1. The IMF is committed to transparency. While recognizing the need
to avoid any unauthorized disclosure of confidential information, this
commitment extends to providing information that is as accurate, timely,
and complete as possible, to explaining clearly what it does and why,
and to listening and responding to views and concerns about its work.
As part of this effort, the IMF has broadened its outreach to civil
society, the media, and increasingly to legislators1.
In March 2003, the IMF reviewed its External
Communications Strategy and subsequently, there were discussions
of the Working Group of
Executive Directors on Enhancing Communication with National Legislators.
During these discussions, Executive Directors emphasized that, within
existing budget constraints, the Fund should deepen its dialogue with
legislative bodies in member countries to promote better understanding
of the Fund and the policies it supports.
2. Outreach to legislators is growing because legislators are the elected
representatives of the people and have a legitimate role to play in
economic policy making in their countries:
- Legislatures make laws. Legislatures vary in terms
of whether they have the constitutional right to initiate legislation
or react to legislation proposed by the executive. Nevertheless, nearly
all legislatures are responsible for passing laws in areas that are
central to economic and financial policies, including budgets, taxes
and expenditure measures, laws on central banking and the financial
sector, and structural reforms.
- Legislators play an important oversight role in
monitoring their government's macroeconomic policies and development
programs and holding the government accountable. For example, one
of their most important oversight responsibilities is to monitor the
implementation of the budget. This is one of the ways in which legislators
can play a critical role in working with the executive branch to set
the policy priorities for the country. Legislators can also hold their
governments accountable for the policies they pursue internationally,
including their relations with the international financial institutions.
- The legislature is an important forum for public information
and debate. As elected representatives of the people, legislators
play a pivotal role in ensuring that the voices of the people are
heard in the major policy debates, and in helping forge consensus
on issues where there are differing views. Public hearings, including
testimony by civil society representatives to parliamentary committees,
and media reports on the work of parliaments help build public awareness,
thereby promoting transparency and accountability of elected officials.
Legislators can play a key role in providing input into the preparation,
approval, and monitoring of poverty-reduction strategies in low-income
3. Against this background, and recognizing that outreach efforts must
take into account the varying political systems in different countries,
strengthening the dialogue between the IMF and legislators can be helpful
in the following ways:
- It provides the IMF with an opportunity to build support
and broaden ownership for sound macroeconomic policies, including
by discussing with legislators the trade-offs involved in different
economic policy choices.
- It also allows the IMF to listen to the concerns of legislators
and to improve the IMF staff's understanding of the political,
cultural, and social context in which economic decisions are taken,
as well as the economic conditions prevailing in the country.
- It provides an opportunity to help strengthen the capacity
of legislators to analyze their country's macroeconomic
policies, thereby contributing to the formulation and oversight
of laws and regulations.
- It can help the IMF gauge political reality, especially
the extent of support for, or opposition to, specific economic policies
and reforms, thereby improving the relevance and effectiveness of
IMF policy advice and technical assistance.
- It offers important opportunities to provide legislators
with accurate, up-to-date information about the Fund, its operations,
and policy advice, and it contributes to the transparency
of the IMF's policy advice.
4. Under the IMF's Articles of Agreement, the Fund is accountable
to the authorities of its member countries and, therefore, its main
interlocutor is the executive branch of the government.2,3
While outreach is important for the reasons outlined above, staff contacts
with legislators should not in any way jeopardize the IMF's primary
relationship with the authorities.
5. Outreach efforts to legislators can be initiated by the staff, legislators,
or the authorities.
The International Monetary Fund is frequently in the news, but its
role and functions are often misunderstood. This pamphlet aims to explain
1. The chief responsibility for communicating with legislators rests
with the government. This guide addresses only the IMF staff's
role in outreach to legislators.
