IFI governance


Unofficial summary of IMF Board meeting on transparency

17 July 2003

The Board of the Fund met as expected on Friday 27 June to discuss transparency. However due to the reluctance of some country representatives (mostly from Southern countries, it is understood) to accept progress on some of the key issues outlined below firm decisions were postponed, officially for technical reasons but in fact to allow countries to reach a compromise. Despite pressure from G7 countries (see G-7, civil society press for IMF, World Bank transparency reforms ) a number of countries seem determined to resist rapid change, probably feeling they have made enough concessions in a similar meeting last year. An official, ‘anonymised’ summary of discussions should be available shortly after decisions are made.

Issues to be decided in the coming days or weeks include:

  • making archives, and therefore Board minutes, available after 5 years. The UK is supporting this. The time lag was changed from 20 to 10 years last year but some countries opposed the 5 years proposal at the time.
  • some countries including the UK have proposed to publish the schedule of the Board one month in advance (the World Bank already does)
  • moving from voluntary to presumed publication of staff reports for Article IV consultations (the Fund’s assessment of countries’ policies), and Use of Fund Resources (UFR) reports. Presumed publication means reports are published unless a country explicitly opposes it, but it is unclear whether countries would have to give reasons for that, if these would be made public and what reasons would be considered acceptable. The proposed move to presumed publication seems to be a major stumbling block and some countries strongly oppose presumed publication.
  • a related stumbling block is the mandatory disclosure of UFR reports for cases of ‘exceptional access’ (countries borrowing more than the usually authorised limit). Some countries have contested the legality of this. The need to clarify this probably explains the technical reasons invoked to postpone decisions.

It seems that some issues raised in the NGO letter were not discussed: this includes publication of draft policy papers before they go to the Board, publication of draft letters of intent and memoranda of understanding (rejected last year, borrowing countries are reluctant) and use of side-letters. This is probably, at least partly, due to the fact that the discussion stalled on voluntary/presumed/mandatory publication as explained above. External pressure will still be needed before and after a decision is reached, to achieve more fundamental progress, although a decision on mandatory publication of staff reports, unlikely as it seems, would constitute an encouraging step forward.