- Gerald Helleiner
- Published Date:
- March 1986
Reprinted June 1987
© International Monetary Fund, 1986
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Africa and the International Monetary Fund.
I. International Monetary Fund—Africa.
1 Helleiner, Gerald K. II. International Monetary Fund
HG3881.5.158A34 1986 332.1′52 86-10415
At their Eighth Regular General Assembly held in August 1983 at Arusha, Tanzania, the Governors of the Association of African Central Banks proposed the organization of a joint symposium with the Fund on the subject of Africa and the International Monetary Fund. The Governors felt that such a symposium would lead to a better mutual understanding of the approach to the design and implementation of adjustment programs. For its part, the Fund was glad to have the opportunity to discuss its policies with the monetary authorities of its member countries in a framework that was free of the pressures of time and circumstance that inevitably surround negotiations of programs.
This volume contains the proceedings of the resulting symposium held in Nairobi on May 13–15, 1985, under the joint sponsorship of the Association of African Central Banks and the Fund. Professor G.K. Helleiner of the University of Toronto acted as Chairman of the symposium and also edited the material in this book.
The lively and candid exchange of views that took place during the symposium did much to improve the understanding by participants of the realities facing Africa today and of the policies that would most appropriately respond to those realities. I hope that the publication of these proceedings will continue the dialogue in a wider public forum in furtherance of the mutual interests that the Fund and all its member countries share in the success of the adjustment and growth processes in Africa.
J. de Larosière
International Monetary Fund
On behalf of all who participated in the symposium, I should like to express deepest thanks to our hosts in the Central Bank of Kenya and the Government of Kenya, and particularly to Governor Philip Ndegwa, who also managed to make major contributions to our deliberations despite his extraordinarily busy schedule. We were received warmly and well; the efficiency of the symposium’s support system made the participants’ stay in Kenya pleasant as well as productive. We were particularly honored by the unexpected opportunity of meeting His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Kenya.
Let me express my own thanks to the Association of African Central Banks (AACB) and the International Monetary Fund for affording me the privilege of serving as moderator in the Nairobi meetings and as editor of this volume. I have thoroughly enjoyed both tasks.
Above all, I should like to express my congratulations to the organizers for having conceived the idea for the symposium and for having implemented it with imagination and efficiency. The AACB deserves the credit for initiating the request for such a meeting and the Fund deserves no less praise for its enthusiastic response. I should like to express particular thanks to Azizali Mohammed and Ahmed Abushadi of the External Relations Department of the International Monetary Fund who have planned, organized, and supported the entire enterprise from the beginning.
I believe that the symposium was successful. Frank communication took place; both sides listened and learned. I hope that it may have ushered in a period of greater mutual understanding and partnership between African Governors and Fund staff. Both Governors and staff change, however, and so do the issues. I hope, therefore, that this symposium was only the first in a continuing series of similar exchanges with the Governors. I hope too that publication of the proceedings may extend the learning processes on these occasions much more widely both in Africa and in the international community.
Finally, let me express my thanks to Jennifer Johnson for her assistance in the preparation of the manuscript for publication in Toronto and to David D. Driscoll of the Editorial Division of the Fund’s External Relations Department for putting it into its final published form.
Toronto, October 1985
Richard D. Erb
The world is faced with a crisis in Africa. The word “crisis” is undoubtedly overused in today’s complex and unstable world, but the current situation in Africa richly deserves its use. On top of fundamental problems of longer-run development—rapid population growth, slow economic growth, and susceptibility to drought and desertification—that had already attracted widespread concern, recent years have seen savage blows from a malfunctioning world economy dealt on Africa. The collapse in African countries’ international terms of trade consequent to oil price increases and severe global recession has done the greatest damage, but high international interest rates and protectionism have also hurt. Sadly, recovery from the most recent world recession has failed to restore previous levels of primary commodity prices upon which the economic health of most African countries depends. The prospect for improvement in African terms of trade over the medium-term future remains bleak. At the same time, despite the obvious increase in African needs, net capital flows to Africa are dwindling and are projected to shrink further in the next few years. Many countries in Africa are on a downward spiral. The progress achieved since independence 25 years ago is in serious jeopardy.
“Adjustment” to external shocks as has occurred in Africa in recent years has taken the form primarily of slashing imports, investment, and already minimal levels of consumption, with the severe consequences for child nutrition now being documented by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The price for these quasi-adjustment measures will be paid for years to come. Average per capita incomes and investment rates in Africa have fallen for four years in a row. Projections of growth, trade, per capita income, and such physical indicators of human welfare as infant mortality, which many of us consider most important of all, are all simply unacceptable and dangerous. Moreover, the debt servicing obligations of many African countries appear to exceed prospective servicing capacity. In the best of circumstances it will take time and many more tough policy decisions before Africa can expect to return to a stable, sustained, and acceptable development path. There is risk that low-income African nations will be unable to extricate themselves from their financial bind, at least within the “mediumterm framework” employed by the Fund for its programs, and possibly longer. Hence the word “crisis” could not be more appropriate. To some degree, in consequence of the Ethiopian tragedy and the severe drought elsewhere on the continent, the world has already focused its attention on Africa. But the magnitude of the current African crisis is not yet fully appreciated in the international community: for most African countries it is a long-run disaster, centering on a shortage of foreign exchange.
The International Monetary Fund responded to the external blows rained upon Africa in recent years with unprecedented levels of lending. Although its activities in Africa had previously been modest, since 1979 the Fund has played a prominent intermediary role between African countries and the international financial community. By the early 1980s net Fund credits to Africa exceeded net flows from the World Bank group, traditionally the major multilateral actor on the continent. But the bulk of Fund credit has been offered on highly conditional terms—in keeping with the Fund’s requirement for revolving its resources and its objective of restoring balance to its members’ external payments position as quickly as possible. The Fund’s view of its role in Africa is succinctly summarized in the papers by Richard Erb and Alassane Ouattara. African members of the Fund have not always been content with the terms of its lending, and their grievances are eloquently expressed in many papers in this volume. Indeed, the motivation of the Association of African Central Banks (AACB) in suggesting the symposium at which these papers were presented was a feeling that such an exchange would lead to a better understanding on the part of African countries of the approach of the Fund to the design and implementation of adjustment programs and a better appreciation on the part of the Fund of the special difficulties, problems, and perspectives of the African countries. At the same time, the relatively short-term character of Fund lending (three to five years) has meant that the resources lent in the recent burst of Fund activity in Africa are now coming due for repayment. Unless there is a renewed surge of lending there will be a net flow of resources from Africa back to the Fund over the next few years, well before Africa has adjusted to the shocks that gave rise to the need for credits in the first place. Nor is African discontent and frustration confined to the activities of the Fund. The international financial community as a whole, including the World Bank group and bilateral aid donors, comes in for a share of the blame for Africa’s predicament and bleak prospects, since it too is reducing its commitment in Africa.
There is by now substantial agreement on how to move Africa on to self-sustaining growth and roughly on what it would cost. Despite extraordinarily little room for error, the task is not unmanageable. What is required is sustained, joint effort on the part of both African governments and the international community, including the Fund, to achieve a transition to more stable and acceptable development. Africa represents a test of the international community’s capacity to respond effectively to crisis. Appropriate response will challenge the community for the next decade and perhaps longer.
One question kept recurring, sometimes explicitly, virtually always implicitly, in the symposium. To whom should policy recommendations and appeals for reform be addressed? To whom, ultimately, were the Governors of the African Central Banks and other participants talking? The world? The major powers in the Executive Board and the Board of Governors of the Fund? The management and staff of the Fund? Or, on the other side, to African politicians and governments? African civil servants? African publics?
For analytical purposes, I shall distinguish three addressees for policy recommendations: the world community, the Fund’s Executive Board and Board of Governors, and the Fund management and staff. The response of the world, and particularly of industrial nations, to Africa’s crisis was addressed repeatedly and variously in the symposium. There were calls from virtually all quarters for increased resource flows to Africa through official bilateral development assistance, the International Development Association (IDA), the special World Bank facility for Africa, and other devices. J.O. Sanusi of Nigeria even suggested a Marshall Plan for Africa. This analogy may be a little misleading, in that, apart from other obvious points of dissimilarity, the sums suggested for helping to meet African needs would be modest compared with those directed in an earlier day toward rebuilding Europe. Governor Moyana of Zimbabwe also drew useful parallels between the reconstruction of war-devastated Europe and current needs in Africa.
