Typical street scene in Santa Ana, El Salvador. (Photo: iStock)

Typical street scene in Santa Ana, El Salvador. (Photo: iStock)

IMF Survey: IMF Says Financial Surveillance To Be More Focused, Candid

September 29, 2009

  • Financial Sector Assessment Program strengthened in light of crisis
  • Cross-border issues key in a globalized world
  • Program to adapt to countries' needs

To keep pace with rapid changes in global finance, the IMF is improving its ability to monitor countries’ financial stability, and plans to make its reports more focused and candid after drawing lessons from the global crisis.

IMF Says Financial Surveillance To Be More Focused, Candid

Countries facilities for providing central bank liquidity are examined in IMF surveillance (photo:Toby Melville/Reuters)


What began as a financial crisis in 2007 quickly spread to the global economy, and the IMF has been working to further its understanding of how the financial sector affects the rest of a country’s economy.

In a recent interview, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said surveillance “is our core business.”

The IMF conducts surveillance through annual reviews of countries’ economies, known as Article IV consultations. In addition, a country may request an analysis of its financial sector through the IMF’s Financial Sector Assessment Program.

The decade-old voluntary program, conducted jointly with the World Bank in developing and emerging economies, and by the Fund alone in advanced economies, has been carried out in over two-thirds of the IMF’s 186 member countries. Assessments are currently under way for Indonesia, China, and the United States.

The changes to the program are designed in response to the global crisis and are aimed at enhancing the quality and candor of the IMF’s advice. They will also link financial policy advice to the overall economic health of a country, as well as to other countries, the IMF said in a report issued on September 29.

Prior to the crisis, assessments of countries’ financial sectors under the program covered a broad range of topics. This approach covered the right issues, but sometimes not in sufficient depth, the IMF said. When areas of risk were identified, reports were not always clear and candid enough. In addition, there were time lags between assessments.

Crisis prevention and exit strategies

The revised program will introduce more flexibility to tailor the scope and timing of assessments to country needs. The IMF will have the option of conducting more targeted assessments, focused specifically on financial stability. These updates will concentrate on the underlying soundness of the financial system, the strength of the public institutions charged with supervising the financial system, and the effectiveness of policies for dealing with financial crises. This approach will allow for more frequent and timely updates on financial sector stability.

In light of the crisis and recent country experiences, the IMF said its financial sector stability assessments will include:

• A sharper focus on countries’ crisis management, including stress-testing, facilities for providing central bank liquidity, and plans for dealing with failed banks.

• Improved analysis of the cross-border risks, including financial linkages such as ownership patterns, financial flows between countries, and links between financial markets that can quickly transmit events in one country to another.

• New tools and methods to expand the program to look at the big-picture connections between financial institutions and markets.

• Regulatory reform initiatives, including the scope of regulation, including systemic institutions, and the strength of risk management.

• Improved cross-country comparability of assessments and greater attention to cross-border risks and vulnerabilities.

• A risk-based review of a country’s adherence to international financial standards, to allow the IMF to focus on potential problem areas.

Comments on this article should be sent to imfsurvey@imf.org