On February 9, the IMF began publishing the weekly calendar of its Executive Board. The calendar, which will be updated on a rolling basis, contains the tentative schedule of formal meetings and seminars (the schedule is usually finalized the day prior to each meeting). The Executive Board approved the release of its calendar as part of the latest review of the IMF’s transparency policy, which was completed in September 2003 (see IMF Survey, October 20, 2003, for more details). The calendar is available on the IMF’s website (http://www.imf.org).
The Executive Board is the IMF’s main decision-making body. It approves all IMF-supported programs with member countries, reviews the IMF’s annual evaluations of its member countries’ economies (the Article IV consultations), and maps out the organization’s policies and procedures. The Board bases its discussions on papers prepared by the IMF’s management and staff.
The Executive Board consists of 24 Executive Directors appointed or elected by the organization’s 184 member countries. Five are appointed by their own countries. These single chairs represent the 5 members with the largest quotas—the United States, Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Another 3 Directors are elected by single countries—China, the Russian Federation, and Saudi Arabia. The remaining 16 Executive Directors are elected by groups or “constituencies” of countries. One group, for instance, whose Executive Director is from Belgium, comprises that country, Austria, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, and Turkey.
While each country’s votes are determined mainly by the size of its quota (its capital contribution to the IMF), the Executive Board very rarely bases its decision making on formal voting. Instead, under a practice of consensus decision making that has been in place since the early days of the IMF, the Chair of the Board—who is the Managing Director—is responsible for ascertaining the “sense of the meeting.” This usually takes the form of a statement known as the “summing up” that is read to the Board at the end of most Board meetings and often, but not always, made public thereafter. Executive Directors are not subject to time constraints in expressing their positions, reservations, and questions. In that environment, the influence of an individual Executive Director on IMF policies can reach well beyond his or her voting power.
For more information on the governance of the IMF, please see Leo Van Houtven’s Governance of the IMF—Decision Making, Institutional Oversight, and Accountability. The pamphlet is available both in hard copy (see page 39 for ordering details) and on the IMF’s website.