2. The purpose of the guide is to assist IMF staff in their outreach
efforts with legislators. It covers informal contacts between legislators
and IMF staff, and complements the existing IMF policy on formal appearances
before legislative bodies, set forth in the Managing Director's
memorandum to staff dated December 12, 2001. That memorandum reminded
staff that, consistent with the IMF's immunities, they cannot
be compelled to testify before legislative bodies, and it also outlined
the conditions governing voluntary formal appearances by staff before
legislative bodies. Moreover, staff are expected to observe IMF rules
on confidentiality and should be careful not to disclose confidential
3. The guide is intended to help staff develop interactions with legislators
in a way that enhances the Fund's operational work and contributes to
the effectiveness of its support for its member countries. It builds
on past experience with staff outreach to legislators. The guide offers
a framework of good practices, but there can be no one-size-fits-all
approach. Outreach to legislators needs to take into account the specific
circumstances of the country, especially the constitutional provisions,
the nature of the political system, relations between the executive
and the legislature, and more generally the prevailing political climate.
4. While Executive Directors and IMF Management frequently meet with
visiting delegations of legislators and on their travels to member countries,
this guide focuses on outreach by the staff of the IMF, and does not
cover contacts of Executive Directors and Management with legislators.
5. The guide does not cover staff interactions with umbrella or apex
legislative groups, such as the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank,
the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the Global Organization of Parliamentarians
Against Corruption (GOPAC), Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA),
the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNoWB), and others. EXR
has the primary responsibility for the IMF's interactions with
such groups, and staff should contact EXR regarding participation in
conferences organized by these groups.
6. This guide is a living document and subject to change as experience
in outreach to legislators grows and evolves.
A. Legislative Interlocutors
1. The main interlocutors for the IMF would be those who sit on the
relevant committees (for example, the budget, finance, banking, and
economic policy committees, and possibly the social and industrial policy
committees); leaders of the legislature (speaker or president of the
legislature); leaders of party groups or legislative factions; and/or
senior parliamentary staff (e.g. clerk, legislative budget officers).
Country teams—in consultation with the authorities and the Executive
Director—are well placed to identify the most important interlocutors
in individual countries.
2. There may be times when it is especially useful to meet with legislators
from opposition parties, for example, when broad legislative support
is required to pass key economic reforms.
3. Outreach to legislators from regional and supranational parliaments,
such as the European Parliament, may be helpful to discuss regional
and systemic issues.
4. In cases where sub-national governments and legislatures are important
decision makers on economic issues (for example, fiscal issues within
federal systems) outreach to state or provincial legislators may be
5. Regional outreach seminars that bring together legislators from
several neighboring countries could be useful in sharing cross-country
best practices and experiences.
B. Responsibilities in the IMF for
1. Country teams (mission chiefs and resident representatives)
have the primary responsibility for engaging in a dialogue with legislators.
Outreach to legislators should be an integral part of the overall strategy
developed jointly by the area department and EXR for IMF external communications
with the country. Mission chiefs should consider meetings with legislators
as an important part of surveillance and program missions. Resident
representatives have an important role to play in developing and maintaining
ongoing contacts with legislators, particularly with key members of
the legislature. Resident Representatives should work closely with their
respective area department and EXR staff to develop an outreach strategy
that is consistent with the IMF's overall strategy. In developing
their work programs, Resident Representatives should consider carefully
the amount of legislative outreach they can conduct, given tight resources
and competing priorities. Where considered appropriate by the country
team, staff involved in providing technical assistance could be included
in outreach efforts. Mission chiefs could also consider conducting joint
outreach activities with staff from the World Bank or regional organizations.
2. Increasingly staff in functional and other IMF departments
are involved in legislative outreach, primarily through briefings for
legislators, seminars and conferences which legislators also attend,
and training for legislators. Topics that have been of recent interest
to legislators include: Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), debt relief; legislation on anti-money
laundering and combating the financing of terrorism, financial sector
reforms; tax policy, ROSCs, fiscal transparency and expenditure management
reform, and social expenditure policy; world economic developments,
and global financial stability; and privatization and labor market reform.
