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When a country joins the IMF, it agrees to subject its economic and financial policies to the scrutiny of the international community. It also makes a commitment to pursue policies that are conducive to orderly economic growth and reasonable price stability, to avoid manipulating exchange rates for unfair competitive advantage, and to provide the IMF with data about its economy. The IMF's regular monitoring of economies and associated provision of policy advice is intended to identify weaknesses that are causing or could lead to financial or economic instability. This process is known as surveillance.
Country surveillance is an ongoing process that culminates in regular (usually annual) comprehensive consultations with individual member countries, with discussions in between as needed. The consultations are known as "Article IV consultations" because they are required by Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Agreement. During an Article IV consultation, an IMF team of economists visits a country to assess economic and financial developments and discuss the country's economic and financial policies with government and central bank officials. IMF staff missions also often meet with parliamentarians and representatives of business, labor unions, and civil society.
The team reports its findings to IMF management and then presents them for discussion to the Executive Board, which represents all of the IMF's member countries. A summary of the Board's views is subsequently transmitted to the country's government. In this way, the views of the global community and the lessons of international experience are brought to bear on national policies. Summaries of most discussions are released in Press Releases and are posted on the IMF's web site, as are most of the country reports prepared by the staff.
Regional surveillance involves examination by the IMF of policies pursued under currency unions—including the euro area, the West African Economic and Monetary Union, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union. Regional economic outlook reports are also prepared to discuss economic developments and key policy issues in Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Western Hemisphere.
Global surveillance entails reviews by the IMF's Executive Board of global economic trends and developments. The main reviews are based on the World Economic Outlook reports, the Global Financial Stability Report, which covers developments, prospects, and policy issues in international financial markets, and the Fiscal Monitor, which analyzes the latest developments in public finance. All three reports are published twice a year, with updates being provided on a quarterly basis. In addition, the Executive Board holds more frequent informal discussions on world economic and market developments.