The Fund’s technical assistance is provided through training at headquarters, staff missions, and assignments of Fund staff and outside experts to member countries. Most of the regular training is carried out in Washington, DC by the IMF Institute. The Central Banking and Fiscal Affairs Departments, and the Bureau of Statistics provide members with assistance on technical issues within their areas of competence, mainly through staff visits and the assignment of outside experts. Other departments of the Fund participate where necessary—in particular, the Exchange and Trade Relations Department and the Treasurer’s Department provide, respectively, assistance on macroeconomic and balance of payments policies, and on matters concerning the Fund’s financial operations and transactions. The Research and Legal Departments often work with staff from the functional departments. In turn, the functional departments generally cooperate with the relevant area departments of the Fund that are separately responsible for Fund relations with countries in different regions of the globe. The total cost to the Fund of technical assistance in the central banking, fiscal, balance of payments, and statistical fields was about US$21.7 million in financial year 1981. The Fund will spend an estimated $30.5 million in the same areas in financial year 1983.
The Central Banking Department
Technical assistance in central banking matters has been made available to members demonstrating a need for it almost from the beginning of the Fund’s operations. In the early 1960s, however, when many newly independent nations became members, this activity became a major element in the Fund’s technical assistance effort.
Initially, the assistance provided by the central banking program focused on meeting the needs of these newly independent nations in setting up central banks and in establishing an operational and regulatory framework for other financial institutions. By the late 1970s, however, this need had largely been met and the Department began to change the thrust of its assistance by aiding countries in modernizing or reforming their financial systems.
A significant part of the Department’s technical assistance is provided by experts on its panel of outside specialists, but advice is also given by the Fund staff through short-term missions or by correspondence and in consultations held at Fund headquarters with members. The Central Banking Department, in conjunction with the Legal Department, provides advice on the preparation and drafting of central and general banking legislation. The Department also undertakes research on a broad range of economic and financial issues that complements its advisory work.
Assignment of experts
By 1981, experts’ services had been extended to 89 countries and had amounted to a cumulative total of over 11,000 man-months, increasing from 25 man-months in 1964 to 896 in 1981. Experts on assignment are generally borrowed from older, well-established central banks, but occasionally they also come from academia, the private sectors of member countries, or from the ranks of the Fund’s staff. Both developing and developed countries provide experts, but the proportion drawn from the former has increased from 28 per cent of the total in 1969 to 47 per cent in 1981. Experience has shown that the interchange of experts among developing countries has been rewarding because of similarities in the problems faced and the practical solutions.
Guidelines for administering the program have been developed over time. Experts in general are assigned to a central bank or a similar institution, such as a currency board or monetary authority, although there have been exceptions where warranted. They serve either in an executive or an advisory position, although the latter is preferred. An executive will be assigned if, for example, a central bank is newly established and there is a scarcity of the necessary trained personnel, but efforts are made to phase out executive assignments at the earliest opportunity. In the mid-1960s, somewhat more than half the technical assistance assignments in central banking were executive; by 1981 this proportion had fallen to one fifth, of which the majority were at the departmental rather than the senior policy level.
The IMF Institute
The IMF Institute was established in 1964 to expand and systematize the Fund’s training facilities, and it has become an important channel through which the Fund’s expertise is made available to its member countries. An essential purpose of the Institute’s courses is to contribute to a better understanding of the need to take appropriate policy decisions and the implications of such policy decisions.
The Institute offers courses and seminars in English, French, and Spanish. Recently, arrangements have been made to allow a few Arabic-speaking participants to follow some of the English courses in their own language. Courses and seminars are normally given at Fund headquarters but a few special seminars are held abroad.
Since its establishment, the Institute has provided specialized training for more than 3,000 officials from 138 member countries. Over the years, the Institute has substantially adapted and diversified the content of its courses in response to training needs. Its 1966 program, for instance, consisted of only five courses covering two specialized areas—balance of payments methodology and financial analysis and policy—and one seminar on the Fund’s organization and operations. At the time, the Institute had only six economists among its professional staff. During 1983, 11 courses and 2 seminars will be offered. These courses will deal with techniques of economic analysis, financial analysis and policy, financial programming and policy, public finance, balance of payments methodology, and government finance statistics. In addition to the courses, the Institute will organize two seminars—one on the role of the Fund in the international monetary system and another on central banking.
