Position paper: IMF loan documents for Egypt lost between IMF guidelines and government’s disregard of constitution

Press Release

Monday, 12 December, 2016

Abstract

The IMF ignored issuing two documents when the Executive Board approved a loan of $12 billion to Egypt on November 11, 2016: the staff report on the Egyptian economy and a timetable for publication of the relevant loan documents and program measures, which the Egyptian government is obligated to publish.

The IMF violated its transparency policies again on December 10, the deadline for releasing a factual statement that announces that the Egyptian side has delayed publication of the loan documents and sets a timetable for publication.

The government is in violation of the constitution by proceeding with the IMF loan without putting the loan and its program before the House of Representatives.

According to IMF guidelines, Egypt must publish a Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies, which has not yet been released.

There is no actual obligation in IMF policies to publish the most information possible and provide a maximum degree of access to it. There are only good intentions and substantial flexibility in implementation.

But even within this broad transparency framework, compiled by the IMF in a document of more than 50 pages—Guidance Note on the Fund’s Transparency Policy—the IMF bears some obligations. It is obligated to encourage the member state to publish the most significant documents related to dealings between that state and the IMF.

As Egypt secures a loan valued at $12 billion, under the Extended Fund Facility, the Guidance Note contains several recommendations to promote a commitment to transparency.

The following are sections from the Guidance Note on the Fund’s Transparency Policy.

The IMF approaches transparency based on the principle set forth in the preamble of the Transparency Policy Decision. The principle states that the IMF will “strive to disclose documents and information on a timely basis unless strong and specific reasons argue against such disclosure” (p. 4, Guidance Note).

To support implementation of this principle, the Transparency Policy Decision defines “prompt publication”. That definition states that the IMF “will aim to publish documents subject to the Decision no later than 14 calendar days after the Executive Board meeting, informal Board session, or adoption of an LOT [Lapse of Time] decision (the “Board date”), or 28 days after the document has been issued to the Executive Board, whichever is later” (p. 4, Guidance Note).

When the IMF agrees to extend a loan to a country, there is a number of documents the IMF team is obligated to publish and several more the government in question must release.

In the case of Jordan, when the country secured a loan of the same type as Egypt in September 2016, the IMF published all documents required by the disclosure conditions under its transparency guidelines. The documents comprised 100 pages of information. In line with its transparency guidelines, the IMF published the following documents on its website:

  • Press release containing a statement from the chair of the Executive Board.
  • The IMF staff report submitted to the Executive Board on August 24 for a decision following the conclusion of discussions; the staff completed its report on August 3.
  • A statement from the executive director for Jordan.

The cover of the package of documents released also noted that the following documents would be released separately (these are documents the IMF urges the Jordanian government to publish):

  • The letter of intent sent to the IMF and the Jordanian authorities.
  • The Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies of the Jordanian authorities.
  • The Technical Memorandum of Understanding.

In the case of the Egyptian loan, neither party has released anything other than press statements, a statement from IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and transcripts of press conferences on the loan (see the list of references). This runs counter to transparency requirements.

This non-disclosure is an exception among states that have recently received IMF funding. Accordingto the IMF Transparency Fact Sheet, in 2015, 93 percent of states that concluded programs with the IMF agreed to publish letters of intent, Memoranda of Economic and Financial Policies, and Technical Memoranda of Understanding.

The most important document that the IMF did not commit to publishing is the IMF staff report. According to the Guidance Note, non-disclosure must be based on a request from the Egyptian government (pp. 34–35), for “strong and specific” reasons.

IMF guidelines presume “immediate publication” of all documents that the IMF is required to release, such as staff reports.

The documents that must be published by the government include the letter of intent and the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies. In the case of the Egyptian loan, a presumption of publication exists unless the government requests otherwise in advance. The IMF staff must submit this request with other documents to the Executive Board for a decision on the loan (pp. 2 and 35, Guidance Note).

The deadline for disclosure of documents by both parties is 14–28 days, so that the information does not become “stale” (pp. 7, 8, 34–35).

In the event of a disagreement1:

The borrowing government has the right to request the deletion of sensitive information or a revision of sections of the published documents only in the case of typographical errors or a mischaracterization of the government’s views (p. 11, Guidance Note).

The deadline for revision or deletion is the date on which the Executive Board convenes to make a decision on the loan.

If the disagreement between the general director and the authorities of the borrowing country persists, the managing director elected or appointed by the borrowing country shall bring the matter to the Executive Board. If the Board believes that the material requested for deletion could affect the integrity or credibility of the IMF analysis, the Board will recommend non-publication.

The publication intentions must be written on the cover of the report submitted to the IMF Executive Board (as was the case with Jordan). If the government does not publish its documents within 28 days of the announcement of the approval of the Executive Board, the IMF must release a factual statement (p. 33, Guidance Note), which is a brief status report on publication intentions (whether it has been agreed to publish on a specific date or agreed not to publish) (p. 54, Guidance Note).

This deadline passed for Egypt on Saturday, December 10, 2016, but the IMF has not issued the factual statement. IMF spokesman Gerry Rice, responding to a question about Egypt during a global press conference on the publication of loan documents and program measures, simply announced that the IMF would published the staff report “within the next few days” and release other documents related to the program “within the week.”2

Recommendations

Considering this, the EIPR recommends that:

1. The IMF comply with the deadlines and terms defined by the Guidance Note for the publication of the factual statement on the non-publication of documents on the Egyptian loan as well as the staff report.

2. A greater degree of transparency to be demonstrated in disclosing information relevant to the loan, the IMF staff’s assessment of Egypt’s economy, and the policy package which the Egyptian government agreed to implement, as well as a timetable for implementation and an assessment of its impact on unemployment and inflation.

3. Both the IMF and the Egyptian government commit to publishing these documents before the parliament discusses the loan; otherwise, the loan shall be considered unconstitutional and qualify as odious debt.

References:

  1. This is likely the case with the Egyptian government currently.
  2. Press conference on Dec. 8, 2016.