The IMF and Legislators

April 5, 2016

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 mediacivil 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 lawsin 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 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—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 seminarsfor legislators. Examples include dialogue and meetings with representatives from the European Parliament; recent workshops in Vienna in July 2015 for MPs from across Central Asia and the Caucasus and in March 2016 for MPs from southeastern Europe and Ukraine; and in 2014, programs for parliamentarians were held in Jordan, Kuwait, Mozambique, and Tanzania. 
  • The Fund also offers courses in economic analysis and policymaking for legislators with partners such as the Joint Vienna Institute (JVI), addressing topics ranging from the impact of the global financial crisis to issues facing the extractive industries. 

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 by 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 published in July 2005 encourages IMF staff to continue to expand its dialogue with legislators and provides practical advice on interacting with legislators.