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International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

This report updates the 2009 IEO evaluation of IMF Involvement in International Trade Policy Issues. Since then, the composition and structure of international trade have evolved, but trade has not regained its former dynamism. With increasing concern about potential winners and losers from trade, there has been a loss of political support for globalization, increasing trade tensions and protectionism, and the institutional framework supporting multilateral trade has come under heavy strain. The report concludes that overall the IMF deserves considerable credit for its active and timely response, playing a prominent role in championing commitment to an open, rules-based multilateral trading system. The Fund has largely implemented the recommendations of the 2009 evaluation and has strengthened and consolidated its trade policy analysis and advice, appropriately focusing on the key macroeconomic effects and associated risks of trade policy developments at the national and international levels. IMF advocacy on trade has been underpinned by a major expansion in the attention to trade policy issues in multilateral surveillance—and to some extent in bilateral surveillance—supported by high-quality research and analysis, building on the Fund’s well-established modeling capacity. Looking forward, the Fund will need to sustain its current high level of advocacy and analysis on trade policy issues and consider how to increase the overall impact of this work. Key challenges include: contributing to foster a recommitment to trade policy cooperation; further attention to translating multilateral surveillance into bilateral policy advice; consolidating relations with partner institutions; and increased attention to rapidly developing trade policy issues. Across all these dimensions, care will be needed to ensure appropriate evenhandedness in trade policy surveillance across countries. A holistic review of the IMF’s “trade strategy” would help to guide trade policy work and the allocation of scarce resources among competing priorities.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

In response to the Global Financial Crisis, the IMF launched many initiatives to strengthen financial surveillance and better advise member countries of vulnerabilities and risks. While these initiatives have not yet been tested by a major crisis, the efforts have delivered a substantial upgrade of the Fund’s financial surveillance, including giving the IMF clearer responsibilities over financial sector stability and cross-country spillovers; making periodic financial stability assessments mandatory for jurisdictions with systemically important financial sectors; invigorating efforts to integrate financial and macroeconomic analysis in bilateral and multilateral surveillance; enhancing cooperation with the Financial Stability Board and standard setting bodies to promote reforms and monitor agreed standards; and taking steps to recruit and train greater financial expertise. While recognizing these achievements, this evaluation finds that the quality and impact of the IMF’s financial surveillance has been uneven. The expansion of products and activities has presented the Fund with difficult trade-offs between bilateral and multilateral surveillance; between countries with systemically important financial sectors and other member countries; and between financial surveillance and other activities. Moreover, resource constraints have slowed the needed build-up of financial and macrofinancial expertise. These are critical issues, given the IMF’s position as the only international financial institution with the mandate and ability to conduct financial and macrofinancial surveillance over the full range of countries as well as the global economy, and given that these issues are at the core of the IMF’s responsibilities. Thus, to further strengthen financial surveillance, the evaluation recommends devoting greater resources to financial surveillance overall; further strengthening financial and macrofinancial analysis in Article IV surveillance; refining resource allocation for FSAPs; enhancing rigor and transparency in multilateral surveillance; intensifying efforts to be a global center of excellence on financial and macrofinancial research; and extending efforts to develop financial expertise among IMF staff.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

In 2008, the IEO undertook an evaluation on the IMF governance and concluded that effectiveness had been the strongest aspect of IMF governance, while accountability and voice had been the weakest. Since then, IMF governance has been strengthened aided by quota and voice reforms to address misalignments in shares and chairs as well as numerous improvements in governance procedures and practices. The update finds that IMF governance has proven its effectiveness in supporting the Fund to fulfill its mandates, but concerns remain on voice and accountability. Challenges remain related to representation and voice, interaction between governance bodies, the selection process for management, and the role of the G20 in IMF governance. Addressing these challenges will take time and may be subject to difficult tradeoffs between governance objectives such as preserving effectiveness while ensuring appropriate representation.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

