Following the recommendations of the Treasury Select Committee, the UK Treasury’s latest annual report on the IMF is better documented and more explicit on UK positions at the IMF than previous efforts. The Treasury has, for the first time, made the voting record of the UK public. However this information is of little use in a consensus-based system, where the Board of Governors and Executive Board vote very rarely.
The Select Committee had urged the Treasury to make all Board minutes public, since “the actions of the UK and the Executive Board as a whole remain opaque” and consensus-based decision-making “makes it all the more necessary to publish the minutes, so that the reasoning behind the decisions can be fully understood.” This request, however, has been rejected on the grounds that other countries do not agree.
A section of the report does present UK positions in general terms but it lacks an in-depth analysis of UK government goals and how it is seeking to influence IMF policies, governance and operations. Similarly the report fails to outline the position taken by the UK on day-to-day Board decisions, or say what the ultimate Board decision was.
Other European governments take different approaches to government accountability on the IMF. France is comparable to the UK, but the Spanish government seems very reluctant to share information with members of Parliament. The Secretary of State in charge of relations with Parliament recently dismissed a request for information from a Spanish MP who demanded an account of information gathered by government representatives in international financial institutions. The Spanish minister claimed that there is no such thing as a Spanish position since Spain is part of a group of countries taking positions collectively on the IFI boards, and also because “communication between the government and Spanish representatives is informal (mainly through phone and email) and therefore no record is kept”.
The Treasury Committee has decided to take evidence from the current UK Executive Director to the IMF, Mr Tom Scholar, and his immediate predecessor, Mr Stephen Pickford. The hearing is tentatively scheduled on Tuesday 21 May, at 10.30am. The committee will be considering submissions from various organisations about IMF-related issues for the creation of the 2002 report.