The IMF provides technical advice and training to help strengthen the design and implementation of macroeconomic and financial sector policies in member countries and boost the institutional capacity of their governments. Sound economic policymaking and implementation require know-how and effective government institutions. Many developing countries, in particular, need help to build up expertise in economic management and advice about what policies, reforms, and institutional arrangements are appropriate and have worked well elsewhere. The IMF gives priority to providing assistance where it complements and enhances its other key activities—surveillance and lending.
Through staff missions sent from headquarters, the provision of specialists on a short-term basis, resident advisors, regional technical assistance centers, and training in the field, at its regional training institutes, or at its headquarters, the IMF offers technical assistance in the core areas of its expertise (see chart). These include macroeconomic policy formulation and management; monetary policy; central banking; the financial system; foreign exchange markets and policy; public finances and fiscal management; and macroeconomic, external, fiscal, and financial statistics. Such assistance is a benefit of IMF membership and is free except for countries that can afford to reimburse the IMF About one-third of the IMF’s total technical assistance is financed externally.
In the early to mid-1990s, as the IMF’s membership expanded to include a number of countries in transition from centrally planned to market-based economies, the IMF’s technical assistance grew rapidly. More recently, the IMF’s efforts to strengthen the global financial system so as to reduce the risk of crises and improve the management and resolution of those that do occur have generated new demands for technical assistance from countries seeking to adopt international standards and codes for financial, fiscal, and statistical management. Most of this technical assistance is based on recommendations resulting from Financial Sector Assessment Programs and Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes. IMF work on offshore financial centers and the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing also required technical assistance.
In addition, the IMF has mounted significant efforts, in coordination with other bilateral and multilateral technical assistance providers, to give prompt policy advice and operational assistance to countries emerging from armed conflict. At the same time, there is a continuing demand from low-income countries for help with debt sustainability analysis and the management of debt-reduction programs, and with designing and implementing programs to enhance growth and accelerate poverty reduction. Increasingly, the IMF has been organizing its technical assistance and training at a regional level. It operates, together with donors, five regional technical assistance centers, two in Africa (a third is coming onstream) and one each in the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the Pacific.
Sharing technical expertise
Note: As a percent of total resources, in effective person-years.
Data: IMF Office of Technical Assistance Management.
In reviewing a recent report by the Independent Evaluation Office on the IMF’s technical assistance program, the Executive Board highlighted the increasingly important role that technical assistance plays in responding to the diverse needs of member countries, particularly in policy design and implementation, and capacity building. The Executive Board found that key factors in the effective provision of technical assistance are the ability to respond quickly, tailor advice to members’ circumstances, and produce high-quality analysis. In line with the report’s recommendations, the IMF is working to improve the prioritization of technical assistance, ensure active engagement of the authorities in design and follow-up stages, and better monitor the results.
The IMF places high importance on building expertise in member countries through training. The IMF Institute is responsible for most of the training provided by the IMF It trains officials from member countries through courses and seminars in the core areas of macroeconomic policy management and financial sector, fiscal, and external sector policies. Training is offered by staff from the Institute and other IMF departments, occasionally assisted by outside academics and experts.
Applications from developing and transition country officials are given preference.
In addition to training offered at headquarters, the IMF offers courses and seminars through regional institutes and programs. There are currently four regional training centers: the Joint Regional Training Center for Latin America in Brazil, the Joint Africa Institute in Tunisia, the IMF-Singapore Regional Training Institute in Singapore, and the Joint Vienna Institute in Austria. The IMF has also set up training programs in collaboration with China and the Arab Monetary Fund.
In FY2006, the IMF Institute, with the assistance of other IMF departments, delivered 143 courses for almost 4,600 participating officials. Much of the training was provided at the regional training institutes. Training at headquarters in Washington, DC, including long-term courses, continued to play an important role, accounting for about one-third of participant-weeks. The remainder of the training was at overseas locations outside the IMF regional network, largely as part of collaboration between the IMF Institute and national or regional training programs but also in the form of distance learning.