGOs) continued to operate. As civil war swept over the country with the ending of the Soviet occupation, few of the official development agencies were able to return. It was again left to a few committed INGOs to address the deepening social needs and, under often gravely dangerous and difficult circumstances, to try to compensate for the shortfall in even the most basic government services. Their activities quickly expanded, and they often became the de facto voice of the international community in Afghanistan.
In parallel, a vigorous national NGO community flourished for three main reasons. First, during the period of mudjahedin resistance to the Soviets, various self-help organizations emerged to assist the refugee population in Pakistan with basic welfare services. These organizations continued and expanded their activities upon their return to Afghanistan. Second, many Afghans in exile organized themselves to help alleviate the deep sufferings of refugees and the population in the country. A third factor was a legal and tax framework in Afghanistan that deeply repressed private sector activities, an enduring legacy of the Soviet occupation. The successive civil war governments were too overtaken by other problems to address the matter, while the Taliban felt no need to stimulate for-profit activities under their theocratic approach to economic management. Therefore, setting up an NGO became virtually the only practical way to conduct private economic activities. By the end of the Taliban regime the NGO sector had taken on an extraordinary importance in the Afghan economy, with a contribution estimated at over 30 percent of non-opium GDP. It was also virtually the only provider of social services. In 2001 essentially all the girls who were receiving an education did so in schools set up by NGOs. Most of the health clinics and dispensaries were run by NGOs. In some areas even infrastructure such as roads and bridges were being build by NGOs.
Paradoxically, the growth and importance of the sector accelerated after the fall of the Taliban. Many NGOs became implementing partners for large donor assistance programs as their knowledge, experience, and existing structures made them a cost-effective and quick vehicle to provide aid. New INGOs arrived and diaspora Afghans intensified their efforts to assist in the reconstruction process and help refugees return. Finally, with little progress in establishing a supportive private sector environment and few restrictions to obtaining NGO status, many entrepreneurs set up NGOs to take advantage of the new economic opportunities.
As a result, there are currently about 2,500 registered national and international NGOs, with a majority of the national NGOs thought to be business ventures. For example, most of the domestic constructions companies are NGOs. As President Karzai's government takes on the task of rebuilding national institutions, it has become clear that reforming the NGO sector is a priority. The government's concerns are threefold. First, in order to gain authority and legitimacy in the whole country, it is critically important to be seen as responsible for the provision of basic social and community services. However, the government does recognize that its present low level of capacity requires a progressive approach to avoid causing further distress by cutting off the few available social services. Second, an important element of the government's economic development strategy is to foster a competitive private sector. It feels that many NGOs-even the legitimate ones-are competing unfairly with a nascent business sector. Third, it has given paramount importance to establishing a sustainable and equitable revenue basis. Closing the tax loopholes created by businesses registering as NGO is an important step in its efforts to achieve this.
These reform intentions have lately led to strains between the government and the NGO community. Tensions were unfortunately aggravated by activists who sought to capitalize on the perceived unpopularity of NGOs that have been accused of profligate spending of aid assistance-including for extravagant life styles-and lack of unaccountability. This has incited attacks in the media that do not distinguish between responsible NGOs and others. It also has led to the preparation of a draft NGO law with what some observers regard as unfair and unrealistic restrictions on groups' activities, particularly at a time when the government itself has a limited capacity to implement projects or provide public services.
The response of the legitimate NGO community, notably led by the Agency Coordination Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), has been to call for legislation that recognizes and supports the role of legitimate NGOs in Afghanistan's development; for a process of re-registration of NGOs; and for donors to recognize the ongoing need for transitional funding mechanisms. ACBAR points out that its members have already largely shifted their programming focus from being the sole providers of basic services to emphasizing their role as facilitators and implementers of priority government programs. It has also called on its members to recognize that as government capacity increases, their own programming must evolve. The group says that the mix of NGO activities should give more emphasis to civil society capacity building. Finally, ACBAR has insisted on a voluntary code of conduct for its members that, among other things, requires them to use independent evaluations and audits to become fully accountable to governments, donors and the people of Afghanistan.
The Fund mission in Afghanistan has paid close attention to the impact that these issues have on many important aspects of the Staff Monitored Program. The mission chief, Steve Symansky, other mission members and I have began a dialogue with the NGO community, notably with the management and members of AKBAR. We have also been coordinating with other representatives of the international community, notably the World Bank. Fiscal experts from the Fund have provided advice to the government on a new NGO law. Measures to create a supportive environment for private business have been made an integral part of the Fund program. It is expected that work on these issues will intensify in the months to come, notably as part of the preparation of a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and in the process of adjusting the National Development Strategy
While on an IMF sabbatical in Conakry, Guinea, where my husband Dennis Jones is the IMF's Resident Representative, I am engaged in an independent study on the Fund's role in helping poor countries achieve the MDGs. Last month, I attended Guinea's launch of the Millennium Project's Report to the UN Secretary General Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The report was well received by Guinea's Prime Minister, Cellou Dalein Diallo, who noted that Guinea's own poverty had recently spiked upwards from 42 to 49 percent of the population living on less than a dollar a day. He pledged to put the wheels in motion to prepare Guinea's needs assessment in order to begin the process of trying to achieve the MDGs by 2015. While not involved in Guinea's policy matters (Dennis has his hands full), I have the opportunity to see and work first hand with the country's poor in my spare time. My favorite outreach is at an orphanage that houses 24 children between the ages of 18 months and 17 years. The home is officially financed by a German NGO, Children for a Better World. As one of several women who drop by once a week to lend moral support-play, nurture, talk and help out-we're trying to bring hope to these children.
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