This evaluation assesses the IMF’s work on countries in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS), addressing both (i) its engagement through surveillance, lending, and capacity development and (ii) the frameworks and procedures for its engagement. It finds that the IMF has provided unique and essential services to FCS to restore macroeconomic stability and rebuild core macroeconomic institutions as prerequisites for state building, playing a role in which no other institution can take its place. In this critical role, it is broadly acknowledged to have had a high impact. While the IMF has provided relatively little direct financing, it has catalyzed donor support through its assessment of a country’s economic policies and prospects. Notwithstanding this positive assessment, the IMF’s overall approach to its FCS work seems to have been conflicted. Not only has it failed consistently to make hard choices necessary to achieve full impact from its engagement in countries where success requires patient and dedicated attention over the long haul, but past efforts have not been sufficiently bold or adequately sustained, and the staff has tended to revert to treating fragile states using IMF-wide norms, rather than as countries needing special attention. The report proposes six recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the IMF’s FCS work: (i) to issue a statement of high-level commitment to FCS work for IMFC endorsement; (ii) to create an effective institutional mechanism with the mandate and authority to coordinate and champion such work; (iii) to develop comprehensive strategies for individual FCS; (iv) to adapt its lending toolkit to deliver more sustained financial support to FCS; (v) to take practical steps to increase the impact of its capacity development support to FCS; and (vi) to take steps to incentivize high-quality and experienced staff to work on individual FCS and find pragmatic ways of increasing field presence in high risk locations.

Louellen Stedman, Mr. John Hicklin, and Roxana Pedraglio

Abstract

This report is the seventh in a series of evaluation updates by the Independent Evaluation Office of the IMF (IEO) that return to past IEO evaluations and assess the continuing relevance of their main conclusions. The report revisits the 2007 evaluation of IMF Exchange Rate Policy Advice, which found that the IMF was “not as effective as it needed to be” in fulfilling its responsibilities for exchange rate surveillance in the period 1999–2005. While acknowledging the inherent complexity of providing exchange rate policy advice, including the lack of professional consensus on many of the key issues, the evaluation observed serious weaknesses in the IMF’s work on key analytical issues and in its engagement with members. The update finds that the IMF has substantially overhauled its approach to exchange rate policy advice since 2007. Key steps taken include: adoption of a more comprehensive approach to exchange rate surveillance under the 2012 Integrated Surveillance Decision; development of enhanced analytical tools; a new institutional view on capital flows; and introduction of the annual External Sector Report that provides an integrated picture of the external balances of major economies. The IMF continues to work on further enhancements of its approach. Nonetheless, the update concludes that challenges remain that impact the effectiveness of the IMF’s work in an area central to its mandate. The approach for assessing external balances and exchange rates continues to be contentious, in part reflecting differing views across the membership about the process of external adjustment. There are also ongoing questions in other areas, including considerations for exchange rate regime choice, attention to policy spillovers, the institutional view on capital flows, and data availability. The update suggests that the persistence of key issues identified in 2007 merits a full evaluation by the IEO.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

This paper analyzes that the IMF has moved beyond its traditional fiscal-centric approach to recognize that social protection can also be macro-critical for broader reasons including social and political stability concerns. Evaluating the IMF’s involvement in social protection is complicated by the fact that there is no standard definition of social protection or of broader/overlapping terms such as social spending and social safeguards in (or outside) the IMF. In this evaluation, social protection is understood to include policies that provide benefits to vulnerable individuals or households. This evaluation found widespread IMF involvement in social protection across countries although the extent of engagement varied. In some cases, engagement was relatively deep, spanning different activities (bilateral surveillance, technical assistance, and/or programs) and involving detailed analysis of distributional impacts, discussion of policy options, active advocacy of social protection, and integration of social protection measures in program design and/or conditionality. This cross-country variation to some degree reflected an appropriate response to country-specific factors, in particular an assessment of whether social protection policy was macrocritical, and the availability of expertise from development partners or in the country itself.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

This paper discusses that the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) has also launched three new evaluations—which will analyze the IMF’s role on fragile states, its financial surveillance activities, and its advice on unconventional monetary policies—and two evaluation updates—which will look into the IMF’s exchange rate policy advice and structural conditionality. The evaluation found that, for the most part, the IMF’s euro area surveillance identified the right issues during the pre-crisis period but did not foresee the magnitude of the risks that would later become paramount. The IMF’s surveillance of the financial regulatory architecture was generally of high quality, but staff, along with most other experts, missed the buildup of banking system risks in some countries. The report found several issues with the way decision making was managed by the IMF. In May 2010, the IMF Executive Board approved a decision to provide exceptional access financing to Greece without seeking preemptive debt restructuring, even though its sovereign debt was not deemed sustainable with a high probability.