Public Information Notices
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has taken additional steps to enhance the transparency of members’ economic policies and its own operations.
The Executive Board of the IMF has in the past two years adopted a series of measures to improve the transparency of the IMF and its members’ policies. Key actions have included development of a policy on the release of Public Information Notices (PINs) following Article IV consultations; the release of documents related to the Debt Initiative for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC); and solicitation of public comment on the HIPC Initiative, as well as on the conclusions of the internal and external evaluation of the IMF’s Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF). In addition, the IMF’s internal evaluation of IMF-supported programs in Asia has been released to the public. Further, information on the IMF’s liquidity position and on member’s accounts with the IMF is being published regularly on the IMF’s web site.
In March 1999, the Executive Board agreed to additional initiatives to enhance the transparency of the IMF and its members’ policies, including expansion of public access to the Fund’s archives, procedures for the public release of PINs following Executive Board discussions of policy papers; and the release of a statement by the Chairman in use of IMF resources cases. Most recently, the Executive Board has again reviewed the issue of enhancing transparency of IMF policies and has taken additional decisions in this area. As a result of that review, the Board endorsed a three-part approach consisting of a pilot project for the voluntary release of Article IV reports 1 (including combined Article IV and use of IMF resources reports); the establishment of a presumption that members’ Letters of Intent/Memoranda of Economic and Financial Policies and Policy Framework Papers will be released; and, as agreed earlier, the release of a statement by the Chairman in use of Fund resources cases.
Executive Board Assessment
In the March 5, 1999 discussion of transparency and Fund policies, the Executive Board agreed that, in approving or reviewing a member’s arrangement with the Fund, a statement by the Chairman capturing the key points made by the Board should be made public. The Board also agreed to procedures for the release of Public Information Notices (PINs) following discussions of policy papers. The Board also indicated three areas to revisit in an effort to address concerns expressed and to develop consensus on how to move ahead. These were: (i) the voluntary release of staff reports for Article IV consultations and use of Fund resources (UFR); (ii) summings up/PINs for UFR cases (UFR PINs); and (iii) mandatory release of letters of intent/memoranda of economic and financial policies (LOIs/MEFPs) and policy framework papers (PFPs).
The Board has tried to proceed on the basis of consensus and, in areas where opinion is still divided, the agreed steps have, to the greatest extent possible, left options open for the future.
The Board has agreed to move forward with a three-part approach, consisting of a "closed-end" pilot project for the voluntary release of Article IV staff reports, including combined Article IV/UFR reports; establishment of a presumption that LOIs/MEFPs and PFPs will be released, subject to review after one year; and proceeding with the release of the Chairman’s statement in UFR cases as already agreed, on the understanding that the question of UFR PINs and release of stand alone UFR staff reports will also be revisited after six months.
In agreeing to the pilot project for the voluntary release of Article IV staff reports, the Board decided that the project should run for 18 months, and also that the Fund would facilitate the release by members of accompanying statements in response to Fund views. These statements, the staff reports, and the PINs on the Board discussions could be released at the same time. It is expected that whenever a staff report is released, a PIN will be issued also. The Board agreed to review experience under the pilot project before the end of the 18-month period, and also agreed that the staff should proceed expeditiously to establish the modalities for the evaluation of this experience. Several Directors were skeptical about the need for external involvement in this evaluation.
A majority of the Board considered that the pilot project would provide reasonable safeguards against some of the concerns raised by Executive Directors and facilitate an empirical assessment of the validity of others. However, a significant minority of the Board continued to have reservations about the adequacy of the safeguards and about the ability of an evaluation as proposed to address some of the relevant issues, particularly because of the possibility of selection bias in the choice of countries participating in the pilot. I welcome indications fromExecutive Directors who have expressed the willingness of countries from their constituencies to participate in the pilot, and encourage others to come forward in the coming days and weeks.
On documents associated with the use of Fund resources, Executive Directors agreed to establish a presumption that LOIs/MEFPs and PFPs will be released, also with experience to be reviewed after one year. Members will be advised of this policy in the context of negotiating missions. If, in a particular case, the authorities consider that program implementation would be adversely affected by public disclosure of these documents, they would explain, through their Executive Director, the basis for their decision not to publish to the Board at the time that it considers their request for use of Fund resources. Several Directors remained of the view that publishing these documents should be mandatory—with the possibility that a waiver would be considered at the request of the member—but at this point were prepared to support the proposed strengthening of current policy, while expecting to revisit the issue later.
As already agreed, following Board approval or review of members’ arrangements with the IMF, the Chairman will issue a statement capturing the key points of the Board discussion. It was agreed that the Chairman would inform the Board of the thrust of his statement and that the Board would have an opportunity to comment, but without getting heavily involved in the drafting. The remarks would not be publicly released until they were received by the authorities of the member concerned. On UFR staff reports and summings up/PINs, Directors agreed that issues relating to release of these documents could be revisited in about 6 months in light of experience gained with transparency in other areas.
A draft decision reflecting the above agreed elements will be issued shortly for adoption by the Executive Board, perhaps on a lapse of time basis.
1Under Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country's economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country's authorities.
IMF EXTERNAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT