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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.

International Monetary Fund
Background: As a follow-up to the May 2013 Executive Board’s discussion of the paper on Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Recent Developments and Implications for the Fund’s Legal and Policy Framework (hereinafter, the “2013 Paper“), this paper proposes a reform to the Fund’s policy on non-toleration of arrears owed to official bilateral creditors (“NTP”) with a view to addressing the major issues related to official sector involvement (OSI) discussed in the 2013 Paper. Unlike the Fund’s lending-into-arrears (“LIA”) policy for private creditors, the NTP prevents Fund lending to countries if they owe unresolved arrears to official bilateral creditors, unless the arrears are covered by a Paris Club agreement or the creditor consents to the Fund providing financing. Nature of the problem: As staff foreshadowed in the 2013 Paper, several aspects of the current NTP present challenges in a changing and increasingly diverse landscape for official bilateral finance. For example, the NTP’s reliance on the practices and conventions of the Paris Club creates challenges in an environment where a growing number of creditors are non-Paris Club members. In particular, the NTP’s dependence on the Paris Club’s comparability of treatment principle to deem away arrears to non-Paris Club bilateral creditors is difficult to justify in circumstances where a Paris Club agreement is not sufficiently representative and the bulk of official bilateral claims are held by non-Paris Club creditors. Further, where there is no Paris Club agreement, the current policy can give individual official bilateral creditors a veto over Fund lending decisions, drawing no distinction between creditors that are contributing to the financing requirements of the program and those that are not, thus leaving the system vulnerable to holdouts. Proposed modification: Staff’s proposal envisages a two-step process: in the first step, all creditors would be encouraged to reach a consensus. While the Paris Club is currently a well-established forum for OSI, the Fund would also recognize agreements among creditors reached in other representative fora, should such fora emerge. If an agreement is reached through the Paris Club and the creditor group so formed represents a significant portion of total official bilateral claims, the Fund would rely on its current practices and deem away arrears to nonparticipating creditors based on the Club’s comparability of treatment principle. Only when an agreement cannot be reached (i) with a representative group of creditors in the Paris Club, or (ii) with each creditor in an alternative grouping or bilaterally, would the Fund consider lending into arrears owed to official bilateral creditors in carefully circumscribed circumstances. The decision to lend in these situations would be subject to a need for prompt Fund assistance, an assessment that the debtor is making good faith efforts to reach an agreement and that the absence of a debt restructuring is due to the unwillingness of the creditor to reach an agreement consistent with the parameters of the Fund-supported program, and a judgment on whether the decision to lend could negatively affect the Fund’s ability to mobilize official financing packages in the future. Likely impact: Staff’s proposal will strengthen incentives for collective action among official bilateral creditors in situations where OSI is necessary. The two-step process encourages individual official bilateral creditors to be part of a multilateral agreement, thus reducing the risk that the Fund would be prevented from assisting a member in need because certain official bilateral creditors are seeking more favorable treatment of their claims at the expense of other contributing creditors. Importantly, the policy will continue to protect official bilateral creditors, as any decision to lend into arrears will be subject to the debtor’s good faith efforts, will be applied in a way that preserves the Fund’s ability to mobilize official financing packages in future, and be subject to the Board’s approval. Next steps: If the Board supports the proposed modification, the new policy will apply immediately to all future Fund disbursements (including under existing arrangements) with respect to existing and future arrears owed to official bilateral creditors.
International Monetary Fund
In discussing the June 2014 paper, Executive Directors broadly supported staff’s proposal to introduce more flexibility into the Fund’s exceptional access framework to reduce unnecessary costs for the member, its creditors, and the overall system. Directors’ views varied on staff’s proposal to eliminate the systemic exemption introduced in 2010. Many Directors favored removing the exemption but some others preferred to retain it and requested staff to consult further with relevant stakeholders on possible approaches to managing contagion. This paper offers specific proposals on how the Fund’s policy framework could be changed, presents staff’s analysis on the specific issue of managing contagion, and addresses some implementation issues. No Board decision is proposed at this stage. The paper is consistent with the Executive Board’s May 2013 endorsement of a work program focused on strengthening market-based approaches to resolving sovereign debt crises.
Mr. Marco Committeri and Francesco Spadafora
We review the impact of the global financial crisis, and its spillovers into the sovereign sector of the euro area, on the international “rules of the game” for dealing with sovereign debt crises. These rules rest on two main pillars. The most important is the IMF’s lending framework (policies, financing facilities, and financial resources), which is designed to support macroeconomic adjustment packages based on the key notion of public debt sustainability. The complementary pillar is represented by such contractual provisions as Collective Action Clauses (CACs) in sovereign bonds, which aim to facilitate coordination among private creditors in order to contain the costs of a debt default or restructuring. We analyze the most significant changes (and their consequences) prompted by the recent crises to the Fund’s lending framework, not only in terms of additional financial resources, new financing facilities (including precautionary ones), and cooperation with euro-area institutions, but also as regards the criteria governing exceptional access to the Fund’s financial resources. We highlight a crucial innovation to these criteria, namely that, for the first time, they now explicitly take account of the risk of international systemic spillovers. Finally, we discuss how the recent crises have provided new political support for a broader dissemination of CACs in euro-area sovereign bonds. Importantly, in the first case involving an advanced economy, CACs were activated in the debt exchange undertaken by Greece in Spring 2012.
Mr. Francesco Grigoli and Mr. Eduardo Ley
It is generally acknowledged that the government’s output is difficult to define and its value is hard to measure. The practical solution, adopted by national accounts systems, is to equate output to input costs. However, several studies estimate significant inefficiencies in government activities (i.e., same output could be achieved with less inputs), implying that inputs are not a good approximation for outputs. If taken seriously, the next logical step is to purge from GDP the fraction of government inputs that is wasted. As differences in the quality of the public sector have a direct impact on citizens’ effective consumption of public and private goods and services, we must take them into account when computing a measure of living standards. We illustrate such a correction computing corrected per capita GDPs on the basis of two studies that estimate efficiency scores for several dimensions of government activities. We show that the correction could be significant, and rankings of living standards could be re-ordered as a result.
Mr. Zhiwei Zhang and Shang-Jin Wei
While new conventional wisdom warns that developing countries should be aware of the risks of premature capital account liberalization, the costs of not removing exchange controls have received much less attention. This paper investigates the negative effects of exchange controls on trade. To minimize evasion of controls, countries often intensify inspections at the border and increase documentation requirements. Thus, the cost of conducting trade rises. The paper finds that a one standard-deviation increase in the controls on trade payment has the same negative effect on trade as an increase in tariff by about 14 percentage points. A one standard-deviation increase in the controls on FX transactions reduces trade by the same amount as a rise in tariff by 11 percentage points. Therefore, the collateral damage in terms of foregone trade is sizable.