Selected Decisions (9th Ed)

Payments Arrears

International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
June 1981
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The Executive Board has reviewed the Fund’s policy with respect to payments arrears. The Fund shall be guided by the approach in the conclusions set forth [below].

Decision No. 3153-(70/95)

October 26, 1970


1. Undue delays in the availability or use of exchange for current international transactions that result from a governmental limitation give rise to payments arrears and are payments restrictions under Article VIII, Section 2(a), and Article XIV, Section 2. The limitation may be formalized, as for instance compulsory waiting periods for exchange, or informal or ad hoc.

2. The need for the Fund to define its policy on payments arrears is emphasized by the fact that restrictions resulting in payments arrears arising from informal or ad hoc measures do particular harm to a country’s international financial relationships because of the uncertainty they generate. This uncertainty is particularly harmful to the smooth functioning of the international payments system and has pronounced adverse effects on the creditworthiness of the debtor country which may extend beyond the period of the existence of the restrictions.

3. In the light of these considerations it is believed that the Fund should aim in consultation reports at a more systematic treatment of restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions that produce payments arrears. In all cases where payments arrears arise from a governmental limitation on, or interference with, the availability of foreign exchange at the time a payment for a current international transaction falls due, or with the timely transfer of the proceeds of such transactions, the payments arrears should be treated in the consultation papers as evidence of a payments restriction requiring approval in Article VIII or Article XIV consultation decisions. The staff, in the consultation discussions, will have to establish whether payments arrears exist by ascertaining whether there has been a substantial delay beyond that usually required for ascertaining the bona fides of exchange applications or the time that can be regarded as normally required for the administrative processing of applications for exchange. If payments arrears exist and approval of the restriction giving rise to them is requested by the member, the member should be expected to submit a satisfactory program for their elimination. Approval if given should be only for a temporary period and generally with a fixed terminal date. Because of the difficulty in surveillance, approval should be wherever feasible in terms of the level of arrears outstanding. The program for the elimination of the payments arrears should provide for a maximum permissible delay to which a payment or transfer could be subjected, together with a phased reduction in the outstanding level.

4. Fund financial assistance to members having payments arrears should be granted on the basis of performance criteria or policies with respect to the treatment of arrears similar to the criteria or policies described in the preceding paragraph for the approval of the payments restrictions. In general, the understandings should provide for the elimination of the payments arrears within the period of the stand-by arrangement. Such understandings should be based on the concept of a given level of payments arrears and should be reflected in the performance criteria included in stand-by arrangements in the higher credit tranches. To support the policies designed to deal with arrears the letter of intent should include a statement that there would be no imposition of new restrictions or increase in the level of delayed payments. Where Fund financial assistance is being provided, but only through the first credit tranche, the adoption of a viable program directed toward the elimination of the payments arrears should be an important factor in considering whether the country was making reasonable efforts to redress its international financial situation.

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