Selected Decisions and Selected Documents of the IMF, Fortieth Issue -- Summing Up by the Acting Chairman—Settlement of Disputes Between Members Relating to External Financial Obligations—Role of the Fund, Executive Board Meeting 84/99, June 22, 1984

Prepared by the Legal Department of the IMF
As updated as of April 30, 2019

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Technical and Financial Services
Technical Services
General Decisions

Summing Up by the Acting Chairman—Settlement of Disputes Between Members Relating to External Financial Obligations—Role of the Fund, Executive Board Meeting 84/99, June 22, 1984

I shall begin by outlining four general points that were made in the course of the Board discussion. First, Executive Directors generally endorsed the approach that the Fund has taken in the three major aspects of the subject dealt with in the staff paper.

Second, Directors agreed that the functioning of the international monetary system depended on members’ fulfilling their international financial obligations promptly and according to the terms of those obligations. Therefore, the Fund had a direct interest in the settlement of overdue obligations and a role to play in accordance with the Articles of Agreement.

Third, there was a consensus that the circumstances surrounding overdue financial obligations typically were complex, and that there were often important differences among individual cases. Thus, Directors preferred not to codify the Fund’s approach in each of the three main areas discussed. Instead, most of them supported the idea that the Fund should continue to fulfill its responsibilities under the Articles on a case-by-case basis within the context of the present policies and procedures, which could be expected to continue to evolve as individual cases of overdue financial obligations and related general policy matters were discussed. There was a strong feeling among Directors that the Fund should show caution and restraint in making judgments on issues involving claims on such overdue obligations.

Fourth, Directors stressed the importance of the Fund’s helping member governments to improve their statistical base and to increase the supply of information on their external debt obligations, particularly in cases involving overdue claims. Where necessary, the Fund could provide the technical resources to help sort out the frequently complex circumstances surrounding the debt situation, including individual cases.

Let me turn now to more specific comments on the three major areas dealt with in the staff paper. With respect to the Fund’s jurisdiction under Article VIII and Article XIV, there was strong support for the policies and practices that the Fund had followed to date. Directors generally agreed that, in exercising its functions under Article VIII and Article XIV, the Fund was entitled to examine the context in which nonpayment of a financial obligation had occurred in order to determine whether or not it involved an exchange restriction and, as such, was subject to Fund approval, and that members were obliged to provide the information that the Fund required to make such a determination. The Fund has developed a substantial body of principles and practices for determining which measures were and were not within its jurisdiction and when approval under Article VIII was appropriate. These judgments were inherent in the exercise of the Fund’s jurisdiction.

Executive Directors also generally endorsed the Fund’s existing policies and practices for dealing with disputed financial obligations in members using Fund resources. This concerned primarily the identification and treatment of payments arrears. Directors accepted the general premise that, to restore its financial position, a member country must reduce and eliminate its external payments arrears. In that context, there was broad support for the approach that the Fund had taken to the problems involving countries with large external payments arrears. It was noted that the degree of involvement by the Fund in helping countries to deal with their arrears had varied depending, in part, upon the severity of the case. Some Directors noted that the pivotal role that it had been necessary for the Fund to play in helping some member countries should be the exceptional practice, not the general practice. Nevertheless, the Fund should stand ready to provide technical and analytical expertise to help a member country to negotiate a financing agreement with its external creditors.

Most Directors attached importance to the principle that a member country should give comparable treatment to all its creditors, although there was not broad support for trying to define that principle in detail. There was a strong feeling that responsibility for the enforcement of the principle of comparable treatment was ultimately in the hands of creditors, and that the Fund should take into account the actions of the creditors when assessing the viability of, and progress under, a Fund-supported program. In that connection, Directors felt that the debt relief to help to close the financing gap of a member could best be dealt with through a Paris Club negotiation, which usually involved a large number of a country’s creditors. A Paris Club Agreed Minute could be seen as satisfying a member country’s need for debt relief and could be used for judging whether or not a country’s financing gap has been closed. A Paris Club Agreement also has implications for official creditors not participating in the Paris Club because of the commitment of the debtor to seek and to accord comparable treatment to those creditors. Some Directors stressed that it would be helpful to know about a Paris Club meeting well in advance of its occurrence, although it was also accepted that such notification was ultimately the responsibility of the debtor country in consultation with its creditors. At the same time, it was clearly desirable for as many of a country’s creditors as possible to participate in a Paris Club meeting.

Directors also generally agreed that, if an anticipated bilateral agreement required by the Paris Club, between a debtor and one of its official creditors, were not ratified within the specified period, the amount of arrears involved should be included in the calculation of arrears for purposes of the debtor country’s Fund-supported program. While there was general support for that approach, there was a call for flexibility and the exercise of judgment by the Fund when making such decisions during the course of a Fund-supported program. If a debtor country had made its best efforts to comply with a Paris Club requirement to conclude a bilateral agreement but had been unable to do so, the arrears involved should not be included in the calculation of arrears for purposes of the debtor country’s Fund-supported program. However, such judgments should be made on a case-by-case basis.

Decisions on whether or not a country’s financing gap had been closed, and on whether or not rescheduling and refinancing agreements were being fulfilled, should be made by the Fund itself. The Fund should take into account the particular circumstances of a member, such as the preconditions on the provision of debt relief by other agencies.

There was a strong consensus on three general matters relating to the use of the Fund’s good offices. First, in the light of the Fund’s primary responsibilities concerning the international monetary system and of its specific authority under the Articles to provide financial and technical services, management and staff should stand ready to use their good offices in helping members engaged in a particular dispute over an external financing obligation. Second, such good offices should, however, be limited in scope and frequency, although in that connection there were differences in emphasis among Directors. Some felt that the Fund should be more active, others that the Fund must be quite cautious. In short, the use of good offices should be consistent with available resources and should be substantially technical. Third, all Directors attached great importance to the Fund’s remaining neutral in issues of debt dispute. It should be clearly understood that the Fund’s good offices were meant to bring the parties to a dispute together. Fourth, there was agreement that the Fund should act in such cases only if both parties wished to have the Fund provide its good offices.


August 13, 1984

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