The IMF helps its member countries design economic policies and manage their financial affairs more effectively by strengthening their human and institutional capacity through technical assistance and training. The IMF aims to exploit synergies between technical assistance and training—which it calls capacity development—to maximize their effectiveness.
Technical assistance helps countries develop more effective institutions, legal frameworks, and policies to promote economic stability and inclusive growth. Training through practical policy-oriented courses, hands-on workshops, and seminars strengthens officials’ capacity to analyze economic developments and formulate and implement effective policies. Work on technical assistance and training is managed from the IMF’s headquarters in Washington, DC, and through a network of regional technical assistance centers (RTACs), regional training centers and programs (RTCs and RTPs), trust funds, and numerous bilateral donor-supported activities. The IMF works in close cooperation with other providers of training and technical assistance and with donor partners.
Technical assistance and training benefit many member countries
Technical assistance (TA) and training—which together the IMF calls capacity development—are important benefits of IMF membership. Building human and institutional capacity within a country helps the government implement more effective policies, leading to better economic outcomes. In FY 2015, low-income and developing countries received about half of all IMF TA (versus 40 percent for emerging market and middle-income countries), while emerging market countries received the largest share of IMF training (just over half).
Further, technical assistance provided to emerging and advanced economies in select cutting-edge areas—for example, in the financial sector—helps provide traction to IMF policy advice, keeps the institution up-to-date on innovations and risks to the global economy, and help address crisis-related challenges and spillovers.
Integrating technical assistance and training with IMF surveillance and lending
Technical assistance and training are an important complement to the IMF’s other core functions of surveillance and lending. Specialized technical assistance and training from the IMF help build both institutional and human capacity in countries for effective policymaking. Moreover, the IMF’s surveillance and lending work often helps identify areas in which technical assistance and training can have the biggest impact. New training courses have been offered, for example, in the areas of inclusive growth, financial inclusion, and external vulnerabilities. In view of these linkages, achieving greater integration among technical assistance, training, surveillance, and lending operations is a key priority for the IMF.
Technical assistance and training cover core areas of IMF expertise
The IMF provides technical assistance in its areas of core expertise: macroeconomic policy, tax policy and revenue administration, expenditure management, monetary policy, the exchange rate system, financial sector stability, legislative frameworks, and macroeconomic and financial statistics. In particular, efforts in recent years to strengthen the international financial system and fiscal and debt policies have triggered additional demands for IMF technical assistance. For example, countries have asked for help to address financial sector weaknesses identified within the framework of the joint IMF-World Bank Financial Sector Assessment Program and to adopt and adhere to international standards and codes for financial, fiscal, and statistical management.
The IMF delivers technical assistance in various ways. Depending on the nature of the assignment, support is often provided through staff missions of limited duration sent from headquarters, RTACs, or the placement of experts and/or resident advisors for periods ranging from a few weeks to a few years. Donor partner support has been essential for the IMF to meet the urgent needs of member countries for capacity development through RTACs, RTCs, trust funds, and bilateral programs.
The IMF provides training courses in a number of disciplines, including macro-financial linkages, monetary and fiscal policy, balance of payment issues, financial markets and institutions, and statistical and legal frameworks in all the areas above. The courses are advertised a year ahead in a catalog that is available online. Admission to courses may be either by invitation or by application. The published catalog is supplemented with online course announcements that reflect reprioritization and changing demands.
Hands-on, policy-oriented training in macroeconomics, finance, and related operational fields for country officials is also delivered through RTCs and RTPs. This training helps to strengthen the formulation and implementation of sound policies and the quality of the country’s policy dialogue with the IMF.
Training through online courses has increased the IMF’s reach
The IMF has significantly scaled up online learning as a vehicle to deliver training in macroeconomics and finance to government officials. Online courses are also being made freely available to the general public through so-called massive open online courses (MOOCs). About 5,500 government officials (and 5,400 non-government participants) have successfully completed an online course since the launch of the program in late 2013.
Monitoring of technical assistance and training shows results
The IMF is adopting a results-based management framework to facilitate systematic planning and improved monitoring of capacity development activity. This will be complemented by a new common evaluation framework to improve the ability to measure and compare the performance of different kinds of technical assistance and training across the IMF. Evaluation will help determine, for example, the degree to which technical assistance has improved the quality of economic statistics, macroeconomic stability, public finance management systems, and financial governance. It will help determine whether training has improved job performance of government officials, and improved their ability to analyze economic developments and assess policy effectiveness.
The IMF will continue to rely on both external and internal evaluations to assess the effectiveness of its technical assistance and training. Evaluations are conducted mid-way through each RTAC funding cycle and at the end of each course offering. TA recipients across RTACs have consistently rated the efficacy of IMF technical assistance either “good” or “excellent”. In a 2015 survey, 92 percent of responding agencies said that their staff values IMF training more than training by other providers on similar topics.