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IMFSurvey Magazine: Policy

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IMF headquarters: Two decades of reform have fundamentally transformed the IMF’s Transparency Policy, making the institution more accountable (photo: IMF)

IMF headquarters: Two decades of reform have fundamentally transformed the IMF’s Transparency Policy, making the institution more accountable (photo: IMF)

IMF TRANSPARENCY

IMF Adopts New Measures to Enhance Openness

Gillian Nkhata
IMF Strategy, Policy, and Review Department

July 22, 2013

  • 2013 transparency review calls for more timely release of IMF reports
  • Existing policy has been adapted to new surveillance landscape
  • IMF to publish more reports on lending, streamline public communication

In the latest review of its Transparency Policy, the IMF’s Executive Board has endorsed new measures aiming to increase the amount, timeliness, and accessibility of information that the IMF makes available to the public, the institution announced.

Under the Transparency Policy, the publication of country documents is encouraged, but subject to the consent of member countries. The review concluded that this “voluntary but presumed” regime was functioning well, and introduced further refinements to it.

The 2013 review of the IMF’s Transparency Policy comes on the heels of an overhaul of the way the IMF conducts surveillance—its regular monitoring of member economies. The review also follows up on the IMF’s 2009 reforms, which changed the focus of the IMF’s Transparency Policy from “why disclose information?” to “why not?”

“We welcome the Board’s decision, which will help expand publication rates, speed up the release of documents, and adapt the IMF’s Transparency Policy to the new surveillance framework,” said Taline Koranchelian, Division Chief in the IMF’s Strategy, Policy, and Review Department.

Two decades of reform have fundamentally transformed the IMF’s Transparency Policy, enabling the institution to contribute openly to public debates during the global crisis and respond to heightened scrutiny of its increased financing activities, while remaining a trusted advisor to its members.

Today, over 90 percent of the institution’s country documents and policy papers are already published. In addition, the IMF has gradually opened up its archives to the public and now interacts regularly with the public through outreach, press briefings, and the publication of information via its external website.

Critical to IMF mandate

The move toward greater openness has been prompted by an increasing recognition on the part of the international community that enhanced transparency is critical for the IMF to fulfill its mandate. Transparency strengthens the effectiveness of the institution by providing the public access to its views and deliberations, thus informing public debate and building traction for IMF policy advice. Importantly, greater transparency enhances the institution’s legitimacy by making it more accountable.

In the 2013 review, the IMF’s Executive Board approved a series of policy changes, which include:

Strengthening the publication regime for reports on IMF lending. As a result of the latest changes to the Transparency Policy, the IMF Managing Director will generally not recommend that a lending request be approved by Executive Board unless the country authorities have agreed to publish the accompanying staff report. Such a strengthened publication regime already applies to reports concerning requests for large IMF loans.

Encouraging faster publication. The IMF has set an expectation that most documents will be published within 14 calendar days of the corresponding Executive Board meeting. If a country paper has not been published after 28 days, then the IMF will issue a factual statement confirming that Board consideration took place and clarifying the publication status of the relevant report.

Providing stronger assurances on the treatment of confidential information. Because of its particular mandate, the IMF must strike a balance between ensuring maximum access to information by the Board and respecting the confidentiality of information entrusted to it by members. Under the revised policy, IMF staff will provide stronger assurances to member countries on how the IMF safeguards confidential information.

Streamlining public communications. Only one term—press release—will be used for external communications products, with the term “Public Information Notice” discontinued. The Fund will strive to translate press releases into languages other than English whenever feasible.

In addition, the review took stock of progress in opening up the IMF’s archives to public access.

Adapting to new surveillance landscape

The 2013 review was also an opportunity to tackle new challenges. Since the onset of the crisis, demand for the IMF’s cross-country and multilateral assessments has intensified. This has generated an array of new products covering several countries, which need their own publication rules. The newly approved reforms have created new rules for treating such multi-country documents so as to guide their modification and publication.

“These changes will help ensure that the IMF can continue to publish candid and comprehensive multi-country papers, while safeguarding each member’s rights under the policy,” said Gavin Gray, a member of the Transparency Policy team within the IMF’s Strategy, Policy, and Review Department.

The recently approved revisions—developed following a process of consultation with nongovernmental organizations, as well as surveys of IMF member countries, IMF Directors and staff, and media representatives—came into immediate effect on June 24, 2013.