In the trade realm, there were calls both from African Governors, particularly Governor Fadiga and Mr. Sanusi, and from others for higher and more stable primary commodity prices. Appeals were unanimous for reduced protectionism against African and other low-income countries’ products. African support for the initiation of new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations that would take adequate account of the needs of developing countries in crisis was specifically recommended by John Williamson.
Debt relief of various kinds for African and other low-income countries was repeatedly recommended. (I have not attempted to achieve consistency among the debt estimates employed by various authors; data on African debt are obviously in need of improvement.) Among the possible modes of relief that were canvassed are conversion of debt to grants, multi-year rescheduling, and the revision of various Paris Club procedures (including provision for effective follow-up on the rapid translation of multilateral commitments into bilateral action). Eduard Brau’s paper was cautious about the prospect, however, and emphasized improved domestic debt-management systems.
More broadly, some invited governments to embark upon wide-ranging international monetary reform to improve the prospect for a stable and predictable international economic environment and (a particularly sore and frequently mentioned point) more symmetric sharing of adjustment burdens. In this context, Governor Gebre-Kidan of Ethiopia invited consideration of a new development-related role for the Fund; but this suggestion did not meet with full agreement.
The staff of the Fund and the World Bank can, of course, attempt to exercise some influence on world opinion and the policies of the major powers. The staff of the Bank, in their successive reports on sub-Saharan Africa, have tried to do so and have called repeatedly for increased official development assistance to Africa and reduced protectionism. There seemed to be general agreement that net external resource flows (and net transfers, allowing for interest payments) to Africa should not be permitted to decline, as is now projected for the medium term. Indeed, it was agreed that the “crisis” would be better met by increased net flows and transfers. Experts can and should shout loudly and univocally on these matters and publicize the relevant statistics. Realistically, however, the prospect that discussions of Fund and World Bank programs, domestic policy reform, and international debt relief will lead to greater flows of resources does seem at present rather bleak. The struggle for further resources must nevertheless continue and the Fund and World Bank management and staff can be expected to participate actively in this struggle.
What about issues within the province of the Executive Board and the Board of Governors of the Fund (or their equivalents in the World Bank)? Obviously, many issues addressed under this heading may also be considered matters within the province of the Fund’s management and staff. There is some inevitable blurring and overlap in the categories I am employing, as will become apparent. Nevertheless, other suggestions made in the symposium’s papers fall strictly within the jurisdiction of the Executive Board and the Board of Governors. These Boards can act, of course, only within the constraints of the existing Articles of Agreement, the conventions of relevant institutions, and, to some degree, the established positions of the major powers within these bodies.
The most direct and obvious issue of this sort relates to the amount of the Fund’s own limited resources. J.O. Sanusi argued for substantial quota increases and the advance of the Fund’s ninth quota review. Many also called for resumption of the issue of SDRs. Despite already considerable international support, and not merely in the developing countries, for these suggestions, progress has proven politically difficult. Particular attention was called to the potential use of returning Trust Fund resources (roughly SDR 2.7 billion between 1985 and 1991) in a manner appropriate to the needs of African and other low-income countries, perhaps in an expanded interest subsidy scheme.
The terms of access to the Fund’s resources were also criticized. Lowincome members’ access rights were actually reduced in absolute terms in the latest quota revision and this seems an obvious matter for review. Many participants in the symposium also recommended improvement of the functioning of the compensatory financing facility so as to relate drawing rights more effectively to needs and, in particular, to return compensatory financing facility drawings to the low-conditionality status they enjoyed prior to September 1983. Expanded use of the extended fund facility in Africa also carried widespread support. Reconsideration of the rate of interest paid on Fund credit of various kinds was also urged. Former Executive Director Narasimham of India suggested exploration of the possible use of the clause concerning “exceptional circumstances” justifying special arrangements in respect of the currency of Fund repurchases for African and other low-income countries in the near future.
