IMF Made More Deletions to Reports During European Crisis

The International Monetary Fund said it more frequently agreed to delete information from staff reports in response to member countries’ requests during the global financial crisis and the European debt turmoil.

In a review of its transparency policy, the Washington-based IMF said 17 percent of published staff reports were subject to deletions in 2012, compared with 10 percent before the last review, which was done in 2009. The rate was highest among advanced economies, with a 35 percent average in the 2009-2012 period, according to the report.

“During the crisis, markets have become more volatile, and economies have become more vulnerable to adverse news,” IMF staff wrote. “Members facing vulnerabilities have requested more deletions, and within the group of advanced markets, a large share of the countries requesting the largest number of deletions on grounds of market sensitivity are the European crisis countries.”

The IMF, which over the past three years has helped bail out countries from Ireland to Tunisia, has been changing its rules to publish more of its work and with shorter delays. At the same time, the push for transparency is making some countries reluctant to discuss sensitive issues with the fund, fearing the information will be made public, according to the report.

Fund’s Mandate

“The fund’s mandate, to foster global growth and economic stability, requires candid discussions with members and the board, as well as with the public, without disrupting markets,” staff wrote. “At the same time, protecting information that is provided by members on a confidential basis is an important element of the trust between the fund and its members, and trust builds traction.”

The IMF also conducted separate surveys to assess how the fund’s work is perceived. Among respondents, half of the executive directors, who represent the IMF’s 188 member countries at the board, disagreed that IMF policy was applied evenhandedly, according to the report. Thirty percent of mission chiefs expressed the same thought, it said.

The report was written in May and discussed by the board of directors last month. Directors on the 24-person board agreed to additional measures to further improve transparency, the fund said in a press release today.

Among them, the IMF set an expectation that most documents will be published within 14 calendar days of the board meetings where they were discussed. The IMF will also provide stronger assurances to countries on the treatment of confidential information, it said.

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