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 success of Fund policies
The IMF is committed to transparency in its work, to explaining itself, and to listening to the people whose lives it affects. As part of these efforts, the IMF has broadened its engagement with the media, civil society, and, increasingly, legislators. Outreach to legislators is important because they are the elected representatives of their citizenry and have a legitimate role to play in economic policy making 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 are central to national economic and financial policies 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.
For these reasons, 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 is accountable to the governments of its 188 member countries. According to the IMF charter, the Articles of Agreement, its main interlocutors are the financial authorities—in most cases the finance ministry or central bank of the member countries. Recognizing that 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 representative on the IMF Executive Board.
The IMF understands that its outreach to legislators is a two-way dialogue. The objective is to familiarize legislators with the rationale for IMF advice.
The IMF also values 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, as well as 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, a recent event in Tanzania in April 2014; a conference in Kigali, Rwanda in 2012 which brought together MPs from 40 African countries to discuss private sector development in the region; and more recently in 2014, programs for parliamentarians have been held in Mozambique, Kuwait, and Jordan; along with other country-specific seminars.
- The Fund also offers courses in economic analysis and policymaking for legislators with partners such as the Joint Vienna Institute (JVI), including the Global Extractive Industries Seminar held in October 2012 and 2013. Similarly, in February 2014, a seminar with JVI brought together legislators from many of the countries in eastern Europe to discuss the impact of the global financial crisis on the region and their prospects going forward.
- 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). Recent examples include a workshop in Bangladesh in November 2014 that brought together about 20 legislators from the region and focused on fiscal issues, financial sector regulation, and other regional economic issues; and a two-day conference covering transparency and accountability in the extractive industries held in Rwanda in January 2015.
The Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the IMF also maintains regular contacts 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 of an Executive Board working group stressed that the IMF "should expand its outreach efforts and listen 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, the IMF developed a guide for staff on outreach to legislators. Following a consultative process with the public and legislators, the guide was published in July 2005. This guide encourages IMF staff to continue to expand its dialogue with legislators and provides practical advice on interacting with legislators.