Fund conditionality was addressed in the papers by Samba Mawakani, Alassane Ouattara, and John Loxley, and was the subject of a great deal of discussion and debate. A review at the level of the Executive Board of the guidelines relating to conditionality, performance requirements, and waiver procedures was suggested to ensure an appropriate degree of Fund flexibility. Mr. Narasimham also suggested exploration of the possibility of prorating drawing rights according to the degree of shortfall in respect of performance.
Luis de Azcarate’s reflective paper on the role of the World Bank in Africa stimulated discussion of the interaction between the Fund and the Bank in providing appropriate finance in the current circumstances of crisis. Governor Ndegwa of Kenya called for joint Fund-Bank programs coordinating the Extended Fund Facility and structural adjustment loans; others noted the dangers of “ganging up” on borrowers and “cross-conditionality.” There seemed to be general agreement that there would be much to be gained from improved cooperation between the World Bank and the Fund, and from a review of their respective roles in bridging the gap in providing adequate medium-term balance of payments finance for African and other low-income countries. A review of the appropriate degree of World Bank reliance upon structural adjustment loans, sectoral adjustment loans, and other kinds of policy-based lending in these countries, and modalities for their use, was also widely seen as timely.
Lastly, some suggested that an overall review of the future role and nature of the Fund, particularly as it relates to the needs of its lowest-income members, might well be launched by the Executive Board or the Board of Governors. Carlos Massad also suggested that the Boards might launch task-force reviews of general policies, resource use, and the relationships between members and the Fund, with a view to ensuring the Fund’s own stated objectives of pragmatism and flexibility.
African Governors repeatedly called for innovation, pressure, and leadership on these issues from Fund management and staff. While there were some substantive disagreements (for example, on whether Fund and World Bank programs should be jointly formulated, or whether there is merit in encouraging each institution to play a separate role), there seemed to be less disagreement between Fund staff and Governors on what changes were desirable than there was on the likelihood of their being achieved. One must presume that the likelihood increases if the management and staff press for these changes, and the meeting gave out strong signals on the appropriate directions in which to press.
The African Governors also saw the need to deepen their own independent research on these matters so as to strengthen the hands of their hard-pressed and inadequately backed Executive Directors. Some mechanisms for backing their efforts already exist, of course, but the discussions suggested to many that they might not be enough.
By far the sharpest divergences surfacing during the symposium and contained in the papers that follow were on matters that, on the face of it, are to a degree—exactly how much is still not entirely agreed—within the discretion of the Fund management and staff. On the one hand, African Governors are frustrated and hard pressed. On the other hand, many individuals in the Fund’s management and staff clearly see themselves misunderstood as international civil servants and not in a position to discuss in public weaknesses in the implementation of country programs by members. Among the matters at issue at the level of individual countries’ relations with the Fund management and staff are:
the detailed interpretation of the guidelines on conditionality and the details of performance targeting;
the term of agreements and particularly the degree of use of the Extended Fund Facility;
the degree of cooperation between the Fund and the World Bank and the extent to which these institutions’ programs are truly complementary rather than generative of cross-conditionality;
the details of disbursement schedules;
the details of waiver arrangements and contingency clauses in performance criteria.
Some of these issues involve considerations extending beyond the details of individual country programs. The intercountry disposition of lending—which countries are to receive how large a percentage of quota—depends upon a specific interpretation of uniformity of treatment as it applies to African and other low-income countries. John Williamson pointed out that there may be room for some reinterpretation of the concept of revolving funds. Funds may revolve in different ways, and in some circumstances prolonged use of Fund resources may be entirely consistent with the necessary revolving character of these resources.
Roger Lawrence of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recommended joint frameworks at the country level for planning external-resource requirements, and extending the use of donor consultative groups to many more African countries. The specific modalities for doing this equitably probably require the establishment of general principles and approaches.
The volume of the financial flows from the Fund to its African members was not generally a major area of dispute. These flows are typically too small by themselves to be effective and under the terms under which they are released may also be inappropriate for many. Rather, the Fund’s role as catalyst, or more accurately “gatekeeper,” for larger and more appropriately termed financial flows from the World Bank/IDA, bilateral donors, and other sources was at the heart of the debate. The Fund’s vision of what constitutes an acceptable program is what really matters. What is principally at issue therefore is program design.
