May 24, 2001 – The IMF, partly due to growing international criticism of its policies, has initiated a review on its conditionality and has called on non- governmental organizations to provide feedback. “Conditionality” is the term used by the International Monetary Fund to describe the conditions attached to IMF financing. In general, these conditions consist of the rapid privatization of most state-owned enterprise, cuts in state subsidies for health, education, environment and social support, and trade liberalization. The CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth – Slovakia responds to the IMF’s request with hesitation and supports its concerns with a new report outlining experiences with the IMF in Slovakia.
Jen Kalafut, Slovak National Coordinator for the CEE Bankwatch Network (BwN), commented on the IMF’s request: “We were shocked by the request from the IMF due to the fact that it has been completely unwilling to release information on its activities in Slovakia including the conditionalities. So we have little ability to effectively participate in, what the Fund calls, a ‘review of conditionality’ when we lack to basic materials to analysis. This indicates a gross hypocrisy in IMF procedures.”
BwN and Friends of the Earth – Slovakia (FoE-S) have released a report this month entitled, “A Thorny Path Towards IMF Documents” * which reveals the untransparent practices of the IMF in Slovakia. The report emphasizes the Fund’s insufficient information policy and complete lack of a policy regarding public participation which, in turn, leads to an extreme lack of transparency and accountability within the institution. The study continues to explain in detail the never-ending contingencies FoE-S had to decipher in an attempt to obtain documents from the IMF regarding the Fund’s activities.
“These documents are vital in order to understand the basic operations of the Fund in the country,” states Juraj Zamkovsky, author of the report and Director of Economy Program of FoE-S. “Even with the approval from our Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Governor of the Central Bank of Slovakia for the release of all requested materials, the IMF has still refused to publishing any of them. Its senior staff continues to make shallow excuses as to why documentation must be kept secret.” he added.
“It’s the IMF’s turn now. The Fund has lost the last solid ground in its efforts to justify its un-transparent and un-accountable behavior. It has no opportunity any more to blame the Slovak government nor anybody else for lack of willingness to provide the requested information as it did until now.” commented Jen Kalafut of the BwN.
In response to the Fund’s recent request for comments on conditionality, BwN and FoE-S described their disappointment in the IMF’s facade of transparency when in practice the institution remains closed to public oversight and through harsh conditions, effectively disempowers citizens to act on their own behalf.
BwN and FoE-S go on to state that the refocusing of conditions, the IMF’s objective through this review, will not in itself eliminate the negative impacts of IMF policies imposed on countries. Rather, such an exercise will result in the more efficient implementation of these policies that have devastated the livelihoods of people around the world.
According to BwN and FoE-S the most important action is that the IMF immediately stop the implementation of standardized conditions which ignore cultural, natural and social diversity around the world. Along with this it must initiate a transparent, participatory and independent process for full environmental and social impact assessments of past IMF programs and seriously implement the lessons from such assessments. However, this will never happen without strong information and public participation policies which will be binding and enforceable. The Slovak case study described in “A Thorny Path Towards IMF Documents” proves that these requests are imperative.
* The complete text of “A Thorny Path Towards IMF Documents” can be found at: www.bankwatch.org
For more information, please contact:
Juraj Zamkovsky, Program Director, Friends of the Earth – Slovakia