The G20 has turned to the IMF to operate as a research and advisory body on their behalf since those governments’ leaders first met in November 2008. The IMF’s work in this area has mainly fallen in three areas: technical advice, surveillance, and research.
G20 mutual assessment process and the IMF
IMF input into the G20 has largely been considered technical assistance or technical advice. Work of this type is provided for in the IMF Articles of Agreement, on the basis that the IMF is not mandated to perform it and it is also voluntary for the member country concerned. Under the provisions of the IMF’s transparency policy there is no presumption that this technical advisory work will be publicly disclosed.
The IMF has delivered a large portion of its recent technical advice in its role as the coordinating agency of the G20’s ‘mutual assessment process’. In September 2009 at a Pittsburgh summit of G20 leaders, the G20 launched a Framework for Strong, Sustainable, and Balanced Growth – a peer review process of national measures taken to drive growth and rebalance the global economy.
The G20 growth framework is “a compact that commits us to work together to assess how our policies fit together, to evaluate whether they are collectively consistent with more sustainable and balanced growth, and to act as necessary to meet our common objectives.” The IMF- led mutual assessment process for the growth framework is in its first year, but the G20 expects to make it an annual endeavour to foster closer economic coordination.
The mutual assessment process was set out by IMF staff and agreed by the IMF board in December 2009 and published ni January 2010. This year it involved G20 countries setting out their national and regional economic policy frameworks, programmes and projections in January. By the April meeting of the G20 finance ministers, the IMF conducted an initial assessment of those national plans in three stages. In the first stage the IMF “assess[ed] the input received for coverage and internal consistency.” In the second stage the IMF checked the plans against each other for multilateral consistency, including ensuring that assumptions such as oil prices and interest rates are the same, and then assessed whether the plans would meet the stated growth objectives and ensure financial stability. Finally staff made policy suggestions on how the national plans could be altered to better meet the stated objectives. Through this process the IMF applied its own thinking and analytical tools to check over country plans.
After the Fund’s report and feedback from the April G20 finance ministers’ meeting, IMF “staff provided more concrete analysis of how medium-term global prospects could be enhanced through collective policy actions,” including through the presentation of a limited number (no more than 3-4) of alternative policy scenarios to the G20. These scenarios will be discussed by the G20 leaders at their mid-year meeting at end June. Finally the suggestions will be refined by the countries and the IMF and details further negotiated among the G20 countries to be presented to G20 leaders at their planned November meeting.
So far none of the work done by the IMF in the mutual assessment process has been published, and as technical advice it is in the purview of the G20 member states to consent to publication. There has also been no consultation with external stakeholders, meaning the IMF has relied on its own internal models, analysis, and assumptions. IMF reports and output have been sent to the Fund’s executive board at the same time they were sent to the G20 countries. Under IMF rules adopted in 2008, technical advice should be paid for by client countries. However, it is not clear if or how G20 members are paying for IMF staff work on the mutual assessment process.
Other IMF work for the G20
Other work the IMF has conducted includes surveillance and research. Surveillance refers to the IMF’s regular oversight of both member countries, called bilateral surveillance, and the global financial and economic system, called multilateral surveillance. The IMF has produced a special series of G20 Surveillance Notes, which are essentially condensed and targeted versions of the IMF’s flagship publication, the World Economic Outlook. They have been produced in advance of G20 meetings of their leaders, finance ministers and central banks, and ministerial deputies.
On the research side, the G20 has requested special analysis from the IMF on a number of subjects since the financial crisis began. These have sometimes resulted in special stand-alone reports, such as the report on how the financial sector can make a contribution to pay for the crisis, to be delivered to G20 leader in June 2010. At other times they have been incorporated into existing IMF outputs. For example the G20’s November 2008 request for an investigation of the role of speculation in the 2008 oil price spike resulted in analysis of the subject appearing in the April 2009 World Economic Outlook.
Other work by the IMF does not clearly fall into any particular category. This has included joint work with the Financial Stability Board (formerly the Financial Stability Forum, see Update 63) on an early warning exercise and proposals on regulating systemically important financial institutions. The IMF has also been systematically tracking the implementation of G20 commitments and before selected summits has issued stocktaking notes of responses to the crisis.