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International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

1. This evaluation assesses the performance of IMF surveillance in the run-up to the global financial and economic crisis. It examines whether the IMF identified the mounting risks and vulnerabilities that led to the crisis and effectively warned the countries directly affected as well as the membership at large about possible spillovers and contagion. The evaluation analyzes the factors that might have hindered the IMF’s effectiveness, and offers recommendations on how to strengthen its ability to discern risks and vulnerabilities and to warn the membership in the future.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

7. The evaluation assesses the IMF’s performance during the period up to the crisis, focusing primarily on 2004 through 2007.5 It is centered around three pillars, each studying a different aspect of IMF surveillance: multilateral surveillance, bilateral surveillance in systemic financial centers seen as those where the crisis originated (e.g., the United States and United Kingdom), and bilateral surveillance in selected other advanced and emerging economies that were affected by the crisis (Annex 3 lists the countries covered). The report integrates the findings, lessons, and recommendations of case studies and background papers prepared on these pillars.6

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

11. During the period 2004 through the start of the crisis in mid-2007, the IMF did not warn the countries at the center of the crisis, nor the membership at large, of the vulnerabilities and risks that eventually brought about the crisis. For much of the period the IMF was drawing the membership’s attention to the risk that a disorderly unwinding of global imbalances could trigger a rapid and sharp depreciation of the dollar, and later on the risks of inflation from rising commodity prices. The IMF gave too little consideration to deteriorating financial sector balance sheets, financial regulatory issues, to the possible links between monetary policy and the global imbalances, and to the credit boom and emerging asset bubbles. It did not discuss macro-prudential approaches that might have helped address the evolving risks. Even as late as April 2007, the IMF’s banner message was one of continued optimism within a prevailing benign global environment. Staff reports and other IMF documents pointed to a positive near-term outlook and fundamentally sound financial market conditions. Only after the eruption of financial turbulence did the IMF take a more cautionary tone in the October 2007 WEO and GFSR.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

40. Various factors played a role in the IMF’s failure to identify risks and give clear warnings. Many of these factors represent long-standing problems that had been highlighted for over a decade.24 In this section, these factors are grouped into the following broad categories: analytical weaknesses, organizational impediments, internal governance problems, and political constraints.25 There are considerable interconnections among these categories, and their relative importance is based on subjective judgments. The IMF’s ability to correctly identify the mounting risks was hindered by a high degree of groupthink, intellectual capture, a general mindset that a major financial crisis in large advanced economies was unlikely, and incomplete analytical approaches. Weak internal governance, including unclear lines of responsibility and accountability, lack of incentives to work across units and raise contrarian views, a review process that did not “connect the dots” or ensure follow-up, and an insular culture also played a big role, while political constraints may have also had some impact. Interviews with country authorities (Annex 7) and survey evidence from staff (Annex 8) echo many of the same factors.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

66. In considering recommendations, the aim is not to predict a crisis, as crises and their triggers are inherently unpredictable. It is rather to strengthen the IMF’s working environment and analytical capacity to better allow it to discern risks and vulnerabilities and alert the membership in time to prevent or mitigate the impact of a future crisis. The Fund needs to cultivate a culture that is proactive in crisis prevention, rather than primarily reactive in crisis response and management. It needs to take measures to prevent or mitigate future crises, as much as to address the weaknesses that were uncovered by past crises.33 To this end, it should continuously scan for risks and emphasize vulnerabilities, rather than playing the role of uncritical enthusiast of authorities and the economy.

José M. Cartas and Ricardo Cervantes

'Wising Up to the Costs of Aging' looks at how falling fertility and rising life expectancy have combined to threaten the ability of many countries to provide a decent standard of living for the old without imposing a crushing burden on the young. In our lead article, Ronald Lee and Andrew Mason say that while population aging in rich industrial countries as well as in some middle- and lower-income countries will challenge public and private budgets in many ways, a combination of reduced consumption, postponed retirement, increased asset holdings, and greater investment in human capital should make it possible to meet this challenge without catastrophic consequences. Neil Howe and Richard Jackson publish a fascinating ranking of which countries are best and worst prepared to meet the needs of the growing wave of retirees. We also have articles on a broad range of current topics, including Middle East unemployment, the economic repercussions of the earthquake and devastating tsunami in Japan, and banking in offshore financial centers such as the Cayman Islands. Carmen Reinhart and Jacob Kirkegaard look at how governments are finding ways to manipulate markets to hold down the cost of financing huge public debts, and, in Straight Talk, the IMF's Min Zhu talks about the long-term challenges now facing emerging markets. Prakash Loungani speaks to Nobel Prize winner George Akerlof, and we discuss with three other laureates-Michael Spence, Joseph Stiglitz, and Robert Solow-what the global economic crisis has taught us. Back to Basics explains economic models, and Picture This highlights the great variations in the cost of sending money back home.

Ms. Marina Moretti, Mr. Marc C Dobler, and Mr. Alvaro Piris Chavarri
This paper updates the IMF’s work on general principles, strategies, and techniques from an operational perspective in preparing for and managing systemic banking crises in light of the experiences and challenges faced during and since the global financial crisis. It summarizes IMF advice concerning these areas from staff of the IMF Monetary and Capital Markets Department (MCM), drawing on Executive Board Papers, IMF staff publications, and country documents (including program documents and technical assistance reports). Unless stated otherwise, the guidance is generally applicable across the IMF membership.
International Monetary Fund

This report discusses Iceland’s Second Review under the Stand-By Arrangement and Request for Extension of the Arrangement. Supportive fiscal policies have helped consumption hold up better than expected, while the external sector has benefited from currency depreciation and higher commodity prices. The overall improvements in inflation and the trade and current account balances since the late 2008 crisis have been striking. Indicators suggest firming consumer sentiment, and stable inflation expectations, but still weak business sentiment.