Guide for IMF Staff Outreach to Legislators
A Review of the Fund's External Communications Strategy
February 13, 2003
Transparency at the IMF - A Factsheet
The IMF at a Glance - A Factsheet
Fighting Poverty and Promoting Growth in South Asia
October 13, 2003
The Role of the IMF in a Globalizing World Economy
March 9, 2003
The IMF in the Process of Change
July 4, 2002
The Challenges of Globalization and the Role of the IMF
April 2, 2001
In Search of Stability and Broadly-Shared Prosperity: Reform of the International Monetary System
November 7, 2000
Report of the Working Group of IMF Executive Directors on
Enhancing Communication with National Legislators|
January 15, 2004
In May 2003, the Dean of the Executive Board set up a Working Group of Executive Directors to examine how the Fund could enhance its dialogue with national legislators. This report by the Working Group provides a summary of the Fund's past outreach to legislators (section II) and the discussions and recommendations by the working group on future outreach by the Fund (section III). Comments from the public are invited (section IV).
II. The IMF's Outreach to National Legislators1
The following section provides an overview of main activities by the IMF with national legislators.
The Fund has been working closely with the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNoWB).2 The staff participated in their annual conferences, in some of the field visits by parliamentarians, in the launch of the Parliamentarians' Implementation Watch and in the launch of the East Africa chapter. The Managing Director's participation at the 2003 conference, including an hour-long Q and A with parliamentarians, provided an opportunity for parliamentarians to have a candid dialogue with him and Mr. Wolfensohn.
Fund staff have attended conferences and meetings of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in observer capacity when the IPU has discussed issues of interest to the Fund, including a joint IPU and European Parliament Parliamentary Conference on the WTO and side events at UN conferences, such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. More recently, staff participated in a panel on the Bretton Woods Institutions at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the IPU.
The staff have also been working with the Global Organization of Parliamentarians against Corruption (GOPAC) since its inauguration in 2002, and recently participated in a workshop in Nairobi for parliamentarians on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism, organized by GOPAC and the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption.
The staff also attended the 4th Parliamentary Conference of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, organized by the European Parliament. The conference was attended by representatives of national parliaments of the EU member states, of candidate countries, and of all the partner countries of the Stability Pact, as well as delegates from the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and the Organization of the Security and Cooperation (OSCE).
Fund staff, working with the authorities, have organized seminars in individual countries to explain the role of the Fund to parliamentarians, for example
Joint Vienna Institute
The Fund has been providing training to parliamentarians from the transition economies since 1995. Eighteen seminars were held between 1995 and 2003 under the sponsorship of the Fund, of which 16 were held at the Joint Vienna Institute and one each in Bulgaria and Romania. Multi-country seminars have usually been more successful because they give parliamentarians and Fund staff opportunities to compare and contrast national experiences (parliamentarians often cited interaction with their peers as a key benefit). The topics have been kept broad and non-technical enough to allow non-specialists to participate, but nonetheless focus on key policy concerns related to Fund policy advice and, in many cases, program conditionality.
Outreach by Resident Representatives and Mission Teams
The External Relations Department (EXR) conducted a survey of mission chiefs and resident representatives to ascertain the extent to which they meet with legislators. Respondents reported few requests for meetings from parliamentarians, and staff-initiated meetings occurred most often in the transition countries of Asia and Europe. Just two-thirds of resident representatives and less than half of mission teams reported meeting with legislators in 2002. However, over 90 percent of respondents for the transition countries of Europe and Asia reported meeting legislators. The rate was about 50 percent for non-transition PRSP countries, with only a quarter of other respondents reporting such meetings. This geographic concentration may reflect a capacity-building element of the meetings proposed by staff, particularly as the transition countries are either recently independent or have undergone a major transformation in the role of parliament. In about 20 percent of the country cases, an explicit purpose of the meeting was to discuss legislative approval of staff-supported policy measures. The concentration of users of Fund resources in Africa and the transition countries may also explain in part the geographic concentration of meetings.
Activities of Executive Directors with National Legislators
Executive Directors frequently interact with national legislators either in Washington DC during visits from parliamentary delegations to the U.S. or in the context of Article IV/program missions and Executive Directors' Group Travel to member countries. The context, extent, and modalities of involvement with national legislators vary from one country to another and are determined by each Executive Director in consultation with the national authorities.
