On June 23, the Committee of African Governors on Voice and Representation met with IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato in Madrid to exchange views on governance reforms in the Fund and on the role of African countries in the reform process. At the meeting, the Governors indicated that they would like to see action on several fronts that they felt had not been adequately addressed in the IMF’s medium-term strategy: protection of Africa’s voting power and voice in the Fund, the need for an additional chair to address the heavy workload of the two Executive Directors representing sub-Saharan Africa, and the underrepresentation of Africans at all staffing levels.
The purpose of the meeting, according to Manuel Chang, cochair and Minister of Finance of Mozambique, was to establish a clear understanding of where the process was and of de Rato’s intention to address concerns. The meeting was cordial and constructive, according to Abdoulaye Bio-Tchane, Director of the IMF’s African Department.
De Rato emphasized that “he was committed to bringing forward to the Singapore Annual Meetings a package of reforms that could command the broad support of the membership,” and he reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that, as part of the reforms, emerging and low-income member countries have an important role and voice in the governance of the Fund.
Addressing Africa’s concerns
In his opening statement, de Rato stressed that his reform proposals extended beyond rebalancing economic weights, which had been addressed in the past, to include basic votes, which have not been adjusted since the creation of the Fund. The proposals to increase basic votes and rebalance quotas would help protect African’s voice in the Fund, he said.
On an additional chair for sub-Saharan Africa, de Rato said he did not see enough of a consensus across the membership to make this a realistic early prospect. But he said he was prepared to explore ways to strengthen the voice and capacity of the existing sub-Saharan African chairs. As for staffing at the IMF, de Rato reiterated the goal of raising the share of African nationals on the staff from 6.3 percent currently to 8 percent. He noted there had been difficulties in achieving the Fund’s diversity objectives, which management considered a high priority, and he asked the ministers for help.
As for strengthening Africa’s voice and participation in the Fund, de Rato proposed setting up a committee composed of Fund management, Executive Directors representing Africa, and African Governors as a forum in which, twice a year, issues of concern to Africa could be raised. De Rato asked the staff to follow up on this proposal.
Responding to de Rato’s opening statement, the ministers reiterated a number of concerns. First, they suggested that an ad hoc increase in quotas, as proposed by the Managing Director, might not benefit Africa and might even erode its voting power further. They thus urged the staff to clarify in a Board document how such an ad hoc increase would affect Africa’s voting share. They recognized that IMF members’ positions on increasing the number of Executive Board chairs for sub-Saharan Africa were far apart, but several ministers favored launching a debate to consider the proposal. The ministers agreed with de Rato that Africa’s representation on the Fund’s staff needed to be increased and pledged to support the institution’s recruitment efforts.
According to a statement the Governors and de Rato released at a press conference after the meeting, the discussions “emphasized that governance reforms are at the heart of the continued legitimacy and effectiveness of the Fund and that this is a crucial element of the IMF’s medium-term strategy. Governance reforms must certainly take into account the need for adequate voice and representation of African countries, where the Fund continues to play an important advisory and financing role”
Public comments sought on IMF-World Bank collaboration
Can the IMF and the World Bank strengthen the ways the two organizations collaborate on joint efforts? An external review committee, appointed in March, would like to hear from the public. Comments should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 15.
The public’s input will help the committee weigh the efficiency and effectiveness of current arrangements and contribute to recommendations for improvements. The six-member committee is particularly interested in the public’s perspectives on the division of labor between the Fund and the Bank. Among the specific questions the committee is taking up are whether the division of labor is consistent with the organizations’ respective mandates and is actually being implemented; whether Fund-Bank collaboration on country work can be improved and perhaps better tailored to differing circumstances; and whether there is scope to improve collaboration on policy areas, such as financial sector soundness, trade, and poverty reduction.
For more information, please see www.imf.org/external/np/exr/erc/index.htm.