Only officials of finance ministries, central banks, and other government financial agencies can be enrolled in the IMF Institute’s courses. Candidates must have duties and responsibilities related to the courses for which they apply. Although the great majority of participants in the Institute’s training courses come from developing countries, industrial countries are also represented. The purpose of the courses is to enable participants to discharge their responsibilities more effectively when they return to their home countries. The courses also give participants an opportunity to observe Fund policies and procedures at close quarters, to meet the Fund staff who are working on problems relevant to their countries, and to exchange information and experience among themselves.
The courses normally last from 8 to 18 weeks, depending on the subject matter. Seminars for senior officials on topics of special interest are organized by the Institute in cooperation with other departments. Participation in these seminars is by invitation only, and their duration usually does not exceed two weeks. During 1982, three seminars were organized at headquarters covering budgeting and expenditure control, balance of payments management, and central banking. In addition, two seminars were held abroad: one in Fiji and another in Zimbabwe.
Courses at the Institute are taught mainly by its own resident faculty, comprising 22 economists, most of whom have extensive experience in the Fund’s operational work. Other departments of the Fund participate in the work of the Institute and provide more specialized knowledge at both the analytical and operational levels. In addition, the Institute invites guest speakers from international and national institutions, including universities.
To expand its role as a channel for transmitting the Fund’s experience and expertise to member countries, the Institute has provided lecturing assistance to regional organizations and to national training institutes. For example, Institute lecturers have often participated in programs at the Centro de Estudios Monetarios Latino Americanos (CEMLA), the South East Asian Central Banks (SEACEN) Research and Training Centre, and the Centre Ouest Africain de Formation et d’Etudes Bancaires (COFEB). In order to expand the scope of its activities, the Institute has recently compiled part of the materials used in one of its courses into a book entitled Financial Policy Workshops—The Case of Kenya. The book is available in English. Similar publications are currently under preparation in French and in Spanish.
There has been a growing need for specialized technical training as well as for courses that place more emphasis on the experience and practice of economic management. Reflecting the increase in demand, the role of the IMF Institute in providing training is growing steadily.Source: IMF Institute
The relationship between the Fund, the Central Banking expert, and the host institution is carefully defined. The Fund pays the expert, but members usually contribute from 33 to 100 per cent of the cost of the assignment. The experts are not regarded as employees of the Fund and are responsible to, and work solely under the direction of, the host institution, while the Department evaluates the expert’s work, through correspondence and staff visits, and provides advice on technical issues. Where experts have achieved their objectives, their assignments have been phased out, and, where possible, local counterparts have taken over.
Management, research, and bank supervision, at present, are the main areas of Central Banking Department technical assistance. Other areas are foreign exchange, operations, accounting, statistics, organization, and training. With the passage of time, technical assistance in the field of management has somewhat declined in importance, partly because of the success of experts in training local counterparts and partly because of the increasing effectiveness of the local staff as their experience has accumulated, but management assistance continues to be a significant part of the Department’s activities. Assistance in research has remained important because local facilities that could provide advanced training in economic analysis have not always been available. Finally, bank supervision has emerged as a major new field of assistance accompanying the development and diversification of financial intermediation activities.
Upon request, the Central Banking Department provides advice on a wide range of monetary and financial problems relating to developing countries. Advisory activities are carried out in collaboration with the area departments of the Fund, the Legal Department (in the case of legislation), and with the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.
Advisory activities now cover virtually the whole range of issues relating to the development of a financial sector. These include the internal organization of a central bank, the structure of the financial system, the relationship of central banks with government and between central banks and commercial banks, regional cooperation among central banks, the establishment and operation of forward foreign exchange markets, and the relative effectiveness of various monetary policy instruments.
To complement its advisory services the staff of the Department engages in research on a wide variety of topics related to financial policy in developing countries. Such topics include the financial intermediation process, efficiency, and cost criteria for the banking system; demand for money; selective credit controls, interest rates, and other allocative monetary instruments; structure of the financial system; multipurpose banking; and offshore banking. This research is intended to consolidate the practical experience gained by the staff in advisory missions. Some of the studies have been published, for the benefit of a wide variety of readers, in academic journals and other publications, and in the Fund’s Staff Papers. Most recently, the Department has moved to create a data bank pooling information on national banking systems for comparative purposes.