In January 2003, a delegation of five Executive Directors met with members of the National Assembly in Nicaragua and the Congresses in Honduras and Guatemala to discuss IMF-related issues. More recently, in October 2003, a delegation of Executive Directors visited Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia where they met with the President of the Chamber of Representatives and a group of women legislators in Morocco and with parliamentary finance committees in Algeria and Tunisia. These meetings revealed a considerable interest in the views of the Fund.
Executive Directors are also often instrumental in facilitating contacts and meetings with IMF staff for visiting parliamentarians in Washington and in assisting their national authorities inform legislators about the IMF (including by organizing seminars for parliamentarians3, providing information on the IMF's work to the authorities, or through appearances before parliament). For example, the Austrian central bank and Ministry of Finance report regularly to the relevant committee in the Austrian Parliament on the IMF, and representatives from the Executive Director's office are invited regularly to provide input into such reports and briefings. The U.S. Treasury, in consultation with the U.S. Executive Director and pursuant to legislative mandates, prepares a number of regular reports for Congress dealing with IMF issues, such as quarterly reports on new IMF arrangements, the U.S. reserve position, and IMF-led programs that involve financing from the U.S. Treasury Exchange Stabilization Fund. Regarding appearances before national parliament, the German Executive Director, for example, accepted an invitation to participate in a parliamentary hearing of competent committees of the German Bundestag on a Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism in April 2002. The Executive Director representing Belgium accepted invitations by the Belgian Senate in 2000 (Senate Commission on Finance) and in 2003 (Senate Commission on Foreign Relations and National Defense), and by the Belgian Parliament in 2002 (Commission on Globalization). Other Executive Directors, including the U.K. Executive Director, have appeared before national parliaments on various occasions. The Swiss and the French Executive Director also appear in front of bodies of parliamentarians and representatives of civil society (Haut Conseil de la Coopération Internationale in France, and the Ausserparlamentarische Kommission in Switzerland).
While a number of member countries have routine channels of communications between the authorities and national legislators on the IMF and related issues, some members have formalized the information in the form of an annual report. The Treasury Committee of the U.K. House of Commons has an ongoing remit to oversee HM Treasury, including its role in the IMF. As part of that process, HM Treasury submits an annual report to Parliament on its dealings with the IMF. Also, the Canadian ("Report on Operations under the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act"), the French ("Les activités du Fonds Monetaire International et de la Banque Mondiale"), and the Irish authorities ("Ireland's Participation in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank") submit annual reports to parliament on the IMF 4. Executive Directors also participate with mission chiefs/resident representatives in events for legislators during Article IV/program missions to countries and participate in outreach events (country and regional seminars) organized by EXR.5
The Managing Director has spoken to members of national parliaments during his travels-for example the Deutscher Bundestag, the Treasury Select Committee of the UK House of Commons, members of the Dutch parliament, leaders of both Houses of Congress in Colombia, and the Chilean senate. Earlier this year, he met with Argentine legislators, Mexican congressional leaders, Malagasy parliamentarians, Kyrgyz parliamentarians, and Ethiopian legislators. He has also met with EU parliamentary committees of the European Union in Brussels.
In addition, IMF officials frequently meet with visiting delegations of parliamentarians. In fact, legislators who visit the U.S. and Canada as part of their parliamentary work have often visited the Fund. For example, in July 2003, a delegation from the Finance and Budget Affairs Standing Committee of the Ethiopian Parliament met with the Fund en route to a seminar in Canada, which was sponsored by the Parliamentary Centre. In the past year and a half, IMF officials have met with visiting delegations of the UK House of Commons Development Committee; the Treasury Select Committee; MERCOSUR; the SME Union of the European Parliament (the Economic and Independent Business Association of the European People's Party); Bundestag staff members; Thai, Argentine, Uruguayan, Belgian, Colombian, and Turkish legislators; Austrian members of the PNoWB; as well as individual parliamentarians from other countries.
Staff follows the activities of the U.S. congressional committees with jurisdiction over legislation relevant for the Fund, and reports to staff and management on issues of interest. Additionally, staff responds to inquiries by members of congress and their staff about the Fund, in close coordination with the authorities.
The Working Group encouraged Executive Directors and staff to continue their outreach efforts to and emphasized the importance of an ongoing dialogue with national legislators for the Fund's work. The Working Group agreed that greater interaction between the legislators and the Fund would be particularly beneficial to the Fund, as it would help build understanding of economic reforms and IMF programs, and could provide a useful avenue for informing and receiving comments from legislators about the work of the Fund and its role in the international financial system in general. Directors emphasized that the Fund's outreach should be a two-way dialogue and that it was just as important to listen to legislators. They considered that the focus should be on broader policy or regional issues instead of country issues, given the Fund's mandate to promote global financial stability and growth. Directors recognized that the impact of our outreach will only be evident over time, and will require a prolonged effort.
