The pilot phase of the Analytical Trust Fund (ATF), an initiative which provides money for research to support the capacity of Sub-Saharan African executive directors (EDs) on the boards of the Bank and Fund, is coming to a close. The offices of the African EDs concede that the initiative was slow to get off the ground, but are urging its replenishment.
Jean-Claude Tchatchouang, senior advisor to Paulo Gomes (executive director from Guinea-Bissau representing one of the 2 major African groupings) told the Bretton Woods Project that use of the Fund was initially slowed down by the need for the four African constituency offices (2 at the Bank and 2 at the Fund) to agree on research priorities. There were also “misunderstandings” between the EDs and the African Economic Research Consortium (the AERC won the contract to manage the fund in 2004 – see Update 41).
Despite the slowdown, Tchatchouang believed that the requirement for Bank and Fund directors to coordinate their research plans was beneficial. Relations with the AERC were “now improving” according to Tchatchouang, after difficulties caused by communication breakdowns and the failure of consultants to understand the needs of EDs. Asked whether the EDs would be better served by a diversity of researchers, Tchatchouang said that it was “important to build something first”, and that the option could be explored as more African research organisations built up their capacity.
The first meeting of the African EDs caucus on the ATF in December 2004 prioritised research into the role of the IMF in low-income countries. A second brainstorming session in March 2005 recommended research into pension reform. Both studies have since been completed. Four studies are currently in the pipeline. The Bank EDs have suggested research into lending for regional projects, and the issue of absorptive capacity. The Fund EDs have opted for more research into the impact of the informal sector on the economy, and promoting development of the financial sector. No rules have been established for publication of the papers, with Tchatchouang suggesting that disclosure “would be considered on a case by case basis”.
Tchatchouang indicated that one shortcoming of the ATF was its inability to deal with issues in real-time: “the board will discuss corruption in two weeks – how will we handle that?”. One suggestion has been for the AERC to get some practitioners in its roster of researchers who would be available to turn around research on short notice.
At the last ATF caucus meeting in Nairobi in August 2005, the African EDs put forward the case for replenishment of the fund. The donors agreed to extend the life of the project to the end of this year but with no extra funding as existing funds were “significantly underspent”. DFID told the Bretton Woods Project that “we will review the project later in the year and there will be a joint donor decision on whether to replenish.”