IEO Annual Report 2005-06
Chapter

Appendix 9 Evaluation of the Role of the IMF in Argentina, 1991–2001: Recommendations, Board Response, and Subsequent Follow-Up

Author(s):
International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office
Published Date:
January 2007
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IEO RecommendationExecutive Board Response1Follow-Up2
Crisis management
The IMF should have a contingency strategy from the outset of a crisis, including in particular “stop-loss rules”—that is, a set of criteria to determine if the initial strategy is working and to guide the decision on when a change in approach is needed.Most Directors viewed contingency planning as useful, but many noted that in a crisis or precrisis setting, it is not always possible to assess the various contingencies that might occur. Concern was also expressed that any indication that the IMF was developing contingent strategies could undermine confidence in the program. As regards specific stop-loss rules, while some Directors supported their consideration, most felt that defining and implementing such rules would be difficult or impractical.No consensus emerged in the Board meeting.
Where the sustainability of debt or the exchange rate is in question, the IMF should indicate that its support is conditional upon a meaningful shift in the country’s policy while remaining actively engaged to foster such a shift. High priority should be given to defining the role of the IMF when a country seeking exceptional access has a solvency problem.Directors agreed with the IEO’s recommendation. At the same time, they noted that assessing exchange rate or debt sustain-ability will necessarily entail judgment, and it is essential that the Board be provided with up-to-date and comprehensive information and analysis. Steps have already been taken since the Argentine crisis to strengthen the basis on which debt and exchange rate sustainability assessments are made. Directors indicated that they looked forward to an opportunity to assess whether further changes may be needed.In June 2002, the Board adopted a framework for more objective and standardized debt sustainability analysis; refinements to this framework were endorsed by the Board in July 2003.
Debt sustainability analyses are now regularly included in staff reports for Article IV consultations and use of IMF resources. They play a central role in considering exceptional access and in the Evian approach of Paris Club creditors.
Some progress is being made in the Board to define the role of the IMF in solvency problem cases, with emphasis on the use of Collective Action Clauses.
Surveillance
Medium-term exchange rate and debt sustainability should form the core focus of IMF surveillance. To fulfill these objectives (which are already current policy), the IMF needs to improve tools for assessing the equilibrium real exchange rate that are more forward looking and rely on a variety of criteria, examine debt profiles from the perspective of “debt intolerance,” and take a longer-term perspective on vulnerabilities that could surface over the medium term.Directors concurred with the IEO’s recommendation that medium-term exchange rate and debt sustainability should form the core focus of IMF surveillance. They cautioned that finding an appropriate operational measure of exchange rate sustainability would be difficult, but a few suggested that the development of such a measure by the staff should be a priority. Directors saw a continued need for greater candor in the treatment of exchange rate policy in the context of Article IV discussions. In order to avoid triggering a potentially destabilizing market reaction, some suggested that the scope for establishing procedures for handling sensitive topics during surveillance exercises should be explored by staff. As to debt sustainability, recent events have led to a reassessment of what level of debt is sustainable for emerging market countries, which is already reflected in the IMF’s work. Directors asked staff to continue to sharpen its analytical tools, and a few called for examining ways to strengthen the organization and independence of debt sustainability analysis work.Upon completing the 2004 Biennial Review of Surveillance, the Executive Board established sharper exchange rate surveillance and improved analysis of debt sustainability as priority objectives. Since then, both areas have been receiving special emphasis in staff guidance, training, and research and in the internal review process.
Program relationship
The IMF should refrain from entering or maintaining a program relationship with a member country (in the form of a precautionary arrangement) when there is no immediate balance of payments need and there are serious political obstacles to needed policy adjustment or structural reform.Directors noted the possible risks associated with precautionary IMF arrangements, especially where there are serious political obstacles to needed policies and reforms, but most did not support the implication that the IMF should not enter into a program relationship with a member country when there is no immediate balance of payments need. They reiterated the value of precautionary arrangements as an important tool for supporting sound policies, while agreeing that there is a need to ensure that program standards and requirements are the same as those for all other arrangements.The Board did not support the recommendation, so no explicit follow-up is expected. However, in response to the expiration of the Contingent Credit Line, there is an ongoing debate on the need for, and desirability of, a new policy that would clarify the use of exceptional access under precautionary arrangements. Many Directors support the existing IMF policies as adequate.
Exceptional access should entail a presumption of close cooperation between the authorities and the IMF, and special incentives to forge such close collaboration should be adopted, including mandatory disclosure to the Executive Board of any critical issue or information that the authorities refuse to discuss with (or disclose to) staff or management.Directors stressed that all cases of the use of IMF resources, particularly cases of exceptional access, should entail a presumption of close cooperation. Many Directors agreed that there should be a requirement of mandatory disclosure to the Board of any critical issues which the authorities refuse to discuss.
The decision-making process
In order to strengthen the role of the Executive Board, procedures should be adopted to encourage (1) effective Board oversight of decisions under management’s purview; (2) provision of candid and full information to the Board on all issues relevant to decision making; and (3) open exchanges of views between management and the Board on all topics, including the most sensitive ones.Directors noted that the procedures for exceptional access adopted since the Argentine crisis have generally worked to strengthen the Board’s involvement and ensure that decisions to continue program engagement under exceptional access are adequately informed. A number of Directors, however, saw a need for further discussion of approaches to strengthen the role of the Board. Further efforts to enhance decision making by the Board would include improvements in the provision of full information on all relevant issues and open exchanges of views between management and the Board on all topics, including the most sensitive ones.

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