The Working Group broadly agreed that while the Fund could take advantage of existing international organizations and parliamentary networks, the main focus of the Fund's outreach should be at the regional and country level. Directors also noted that it was particularly important to tailor its outreach to the chairs and members of committees relevant to the work of the Fund.
Directors noted that no budgetary implications would arise out of an incrementally increased engagement with legislators and parliamentary outreach activities. Directors saw a need for greater consideration of how some well-focused activities, in cooperation with local authorities or established parliamentary organizations, could enhance the IMF's effectiveness. They emphasized that in view of its limited resources the IMF should prioritize its outreach, and suggested that, to the extent possible, the costs of organizing parliamentary outreach events should be shared with host countries. The Working Group discussed the possibility of holding a parliamentary conference on the occasion of the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Bretton Woods institutions, but there was not enough support for this idea because of the budgetary implications of holding a large meeting.
The Working Group noted that, since parliaments in most countries have the constitutional responsibility to oversee national budgets and approve legislation on major economic reforms, a dialogue with parliamentarians would be helpful in two ways: (i) it would provide the IMF with an opportunity to assist the executive branch in informing the legislative branch of the role of sound fiscal policies in promoting growth and stability, including the trade-offs involved in different policy choices in areas that are relevant to the Fund's work; in doing so, the impression needs to be avoided that the dialogue is an opportunity to engage in program negotiations with legislators; and (ii) it would provide the IMF with an opportunity to listen to the concerns of parliamentarians and to improve our understanding of the political and social context in which economic decisions are taken.
Under the IMF's Articles of Agreement, the Fund's main interlocutor with the country is the executive branch of the government, and Directors noted that the Fund is accountable to the authorities of its member countries. The modalities of the Fund's outreach efforts would need to be shaped accordingly. Directors considered that a judgment would need to be made, on a country-by-country basis on whether or not to meet with legislators, the timing of meetings (how they fit into the legislative and budget calendars), and issues to be discussed. They emphasized that there could not be a "one-size-fits-all" approach, as any outreach would need to take into account the specific circumstances of the country, especially the nature of the political system and relations between the executive and the legislature (e.g. constitutional provisions, political history and structure, political process, prevailing political climate). Also, care would need to be taken to avoid being drawn into domestic politics. Directors noted that in some countries the engagement of legislators was a rather sensitive issue while in other countries authorities were quite open to staff meeting with politicians, including members of the opposition. Against that background, Directors noted that the rules of engagement on outreach need to be determined between the staff and the respective country authorities and, therefore, should consult the Executive Director and country authorities. Staff should also inform the Executive Board of its dialogue with legislators.
As indicated in the operational guidance to staff following the 2002 Biennial Surveillance Review, the effectiveness of surveillance depends partly on the extent to which members are receptive to Fund advice, and the guidance calls for an open policy dialogue, encompassing a broad range of economic stakeholders, including legislative bodies. In addition, Directors noted that in the context of surveillance, outreach should focus more on medium-term and long-term issues, particularly those that require legislative action.
In program countries, as indicated in the 2003 Operational Guidance on the New Conditionality Guidelines, staff should encourage and assist the authorities in broadening support for sound policies. In particular, the note suggests that staff should encourage the authorities to engage in a transparent participatory process in developing a policy framework, and should be prepared to assist the authorities in this process, including by giving seminars and meeting with various interest or political groups (e.g. parliamentary committees). Directors noted that it was important to avoid creating the impression that the dialogue is an opportunity to negotiate the program or to discuss program negotiations between the staff and the authorities. Directors cautioned that a dialogue between the Fund and legislators should not inadvertently dilute the authorities' ownership of reforms. While the Fund should certainly listen to the views of the legislature, the responsibility for building ownership for reforms rests with the government. Directors also cautioned that the Fund should not pressure the government to engage in outreach with legislators, nor should the government be perceived as reaching out to legislators at the behest of the Fund.