Another new direction of activity is the area of training. Recognizing the inadequacy of existing training arrangements for central bankers in operational, as distinct from theoretical, aspects of central banking, the Department is moving to establish some continuing training facilities to assist central banks in developing countries to become self-sustained and more effective entities. The first of these facilities was a seminar, organized jointly by the IMF Institute with senior officials from 29 member countries participating, that was held at Fund headquarters from June 28 through July 13, 1982.
Advisor, Central Banking Department
For a fuller explanation of the Central Banking Department’s assistance program see, “Technical assistance from the Fund: Central Banking Department,” by P.N. Kaul in the June 1981 issue of Finance & Development.
The Fiscal Affairs Department
Fund experience has shown the close relationship between fiscal performance and the balance of payments. It has also demonstrated the need for improvements in government finance to stabilize an economy and to maintain appropriate exchange rates. The creation in 1964 of a Fiscal Affairs Department enabled the Fund to offer specialized practical advice to member governments on policies and administration in the area of public finance. By the end of 1981, technical assistance had been provided in the field to 108 member countries or regional groups.
Technical assistance in fiscal matters is closely related to the Fund’s major concerns and complements the general discussions of fiscal policies conducted with member countries. The decision to request such assistance is the prerogative of each member. The acceptance of technical assistance is never a condition of Fund financing, nor does the Fund concentrate these efforts on countries that have set up stabilization programs with Fund assistance. However, where the lack of fiscal expertise in a country can be identified as a factor in the failure of past programs, or as a factor in possible future programs, the Fund tries to help.
The aims of the program in the fiscal area have broadly been (1) to resolve specific policy and administrative problems in countries with otherwise well-developed systems; (2) to give an external expert view on technical aspects of policy options; (3) to build up or improve an administrative infrastructure in countries at an early stage of development; (4) to assist member countries in modernizing their fiscal systems; and (5) to organize and provide technical training. Careful selection of the assignments that can best be undertaken by the Fund, attentive management, and effective use of assistance by recipients continue to be vital to the success of the program.
Types of assistance
The program covers a wide range of fiscal topics, concerned as much with the implementation of policy changes as with the nature of reform, and as much with technical efficiency as with policy. The reform of a country’s tax structure, for instance, may be necessary, particularly in countries that have inherited outmoded tax systems from a preindependence era. Advice may be given on a specific matter, especially when a new form of taxation is being introduced. There is often a need to review the incentive effects of taxation and evaluate the impact of fiscal operations on the management of limited resources. Thus, the tax rate structure is often reviewed, as are the effects of tax changes on incomes and consumption, investment, urban and rural incidence, and growth.
Work on tax administration has included proposals to reorganize tax departments, to improve assessment and collection procedures, to introduce national taxpayer identification and masterfile processing, and to implement new taxes. The latter has included work on legislation (in collaboration with the Legal Department of the Fund).
In budgetary areas the program also provides advisors on financial management; on the improvement of procedures for budget formulation, fiscal reporting, expenditure controls, accounting, and auditing; and on the use of electronic data processing both for accounting and fiscal reporting. To minimize the social and economic costs of reducing outlays, assistance may be requested to improve the productivity of government expenditures and the performance of nonfinancial public enterprises.
Often the need for assistance is identified in the course of Fund missions, when a problem involving public finance is disclosed, or when a request is made during informal discussions at the Fund’s Annual Meeting. A member of the Department may visit the country to clarify its understanding of its needs. There is continuous collaboration between Fiscal Affairs and the area departments as well as with those concerned in the World Bank.
The Department usually draws on its own staff for short-term work and on an international roster or panel of fiscal experts for longer-term (over a month) assignments. This international panel, composed of serving and retired government officials, and academics specializing in public finance, was established by the Fund to meet the mounting demand for fiscal technical assistance. Some 30 long-term experts are normally stationed in member countries at any one time. The Fund pays the expert’s salary and travel costs, but the receiving government is expected to make a contribution—either financial or in the form of local transportation or housing.
