On May 17, the IMF announced that it will establish its Middle East Regional Technical Assistance Center (METAC) in Beirut, Lebanon, to promote capacity building and training in countries in the region. Modeled broadly on the IMF’s other regional technical assistance centers in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, METAC is a collaborative effort between the IMF and bilateral and multilateral donors. The government of Lebanon will provide the center’s offices and support and service staff, as well as help underwrite the center’s activities, which will be guided by a Steering Committee with representatives from participating countries and donors.
METAC, expected to start operations in late autumn 2004, will provide technical assistance and training services to Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria, West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen. The center’s main objective will be to help strengthen macroeconomic and financial management capacity in these countries. In providing targeted capacity building, METAC will focus on helping the postconflict countries in the region foster macroeconomic stability and develop basic institutions, such as ministries of finance and central banks, and other public institutions, such as banking supervisory agencies, national statistical agencies, and other regulatory agencies.
Technical assistance provided by METAC will fall largely in the IMF’s main areas of expertise, including macroeconomic policy, tax policy and revenue administration, public expenditure management, financial sector issues, and macroeconomic statistics. This assistance will be provided by a team of IMF experts assigned to METAC and supplemented by short-term specialists contracted to provide targeted advice and training. The assistance will mainly take the form of in-country workshops, training assignments to institutions associated with IMF member countries, and regional training courses.
The IMF has used a regional approach to provide technical assistance to member countries since 1993. Originally conceived to assist small island economies, first in the Pacific and later in the Caribbean, the approach is now being adopted in Africa.
The Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Center (PFTAC), located in Suva, Fiji, was jointly established in 1993 by the United Nations Development Program and the IMF. The Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Center (CARTAC) was established in Barbados by the CARICOM Council of Ministers of Finance and Planning in 1999. The East African Technical Assistance Center (AFRITAC East) was opened in October 2002 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. AFRITAC West was opened in May 2003 in Bamako, Mali.