The need for major structural adjustment and policy reform, usually involving exchange-rate modification and austerity, was not questioned by the African Governors. It should therefore be possible now to put to rest the unrealistic image of uncomprehending and perverse African macroeconomic managers who simply do not understand the gravity of their own problems. Plenty of self-criticism and plenty of tough action have already been taken (though, sadly, more is needed in many places) in macroeconomic management circles in Africa. Policy is not now likely to be improved through more vigorous preaching by outsiders.
There was a remarkable degree of agreement among Governors that Fund staff, missions, and management have not always responded to their problems with the understanding that they believe they have a right to expect. Many, including some with reasonably successful Fund programs, suggested that the Fund staff is inadequately informed or insensitive with respect to local conditions and objectives, patronizing in their relationships with local professionals, and rigid or powerless or both in their negotiations with African governments. Whether or not these perceptions are accurate, their persistence must be a matter for profound regret. It does little good for the Fund staff to restate their good intentions, to proclaim their pragmatism and flexibility in principle, or to defend themselves on the ground that shortage of resources ties their hands, if these perceptions are widespread. Needless to say, the Governors are not radicals bereft of detailed knowledge or experience. Increased Fund awareness of these perceptions and the range of countries in which they are held was an important outcome of the symposium. Mr. Ouattara, in his statement in the concluding panel, assured Governors again of the Fund staff’s openness, pragmatism, and flexibility. Ultimately, of course, in these matters the Fund will be assessed by the Governors in the same way it assesses its member governments—according to performance.
There appear to be plenty of plausible empirical and analytical grounds for the Governors’ expressed dissatisfaction and disaffection with Fund advice and approaches. In the papers and in the discussion much was made of program failures in Africa (as well as some trumpeted successes, notably that of Ghana), as well as about structural rigidities, wider definitions of success, including concern with vulnerable groups, aspirations for food security and economic integration, the need for institutional development, and the need for longer time horizons (for import liberalization aspirations, among other matters). John Loxley’s paper on alternative stabilization programs elicited by far the most vigorous responses, both positive and negative, of all the contributions at the symposium. A major issue raised by his paper and the subsequent discussion was whether better programs required more resources for their success. Of course, easier programs would be made possible by more resources, and sometimes the absence of more resources was what Governors were implicitly criticizing. They clearly want the Fund staff to press harder on their behalf for more resources, and the Fund does have some room for manoeuvre in this respect, both at the level of individual countries and in the aggregate. But it would, I believe, be quite wrong to interpret all this dissatisfaction in these terms. African central bankers and their staffs also have professional credentials. The issues are complex, and key questions of timing, phasing, and packaging are typically matters of judgment rather than of technical sophistication. They cannot be dismissed by technicians as mere politics. At a minimum, African governments should be able to expect Fund missions seriously to consider the merits of alternative programs. Fund staff might themselves construct alternative packages for members with limited capacity to develop their own.
It would also be productive for the Fund (and for other independent investigators) to generate or encourage careful analytical and empirical studies of the peculiar adjustment problems of low-income countries. Some such studies are already being done within the Fund, according to Mr. Ouattara, who also expressed the sensible view that their results should be made public. A little more open public discussion and a lot more publicly visible research effort may vastly improve the Fund’s standing in Africa. Many questions raised in the following papers require investigation. For example:
Is it true that the lags are longer for many supply responses in low-income countries? If so, why? In which sectors? What can be done about it?
Is it true that nominal devaluations of equal size generate more or faster inflation in low-income countries? If so, why? Are such effects related to the degree of front-ending of real resource flows?
What are the implications for policy of the possible negative price effects of collective expansion of particular primary exports?
Is it true that interest rate reforms have more limited effects on savings and the efficiency of resource allocation in low-income countries? Is monetary policy in general less effective in such countries?
What have been the implications for income distribution and poverty of specific adjustment programs?
There is a rich research agenda here, an agenda for expanded effort within the Fund and in member countries on the part of all who are concerned with Africa’s future.