Fund fiscal experts are invariably advisors and do not have an operational role. This is considered appropriate as taxing, spending, and fiscal operations are generally inherently political and fall within the sovereign powers of each country. All experts on field assignments are Fund employees and are supported and guided by headquarters through a regular system of correspondence supplemented by periodic visits by senior officers. A crucial aspect of the program is the association of local counterparts with the Fund expert. This increases the latter’s effectiveness, gives an opportunity for practical training, and improves continuity.
Technical assistance assignments range from a few weeks to several years. A typical sequence would have a staff mission visit a member country to advise on fiscal problems or specialized technical matters. This would usually last only a few weeks, but would be followed by the preparation of a report in Fund headquarters. If the country subsequently indicated that it wished help to implement the recommendations, a panel expert might be assigned on a long-term basis, perhaps initially for a year, subject to extension. The normal practice is to limit the assignment to two years, although he or she may be succeeded by another, often with modified terms of reference. This might well be the case with a phased program of institutional reform involving, for example, the modernization and restructuring of a major revenue department.
Responsibility for a technical assistance assignment does not end with its formal closure in the field. After an assignment is completed, a panel expert returns to headquarters for debriefing; in the course of this there is full discussion of the results achieved and of any problems still to be tackled. This provides an opportunity to assess the need for and the timing of any follow-up action. Information on subsequent developments may be obtained, and the need for further assistance may be pursued, in connection with a consultation or use of Fund resources mission. Sometimes it is appropriate for a letter to be sent to the authorities at the conclusion of an assignment, pointing out the steps that need to be taken. Fiscal Affairs tries to assess the usefulness of its technical assistance work regularly, to ascertain how recommendations have been implemented and what impact they have had.
Advisor, Fiscal Affairs Department
Bureau of Statistics
Reliable statistics are needed for economic analysis both within the Fund and in member countries. Since its inception, the Fund has placed great importance on the availability and quality of economic statistics in member countries. At an early stage the Fund decided to publish global financial statistics on a regular basis, and the first issue of International Financial Statistics (IFS) appeared in January 1948 with data for some 56 countries. Since then, other statistical publications have been produced, although IFS continues to be the Fund’s basic statistical publication.
The Fund has given high priority to the needs of member countries for technical assistance in producing sound statistics. Prior to 1968 there was no formal program for technical assistance in statistical work, although staff visits took place in response to ad hoc requests by member countries. The Fund’s Executive Board in December 1968 approved the introduction of a program that was aimed at “the establishment or improvement of central bank bulletins or similar bulletins that attempt to bring together in one place, and in a suitable form, the materials needed for the analysis of monetary policy.” In addition, the program sought to train national technicians in various areas of statistics that are of interest to the Fund. The primary objective of this program was to encourage the development and enhancement of statistical data bases in member countries.
Evolution of program
The first staff missions under the program took place in early 1969. They were usually undertaken by a staff member of the Fund’s Bureau of Statistics, lasted approximately two weeks, and generally focused on monetary and general statistics—the latter covering statistics on prices, production, and international trade. These early missions, which gave special emphasis to the development and publication of central bank bulletins, provided assistance to members in compiling monetary and financial surveys in accordance with the IPS concepts and in the improvement of statistics on prices and international trade.
During the 1970s, the Bureau of Statistics expanded its technical assistance. In 1972 it became responsible for the development of government finance statistics and in 1977, following a rearrangement of responsibilities within the Fund, the development and maintenance of balance of payments data were assigned to the Bureau. The extension of the Bureau’s work into these fields widened its mission work to encompass assisting countries in compiling and publishing data in line with the concepts set forth in the Draft Manual on Government Finance Statistics and the Balance of Payments Manual. With the growing use of electronic data processing equipment in many countries, there has also been increasing interest in technical assistance in the establishment of computerized data bases. In recent years, the Bureau has provided a number of member countries with technical assistance in this field.
By the latter part of the 1970s, with the establishment of national statistical bulletins by the central bank or monetary authorities in a large number of the newer member countries, the emphasis of the Fund’s technical assistance in statistics had shifted toward improving the quality of data and training national technicians.
Between 1969 and 1981, the staff of the Bureau participated in approximately 60 missions a year, covering a total of 133 countries and 5 regional organizations. In recent years priority has been given to the provision of assistance to new member countries. Over this period, approximately 20 per cent of the manpower resources of the Bureau of Statistics has been devoted to providing technical assistance in statistics.