3. The External Relations Department (EXR) serves
as communications advisor and facilitator for the IMF's legislative
outreach, and advises and assists country teams and functional and other
departments. EXR also organizes and conducts briefings and seminars
for legislators on the IMF and related topics, and offers resources
to help staff prepare for outreach activities, including generic presentations,
videos, and other material (contact: Public Affairs Division in the
External Relations Department)
A. Maintaining Good Relations with the
1. The IMF is accountable to governments of member countries. Dialogue
with legislators increases transparency and complements this accountability.
Therefore, staff should reach agreement with the authorities and the
Executive Director of the country concerned on the best approach for
outreach in individual countries, including on the specific ground rules
for such outreach. Staff should keep the authorities informed on a continuous
basis of the substantive elements of this dialogue.
2. Increasingly, governments understand and accept that the IMF needs
to communicate with legislators. In some countries, the authorities
consider IMF staff interaction with legislators to be a sensitive issue,
while in other countries they are quite supportive of staff meeting
with legislators, including members of opposition parties or factions.
3. The IMF's outreach to legislators cannot substitute for the
government's own consultations with the legislative branch. Determining
economic policies and justifying them in discussions with legislators
is the responsibility of the government concerned. The staff should
continue to assist the government in these efforts, as the authorities
B. Timing of Legislative Outreach
1. Building relations and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with legislators
requires staff time and budget resources, both of which are strictly
limited and their usage must be determined according to work priorities.
In setting priorities, staff should treat public outreach, including
contacts with legislators, as an integral part of country work. Engagement
with legislators can build important support for IMF policies, correct
misunderstandings, improve policy content, and enhance the political
viability of IMF advice. By contributing to the effectiveness of core
policy work, outreach to legislators may save staff time and resources
in the long run. Accordingly, when planning missions, country teams
should consider blocking out some time for meetings with legislators.
Ideally, EXR should be consulted or informed when staff are planning
such meetings (either case by case or pursuant to an agreed communication
strategy), and EXR stands ready to support and provide guidance on such
meetings. Plans for such meetings should be cleared with the authorities,
and management when appropriate, prior to the mission.
2. There is no golden rule on when and how often to meet with legislators,
and discretion, judgment, and flexibility are required. Country teams
will need to take into account the specific circumstances of the country,
and judge on a country-by-country basis whether or not to meet with
legislators depending upon, among other things, the purpose of the meeting,
whether the timing is right, and what the potential political ramifications
might be. In addition, as the protocol and established lines of communication
for the IMF staff to contact legislators vary greatly from country to
country, country-specific procedures should be agreed between the authorities
and the country team. Country teams may want to consider how the outreach
fits into the country's calendar on the one hand (parliamentary
or government elections, budget cycle), and the IMF's calendar
(mission visits, completion of prior action, completion of review) on
3. Depending on the specific country circumstances, mission teams might
find it generally more useful to meet with legislators early in a mission
in order to listen to their views. If the mission chief determines that
that is not feasible, the meetings could be held at the end of a mission,
and the opportunity can be used to present a summary of the discussions
with the authorities. After providing the mission's concluding
statement to the authorities, it could be shared with legislators before
releasing it to the press.
4. If the mission has met with legislators during a regular Article
IV consultation, there might not be a need to meet legislators if the
mission visits the country in mid-cycle. The mission team would need
to gauge whether a mid-cycle meeting with legislators would be useful.
5. In program countries, given that the staff mission visits the country
several times a year, not every mission needs to include a meeting with
legislators. The mission should determine the optimal time from the
program standpoint for meetings with legislators. Resident representatives
have an important role to play in keeping legislators informed on an
ongoing basis of the country's progress under the IMF-supported
6. In general, mission teams might find it useful to meet with legislators
early in the budget cycle so that budget issues can be discussed. Country
teams could meet legislators well before the budget cycle has begun
to discuss issues raised previously with the government, such as the
medium-term framework, the links between the budget and the poverty
reduction strategy, and, as appropriate, fiscal issues that may surface
in forthcoming budget discussions.
7. Assuming the government agrees, it may also be useful to meet with
legislators in the run-up to legislative action related to key economic
reforms. Staff may be in a position to explain how similar legislation
has worked in other countries, for example.
8. It would be desirable for staff reports to include a short description
of outreach to legislators. When appropriate, these reports could also
assess political and legislative support for critical policies and reforms.
