The IMF and Legislators
April 17, 2017
The IMF conducts outreach to legislators in its member countries to learn more about their views and concerns, explain Fund policy advice, and discuss policy trade-offs. This ongoing dialogue contributes to greater transparency, ownership, and accountability of economic policy choices. The legislative branch of government is essential to economic policymaking in most countries. Legislatures approve budgets and pass tax, banking, and trade laws. They oversee their government’s economic policies and provide forums for public information and debate.
Legislators can be key to the success of IMF policies
The IMF is committed to transparency in its work, to explaining itself, and to listening to the people whose lives it affects. Outreach to legislators is important because they are representatives of their citizens and have a legitimate role to play in economic policymaking in their countries.
Both the IMF and its member governments have realized that policies and reforms will be more effective if they command broad support in society. In low-income countries, dialogue with legislators is particularly important, given their role in discussing and developing national poverty reduction strategies. Poverty reduction policies can be more effective if country ownership is enhanced.
Legislators are responsible for passing laws in areas that affect the economy such as the budget, taxes, trade, and the financial sector. They play an important oversight role in monitoring economic policies, development programs, and budget implementation. As a forum for public information and debate, legislatures play a pivotal role in ensuring that the voices of the voters are heard in major policy debates.
It makes sense for the IMF to engage with lawmakers and provide them with accurate, up-to-date information about the IMF, its operations, and policy advice.
Dialogue helps IMF understand and explain
The IMF is governed by and accountable to the governments of all its member countries. According to the IMF charter, the Articles of Agreement, its main interlocutors are the financial authorities and in most cases, the finance ministry or central bank of member countries. The principal responsibility for communication to legislators rests with the national authorities. The IMF’s interaction with legislators is tailored to specific country circumstances and closely coordinated with each country’s respective financial authorities and representatives on the IMF’s Executive Board.
Outreach to legislators is a two-way dialogue. The objective is to familiarize legislators with the rationale for IMF advice, but also provides the opportunity to listen to legislators’ concerns and learn from their views. The IMF interacts with legislators at the national, regional, and international level:
- At the national level, IMF management, Executive Directors, and staff meet frequently with legislators during visits to member countries and when legislators visit IMF headquarters in Washington, D.C. They also meet with legislators and staff of the United States Congress.
- The IMF organizes an increasing number of country and regional seminars for legislators. Examples include dialogue and meetings with representatives from the European Parliament; recent workshops held for MPs in Myanmar in 2016; for southeastern Europe and Ukraine in March 2016 and February 2017; and for Central Asia and the Caucasus in July 2015.
- The Fund also offers courses in economic analysis and policymaking for legislators with partners such as the Joint Vienna Institute (JVI) and the Singapore Training Institute (STI), addressing topics ranging from the impact of the current global economic environment to issues facing the extractive industries.
- At the international level, the IMF has a well-established relationship with the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. IMF management and staff participate in its annual conference, workshops and seminars during the Annual and Spring Meetings and parliamentarian field visits—most recently to Kenya in February 2017.
- The IMF also cooperates with other global and regional parliamentary organizations, including the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC); Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA); the Parliamentary Centre; the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA); and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the IMF also maintains regular contact with legislators who provide feedback, comments, and suggestions on its evaluations.
A dynamic relationship
The IMF has been expanding its contacts with legislators in accordance with the high priority given to this by both the IMF Executive Board and IMF management. A January 2004 report by an Executive Board working group, recommended expanding outreach efforts to legislators “to improve the understanding of the political and social context in which economic decisions are being taken” and to “help build understanding of the IMF.”
In line with those recommendations, a guide for IMF staff on outreach to legislators encourages IMF staff to continue and to expand dialogue with legislators.