Technical assistance to member countries in statistics has taken a number of other forms. In 1975 and 1976 five regional seminars were organized by the Fund under the technical assistance program to explain and discuss the concepts of the Draft Manual on Government Finance Statistics. These seminars were attended by officials from over 100 member countries as well as by staff from interested international and regional organizations. In addition, staff of the Bureau of Statistics have participated in seminars organized by regional organizations in balance of payments, government finance, and general statistics. In 1981 a special statistical mission visited the People’s Republic of China to explain the concepts underlying the statistics used by the Fund.
Technical assistance in statistics is also provided through courses conducted by the IMF Institute, many of which feature lectures devoted to statistical issues. In particular the Institute provides courses in balance of payments methodology and government finance statistics, which are staffed largely by the Bureau of Statistics.
Finally, the Bureau organizes training programs for officials of member countries who are visiting the Fund’s headquarters. These programs usually run for about two weeks and are designed to cover balance of payments, financial, government finance, and general statistics. The opportunity is taken at these training sessions to discuss special statistical problems relating to the participant’s country.
New concepts and techniques in statistics and the quest to improve the quality of statistics can be expected to involve a continuing demand from members for technical assistance. The Fund’s Executive Board has endorsed such a continuation, particularly when it involves new member countries endeavoring to establish a statistical base on a sound and viable basis.
Michael J. Brimble
Advisor, Bureau of Statistics
The Treasurer’s Department area of technical assistance relates primarily to the conceptual and operational aspects of Fund accounts and Fund transactions in both the general and SDR Departments and the Administered Accounts (for example, the Trust Fund). The Fund’s operations and transactions are sui generis, given the intergovernmental and cooperative character of the Fund as an international monetary institution and in view of the nature of members’ exchange transactions with the Fund. It provides, on an ad hoc basis, both instruction and technical assistance to officials of member countries, as well as to international and interregional organizations. As in the case of other Fund departments, the Treasurer’s Department undertakes technical assistance projects only at the request of a member country or an international organization.
Detailed briefing is provided by the Department to the panel of experts of the Fund’s Central Banking Department prior to their field assignments. The briefing is geared to the specific requirement of each expert, keeping in mind his terms of reference in the particular country. These experts in the course of their work as advisors or executives are concerned with matters such as central bank accounts and foreign exchange operations. When requested, the Department also arranges for programs of study, training, and observation for officials in the Fund’s financial procedures. Such programs are usually drawn up in consultation with the sponsoring central bank or official agency. Depending upon individual requirements, they cover the work of the Department in regard to the Fund’s financial policy formation and review, as well as the specialized divisions dealing with general resources, borrowed resources and investment, special drawing rights, accounts and financial reports, and financial relations.
The Treasurer’s Department provides ad hoc technical assistance to central banks (in, for example, Jamaica, Liberia, and Zambia) and to such international and interregional organizations as the African Development Bank, the European Space Agency, and the East Caribbean Currency Authority. Assistance to regional or international organizations relates mostly to issues arising out of their establishment of new units of account, particularly in regard to their adoption of the SDR as a unit of account, or as a basis for a unit of account. Assistance to central banks involves deputing the Department’s staff for short periods to central banks in member countries to assist them with accounting matters relating to Fund transactions. A staff member also conducted a seminar on Fund operations and transactions that was organized by the Bank of Central African States in Yaounde in June 1982.
In addition, explanatory talks on the Fund’s financial structure and operations are given by the Department to visiting groups of commercial bankers as well as to interested outside institutions. The preparation of operational manuals such as the Users’ Guide to the SDR (February 1982) also forms part of the Department’s technical assistance. A similar manual on the general resources account of the Fund is also envisaged to explain the account to officials in the depositories and fiscal agencies of member countries.
A senior staff member of the Department has also been associated with a project sponsored by the Swedish Savings Banks Association and the Swedish International Development Authority on the mobilization of personal savings in developing countries, a subject that has a bearing on the efficacy of the Fund’s stabilization and adjustment programs in member countries.
Advisor, Treasurer’s Department
Exchange and Trade Relations and other Departments
The Exchange and Trade Relations, Research, and area Departments of the Fund provide assistance to member countries, on request, on a broad range of questions concerning the formulation and implementation of macroeconomic and balance of payments policies.