C. Political Divisiveness and Electoral
1. IMF staff should strive to be non-partisan and apolitical in their
outreach to legislators, and to avoid getting drawn into domestic political
debates, as much as possible. Staff should listen to all points of view
and avoid taking sides, when possible, but should also take care not
to obscure or weaken the IMF's policy position and advice. The
goal should be to present the IMF's position clearly without being
manipulated by one side or the other for political purposes.
2. The risk of being drawn into political debates is particularly acute
in the run-up to elections in all countries, but especially in countries
where an existing or prospective Fund-supported program is controversial.
While in many cases, it would be prudent for IMF staff to maintain a
low profile in the run-up to elections, there may be instances in which
the country team determines that it is important to meet with legislators
and/or political party leaders prior to elections (to ascertain, for
example, whether there is a sufficient consensus for launching or continuing
a Fund-supported program or to maintain the momentum for reform). In
such cases it is especially important that staff be evenhanded and try
to meet with legislators and/or leaders from all the main political
parties or factions, if possible.
3. In general, the period following the elections may be an excellent
opportunity to discuss with new legislators the key economic challenges
facing the country. This might also be a particularly good time to conduct
outreach to new legislators.
D. Subjects and Scope of Discussion
1. In most cases, legislators are interested mainly in issues directly
pertinent to their own country. Staff should focus discussion on such
issues, especially on those where legislators have a clear role to play—issues
where legislation is required or legislative oversight and debate could
help to achieve or maintain a broad consensus for needed policies. It
is often appropriate and useful to draw cross-country comparisons and
share best practices from the experience of other countries.
2. To strengthen country ownership and public support, country teams
should stand ready to help the authorities by explaining to legislators
the key elements of Fund-supported programs.
3. The purposes of the meeting should be stated clearly beforehand.
It is 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.
4. Staff should be careful not to divulge information that should be
kept confidential, and they should explicitly state that they may not
be able to answer some questions for this reason. Staff should assume
that contacts with legislators will be in the public domain. Questions
regarding the appropriateness of disclosing any particular information
should be directed to the area department concerned or other relevant
5. Country teams should be prepared to discuss general IMF topics:
the nature and purpose of the IMF, its organizational structure, concepts
and theories of economics that inform the IMF's work, and the IMF's
role in the international financial system.
6. As many legislators are not familiar with the work of the IMF and
most are not economists, it is critical to pitch the presentations and
comments by IMF staff at the right level to be readily understood by
the general public.
7. In PRSP countries, the involvement of legislators in formulating
and monitoring the poverty reduction strategies would seem to be in
accordance with the participatory approach, as determined by most governments.
However, recent studies, including a
report by the IMF's Independent Evaluation Office, have pointed
to the limited role of legislators in the PRSP process thus far. Therefore,
it may be desirable for country teams to highlight to governments the
importance of involving legislators actively in the PRSP, and offer
to organize seminars, perhaps jointly with the World Bank.
E. Testifying Before Parliament
1. From time to time, legislative bodies of member countries have requested
that Fund management or staff appear as witnesses to testify in formal
sessions. As mentioned earlier, IMF officials cannot be compelled to
testify before legislative bodies, and any formal testimony before such
bodies can only be made under appropriate conditions in which the interests
of the IMF are safeguarded.
2. However, Fund staff could offer to meet informally with legislators
and/or legislative staff. It is a good idea to verify the ground rules
beforehand, for example, whether or not the proceedings of discussions
will be published.
Comments or questions on this guide should be directed to
the Public Affairs Division of the External Relations Department
1For the IMF's outreach to CSOs
see Guide for Staff
Relations With Civil Society Organizations.
2Article V, Section 1 of the Articles
of Agreement stipulates that “Each member shall deal with
the Fund only through its Treasury, central bank, stabilization fund,
or other similar fiscal agency, and the Fund shall deal only with or
through the same agencies.” When a country joins the IMF it designates
the fiscal agency for its dealings with the Fund.
3In this document, government refers to
the executive branch.