Selected Decisions and Selected Documents of the IMF, Thirty- Eighth Issue -- The Chairmanís Summing Up at the Conclusion of the Discussion on the Modalities for Special ESAF Operations in the Context of the HIPC Initiative and Other ESAF Issues, Executive Board Meeting 97/10, February 4, 1997

Prepared by the Legal Department of the IMF
As updated as of February 29, 2016

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ARTICLE V, SECTION 2(b)
Technical and Financial Services
Financial Services

The Chairman’s Summing Up at the Conclusion of the Discussion on the Modalities for Special ESAF Operations in the Context of the HIPC Initiative and other ESAF Issues

Executive Board Meeting 97/10, February 4, 1997

We have now established the structure and modalities for special ESAF operations under the HIPC Initiative, based on the agreement reached in the September Board meetings and the endorsement of the Interim and Development Committee meetings. The decisions to establish the ESAF-HIPC Trust will allow us to place to that account the resources that have already been accumulating for these purposes. The additional decision to allow an early transfer of Reserve Account resources to the Special Disbursement Account (SDA) for the financing of special ESAF operations—to the extent that sufficient resources for this purpose are not immediately available from other sources—responds to the Interim Committee’s request to proceed quickly with the implementation of the HIPC Initiative. Together with consents to an early transfer from all ESAF Trust Loan Account creditors, which will be sought during the coming weeks, these decisions will permit the Fund to commit its resources as a participant in the Initiative, as the first countries reach their decision points and are judged to require assistance under the Initiative.

This exercise has been technically complex and has surfaced very genuine and legitimate differences of view regarding how best to provide the assistance needed by our poorest and most heavily indebted members. All of you want to assure that the resources used for this purpose produce the best results—and views can differ on how to accomplish that. I appreciate the spirit all of you brought to this and your willingness to compromise.

In agreeing to the authorization for an early transfer of Reserve Account resources, some Directors stressed the need for maintaining a maximum effort by all to secure bilateral contributions and, if necessary, to consider the optimization of the management of the Fund’s reserves for the financing of interim ESAF subsidies and special ESAF operations. We will certainly maintain this effort and the financing of the Trust will be kept under regular review.

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While some of the operational details will need to be developed on a case-by-case basis as specific country cases are presented to the Boards of the Fund and the Bank, a number of issues have been raised by Directors that will need to be taken into account when implementing the HIPC Initiative and the Fund’s participation therein.

First, Directors considered that there should be a presumption that ESAF arrangements with HIPC-eligible countries, and especially arrangements during the second stage, would be among the stronger ESAF arrangements. This is appropriate in light of the seriousness of the problems confronting these countries, the need to progress as rapidly as possible with structural reform, and the need to protect Fund resources. We can thus expect to see more frontloading of policy reform and forceful action on critical structural measures in these arrangements.

Second, Directors emphasized that under the agreed framework endorsed by the Interim and Development Committees any shortening of the second stage would be on an exceptional basis for countries which have already sustained records of strong performance and for which the adjustment and reform effort has become firmly rooted. This matter would be decided on a case-by-case basis by the Boards of the Fund and the Bank.

Third, some Directors expressed the view that approval of more than two three-year ESAF arrangements, including for HIPCs having reached their completion points, should be on an exceptional basis. However, most Directors were of the view that the continued ESAF should in principle be open to all ESAF-eligible members, given the protracted nature of the problems faced by many of them, their vulnerability to external shocks, and the risk of a recurrence of problems even after a sustained period of successful adjustment. Directors stressed that the continuation of ESAF is intended to maintain the Fund’s ability to respond to eligible members’ needs as they arise, and not to provide a source of continuous financing for individual countries. Directors also agreed that countries having benefited from exceptional assistance under the HIPC Initiative at the completion point would in most cases be expected to have made major progress toward a viable balance of payments position or achieved it, although they were likely to remain dependent on development aid flows. I have also noted the interest expressed by some Directors in exploring the scope for precautionary ESAF arrangements and we will return to that matter.

Fourth, Directors agreed that any reduction at the completion point of the assistance committed to a member at the decision point, would be taken only in concert with all other creditors and only where a major windfall transforms the economic circumstances of the member concerned and not when the improvement in its circumstances is the result of more ambitious adjustment and reform efforts undertaken by the member.

Fifth, Directors discussed the vulnerability factors that should be taken into account at the decision point in determining the debt sustainability targets. These might include a range of factors in addition to those mentioned in the decision, including, as suggested by some Directors, the present value of external debt-to-GDP ratio.

Sixth, the reference to extended arrangements as satisfying the requirement of a track record of strong policy performance in the case of the second three-year period is intended only to cover the possibility that interim ESAF operations could take the form of extended arrangements in the General Resources Account.

Finally, regarding the amounts of Fund assistance under the HIPC Initiative, Directors reiterated the importance of one of the guiding principles of the Initiative, i.e., that the assistance provided by the Fund and other multilateral creditors should preserve the financial integrity of the institutions and their preferred creditor status. Directors emphasized that before deciding on commitments or disbursements, the Fund would need to have satisfactory assurances concerning the actions and decisions to be taken—on their own responsibilities and in accordance with their own procedures—by other involved creditors. It would not be productive to try to formulate these considerations in mechanical terms in the abstract, but we will have them clearly in mind in considering individual cases.

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Several Directors asked for an early report to the Board on progress on financing the ESAF/HIPC initiatives, including through bilateral contributions. The staff will discuss this issue in the context of a paper on the use of SCA-2 resources, to be presented to the Board in the coming weeks.

BUFF/97/12

February 5, 1997

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