Research may show that in order for any adjustment programs to work in low-income countries, more resources will be required. If so, tough international decisions may have to be made (some are, in fact, already being taken in the face of limited resources) involving the conscious selection of fewer countries for assistance. More rationing of international support and more dispute about the appropriate meaning of the revolving nature of Fund credit could lie ahead of us. The papers and discussion in this volume have certainly not dealt with all the harsh implications of the difficulties ahead of Africa in its current crisis.
Whatever the research results, African governments must ultimately formulate their own programs. Their professional analyses and assessments must be of a quality that will earn Fund, World Bank, and international respect. Moreover, management of their programs—both of demand and of supply—must be continuously effective. Programs that work are good not only for Africa but also for the Fund and for the world, regardless of who may have designed them.
Of fundamental importance for member countries dissatisfied with the Fund’s program design is the development and continual maintenance of a defensible stabilization and adjustment program of their own. Developing country governments, particularly the weaker and less experienced ones in Africa, have frequently found themselves in a basically reactive mode, objecting to various specifics of mission-suggested packages, yet without coherent and viable alternative packages of their own to propose.
The Fund management and staff steadfastly maintain that they do not impose programs on anyone and that they are open and flexible in considering alternatives. Certainly the 1979 guidelines on conditionality seem to leave plenty of room to do so. Whether one thinks that they typically have done so or not, the Fund should be interested solely in whether programs work. The likely elements in Fund-suggested programs and the possible preconceptions of its staff missions are by now well known. Member governments uncomfortable with these typical approaches must develop plausible and professionally defensible alternative packages of their own, complete with the detailed factual content and targeting required by Fund missions. No doubt they should be especially well prepared to argue their case for those policies in which Fund doubts can be anticipated. Clearly, local authorities have a comparative advantage over outsiders in their knowledge of the details of the local economy and policy. Provided that the sums are correct, the facts well documented, and the arguments professionally presented, their programs should expect to receive respectful and sympathetic Fund consideration.
Part 1 of this volume contains introductory overviews of the Fund and Africa, presented in opening speeches by Governor Nyirabu of Tanzania and Finance and Planning Minister Saitoti of Kenya and in the keynote address by Richard Erb, Deputy Managing Director of the Fund. These addresses, in which the different approaches of the Fund and the African governments are fully in evidence, ably set the stage for the more detailed presentations that follow.
Part 2 contains the six papers, commissioned jointly by the Association of African Central Banks and the International Monetary Fund, and discussants’ comments on them, as well as a paper prepared by Governor Ndegwa of Kenya on the economic crisis in Africa. Of the six commissioned papers, three were prepared by the staffs of the Washington-based international financial institutions (two from the Fund and one from the World Bank) and three were prepared for the AACB (two by African central bankers and one by an academic). Alassane Ouattara’s paper addresses the design, implementation, and adequacy of Fund programs in Africa from the Fund’s point of view. J.O. Sanusi of Nigeria considers the performance of the international monetary system and Fund, and Samba Mawakani of Zaïre considers conditionality in the context of Africa’s current social and economic conditions and disequilibria. John Loxley’s paper addresses possible alternative approaches to stabilization in Africa. Luis de Azcarate presents an overview of the World Bank’s evolving role in adjustment and growth in Africa. Eduard Brau of the Fund analyzes the problems of external debt management in the African context.
Part 2 also contains the comments of the formal discussants of each of the papers. In some cases, comments of other participants are also presented, notably some of the comments on the Ouattara and Loxley papers, which generated particularly active debate. The concluding comments made by Luis de Azcarate, Alassane Ouattara, and John Loxley in reply to floor discussion of their papers are also presented.
Part 3 contains the presentations made by seven panelists in a concluding session entitled “Adjustment in Africa: What Can Be Done?” The panelists included two non-African former Executive Directors of the Fund (M. Narasimham from India and Carlos Massad from Chile), two current African Governors (Abdoulaye Fadiga of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) and A. Tadesse Gebre-Kidan of Ethiopia), the Director of UNCTAD’s Money, Finance, and Development Division (Roger Lawrence), John Williamson of Washington’s independent Institute for International Economics, and Alassane Ouattara, Director of the African Department of the International Monetary Fund.