Directors noted that resident representatives have an important role to play in maintaining a continued dialogue with legislators, and in tailoring the outreach to the specific circumstances of the country. In particular they can help ascertain the appropriate timing of legislative contacts (how they fit into the country's legislative and budget calendar), and, in conjunction with the authorities and Executive Directors concerned, identifying the main interlocutors. These could be the relevant committees (e.g. the budget, finance, and economics committees) as well as key parliamentary figures (e.g. speaker or president of the legislature, the head of the legislative budget office). Mission chiefs should also meet with parliamentarians in the context of Article IV and program missions; this should be cleared with the authorities prior to the mission. The Working Group emphasized that resident representatives and mission chiefs should have the appropriate communication skills and understanding of political economy issues.
At the same time, Directors cautioned that, given work pressures and budget constraints, one should be realistic as to how much more resident representatives and mission chiefs can do. Therefore, they agreed there may be merit in prioritizing outreach in line with existing budgetary outlays. It was also suggested that regional seminars for a group of countries, focusing on cross-country comparative experiences and IMF policies in general would be useful. EXR could play a role in supporting resident representatives in their outreach efforts by organizing targeted country and regional seminars.
The Working Group agreed that Executive Directors could play an important role in encouraging their own authorities to inform legislators about the IMF (for example by organizing seminars for parliamentarians and establishing routine channels of information on the IMF's work). They could also participate with mission chiefs/resident representatives in any events for legislators during Article IV/program missions to countries and participate in outreach events (country and regional seminars) organized by EXR. At the same time, the Working Group noted that since Executive Directors are both Fund officials and representatives of their countries, their role in outreach should be handled carefully, and each Director should determine with his/her respective national authorities the context, extent, and modalities of outreach with legislators. Outreach by Directors could also be done in the context of their Group Travel to member countries.
While the focus of the outreach with legislators should be at the national level, the Working Group agreed that some outreach at the international and regional level should also be considered. Noting that the staff had attended some events organized by the IPU, Directors suggested that the Fund explore possibilities for further outreach. The Working Group welcomed the staff's work with the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank, including at the regional level. They noted that the Network comprises parliamentarians who are members of committees in national parliaments that deal with IMF-related issues (economics, finance, budget committees), and asked staff to examine possibilities for deeper collaboration with the PNoWB, so as to include the IMF's work more fully in the work of the PNoWB.
The Working Group noted that the staff should identify regional parliamentary organizations with an interest in the work of the Fund and the Fund should participate in events that promise enough focus to warrant participation. Executive Directors could play a valuable role in identifying suitable events and networks, and these organizations should be made aware of the IMF's interest and willingness to participate in events.
The Working Group asked the staff to explore training opportunities following the example of the Joint Vienna Institute at some of the other regional institutes, e.g. Singapore Training Institute and at the regional technical assistance centers in Africa and the Caribbean. In addition to targeting parliamentarians from key committees, staff was asked to explore the extent to which the Fund could provide training for staff from parliamentary offices (e.g. parliamentary budget office) especially from low-income countries, within existing resource constraints. Other possibilities could be joint training activities with the World Bank Institute and the Parliamentary Centre.
The IMF, as a listening and learning institution, has an ongoing dialogue with its members and other stakeholders, including civil society and legislators. The IMF is in the process of expanding its outreach to legislators. In that context, the Working Group has made several recommendations on ways to enhance the IMF's dialogue with legislators, which are listed below.6
In the spirit of openness, we would like to invite your comments and thoughts on the analysis and recommendations contained in this report of the Working Group. We would like to know generally how you see the outreach by the IMF (Executive Directors, management, and staff) to legislators. More specifically, we would like your views on:
The Working Group is confident that the IMF's Executive Board, management, and staff will review you comments carefully, and use them as valuable inputs for the IMF's evolving outreach with national legislators.
1It should be noted that Fund management and staff do not as a rule make formal appearances or give testimony before legislative bodies. All the outreach activities are informal and have been conducted with the consent, or at the request, of the Executive Director and the authorities.
2For more information on the PNoWB, visit their website, www.pnowb.org.
3For example, following a suggestion by the Nordic Office's Executive Director, the Swedish Ministry of Finance is organizing a one day seminar for parliamentarians in January 2004 on IMF & World Bank issues; the Swiss authorities organized a seminar on the new international financial architecture and the IMF in May 2000.
4Some members have established other routine channels (e.g. briefings, informal reports) for the authorities to inform legislators about the IMF, and Executive Directors often provide input.
5For example, Executive Directors and staff participated in a workshop in Kenya in 2002, a seminar in Ghana in 2003, the launch of the East Africa Chapter of the PNoWB in 2003, and in the seminar with South Asian parliamentarians in October 2003 in Singapore.
6The Working Group reiterated that any outreach must be guided by the existing guidelines of the IMF. See footnote 1.