The World Bank-IMF annual meetings drew to a close with little or no progress made on any of the substantive issues. Debt relief was the issue attracting most of the attention in the run-up to the meetings. Both the US and the UK had tabled proposals for 100 per cent multilateral debt cancellation. There was much discussion over a new framework to determine debt sustainability. But the meeting of the board of the IMF ended with the now-familiar commitment to “further consideration of outstanding issues in the proposed framework for debt sustainability and of further debt relief”. There was no indication that any progress had been made on discussions surrounding the use of IMF gold to support debt cancellation.
On aid effectiveness, small progress in the form of further research. The Bank has committed to review its “policy and practice on conditionality” and report back at the annual meetings in 2005. This falls short of calls from civil society for an independent review of the aggregate impact of Bank and Fund conditionality. Discussions on so-called ‘innovative sources of financing’ such as the UK’s international finance facility and Brazilian-French proposals to explore various forms of international transaction taxes were similarly inconclusive. A report at the spring meetings will outline “how to take these options forward”.
Continued pressure is being placed on the Bank by middle-income countries to support investments in infrastructure. The Development Committee stressed the need for the Bank and Fund to “increase the fiscal space for public infrastructure investment” and encouraged engagement at the regional and sub-national levels.
The issue of increasing southern country participation in the structures and operations at the Bank and Fund continues to languish in the political hinterland. G-24 nations demanded revision of the current quota system which understates the global importance of developing countries in their voting weight at the Bank and Fund. They also urged that the next World Bank president be chosen by a “transparent” selection process “regardless of nationality”. Currently the World Bank president is chosen by the US in a closed process. South African finance minister Trevor Manuel’s ‘roadmap’ on these issues indicated however that there was little consensus. The Development Committee “looks forward to receiving a report regarding the feasibility of these options” at the spring meetings.
In a weekend devoid of substantive developments, one of the most interesting suggestions came from finance minister Manuel. He has proposed moving the meetings from Washington permanently in view of the difficulties which security concerns in the US have created. “We’re herded into shuttles just to get through. The meetings are squashed. This arrangement clearly isn’t working”. This suggestion resonates with civil society groups which have long argued that the meetings should take place in the south in an attempt to bridge the gap between policymakers and those affected by their decisions.
The spring meetings have been scheduled for 17 April in Washington.
The formal agenda included:
- 2 Oct International Monetary and Financial Committee Meeting (IMFC) meeting: World Economic Outlook; crisis prevention and resolution; IMF and low income countries; promoting debt sustainability; and progress reports on IMF quotas and governance, and activities of the IEO
- 2 Oct Development Committee Meeting: Aid effectiveness and financing modalities; Investment climate and infrastructure action plan, debt and voice and participation of developing and transition countries.
- 3 Oct G10 meeting; annual meetings plenary session
Documents discussed by the Development Committee and the IMFC as well as press releases are posted on the DC website
A one-day programme of seminars was organised by the Bank.
- Issues of governance of the Bretton Woods institutions Meeting notes
- Report back on the EIR process and next steps for implementation Meeting notes
Civil society dialogues organised by NGOs included:
- CSO meeting with European Executive Directors Meeting notes
- Town hall meeting CSOs and Bank Fund heads Meeting notes
- IMF in low income countries Meeting notes
- Breaking poverty cycles: action in childhood
- Reality of Aid 2004 report launch Meeting notes
- Panel discussion on the World Bank’s track record on Gender in post-conflict reconstruction Meeting notes
- How to make accountability mechanisms effective
- Debt relief, debt sustainability and other emerging issues Meeting notes and preliminary review of UNCTAD Report
- Grants or Loans?The Full Debate Meeting notes
- IFC/civil society discussion on review of environmental and social safeguards policies Meeting notes
- 2004 NGO-Roundtable with German development minister Meeting notes
- Taking stock of the PRSP process
A comprehensive calendar of events, and links to all the documents released by civil society for the annual meetings are available on IFIwatchnet.