Technical assistance is not a primary function of these departments and they do not maintain either panels of experts or staff who specialize in such assistance. Where possible, therefore, they try to respond to members’ requests within the framework of regular consultation or use of Fund resources missions. The Fund does, however, send out special technical assistance missions staffed from these departments when either the timing or the scope of the request makes it impractical to undertake the necessary investigations during regular missions.
Within the broader area of balance of payments policies, the Exchange and Trade Relations Department provides technical assistance to member countries on questions related to their exchange and trade systems and external debt. In providing this assistance, the Department always works closely with the area department concerned. Where a special technical assistance mission is required, that mission will often include staff from both departments. Depending on the nature of the problem, staff from other departments may also be involved.
The types of technical assistance on exchange and trade systems sought by individual countries in recent years have ranged from the general to the specific. One country asked the Fund to conduct a broad review of its existing exchange and trade system and to suggest ways of improving it; two requested analyses of the economic impact of their exchange controls and restrictions; and another sought an evaluation of its tariff reform and export subsidy measures and received assistance in assessing the degree of protection granted to import-competing industries.
Other special technical assistance missions were focused quite narrowly on specific aspects of the exchange system—the operational aspects of pegging the exchange rate for the country’s currency to the special drawing right (SDR), the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a forward market in foreign exchange, and measures to improve the operation of an existing dual exchange market. On a number of occasions the Fund staff have also provided broader studies of the appropriateness of the member’s exchange rate policy.
Given the sensitivity of questions concerning a member’s exchange rate and exchange and trade policies, such assistance must often be provided on a most confidential basis. However, some members have asked the Fund staff to undertake open reviews of their systems, soliciting the experiences and views of private sector firms as well as various agencies within the government. In a few cases, the member has also sought the Fund’s technical assistance concerning problems arising from the adoption or maintenance of practices incompatible with member’s obligations under Articles IV and VIII of the Fund’s Articles of Agreement.
In recent years the Fund has also extended technical assistance on exchange and trade matters to four regional organizations. For two of them—the East Caribbean Currency Authority and the Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest—this assistance took the form of the participation of Fund staff in meetings or seminars with officials from regional organizations and their member countries on the exchange control policies of countries within the region.
The Fund undertook major studies for two regional organizations on certain questions concerning the impact of member countries’ exchange and trade systems on prospects for regional integration. At the request of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries, a Fund team, accompanied by staff from ECOWAS, visited a number of countries in the region to identify obstacles to currency convertibility within the region and to assess their significance for intraregional trade. Against the background of the existing institutional arrangements in the ECOWAS countries, including arrangements for the settlement of financial transactions in the region, the report prepared by the Fund team reviewed the prospects for currency convertibility in the region within the framework of a program for achieving monetary integration in the Community.
The other major study was undertaken at the request of the African Center for Monetary Studies on behalf of the Association of African Central Banks. The Fund staff was asked to prepare a description of the existing payments, exchange control, and exchange rate arrangements of the countries in the proposed Preferential Trade Area of Eastern and Southern African States; to analyze any payments obstacles to trade in the region; and to recommend improvements in payments arrangements that would promote intraregional trade. The Fund’s Legal Department also provided technical assistance to the African Center for Monetary Studies in drafting the rules and regulations for the Preferential Trade Area Clearing House.
The Fund also provides assistance to members on external debt management. External debt matters are regularly reviewed and discussed in the course of the Fund’s Article IV consultations with member countries, and the Fund staff have advised members on the establishment of systems for monitoring and analyzing external debt developments. Recently the assistance of the Fund staff has increasingly been sought in connection with debt rescheduling exercises. The Fund has for years attended meetings of the Paris Club, cooperating with both debtor and creditor countries to facilitate the process of debt renegotiation. In addition, however, the Fund will also provide, at the country’s request, technical assistance to a member in preparing the background materials for meetings on the rescheduling of its external debt. This includes help in evaluating the country’s medium-term balance of payments prospects, in compiling and presenting debt statistics, and in analyzing the impact of alternative rescheduling scenarios. Such assistance is often provided in the context of regular Fund missions, but, where necessary, the Fund has also sent special missions to assist a member in these areas.
K. Burke Dillon
Advisor, Exchange and Trade Relations Department