IMF breaks with tradition to detail top salaries at the $105bn fund

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The Independent Online

In a novel spirit of openness, the International Monetary Fund yesterday published the salaries of its top executives, and presented its annual accounts in line with international accountancy standards, for the first time.

In a novel spirit of openness, the International Monetary Fund yesterday published the salaries of its top executives, and presented its annual accounts in line with international accountancy standards, for the first time.

It also announced that headhunters had started to seek a director for a new independent watchdog that will scrutinise IMF activities. The Independent Evaluation Office, staffed by outsiders, will be launched in January.

In a bid to live up to its own rhetoric on the importance of transparency, the Fund's annual report revealed that Horst Köhler, its managing director, is paid $308,460 (£220,000) and an allowance of $55,200, the same as his predecessor. The annual pay of his number two, Stan Fischer, is $257,050.

The report also gives salary ranges for all the Fund's 2,297 employees. A driver earns between $20,390 and $30,590, an entry-level economist $63,320 to $95,000, and a senior computer specialist $79,440 to $119,120. While staff in the Washington-based organisation also enjoy a number of additional benefits, the report noted that there has been steady growth in "excessive work-related stress" in recent years. A stress-reduction programme is now under way.

However, the Fund's annual meeting, starting in Prague next week, is likely to add to the pressure in the short term. With around 20,000 demonstrators expected and 18,000 police and troops lining up to keep control, IMF executives will be under the spotlight.

The IMF's twice-yearly World Economic Outlook, published on Tuesday, will predict a "soft landing" for the US economy, and continuing strong global growth.

It will forecast that growth in the eurozone will be 3.4 per cent this year and next. This means it will next year outstrip US growth, which the outlook says will slow from 5.2 per cent this year to 3.2 per cent in 2001.

Speaking last week in London, Mr Köhler said high oil prices were a cloud on the horizon but did not yet amount to a big threat to world economic prospects.

The IMF's annual report, published yesterday, says levels of funds available for lending have reached close to a record high, building up as the global financial crisis of the late 1990s receded. At the end of August the Fund had $105bn in the kitty in net uncommitted liquid resources, amounting to 178 per cent of its liabilities. "This is good news. There is less demand for borrowing," said David Hawley, an IMF spokesman.

The report also spells out the progress made in reform of the "international financial architecture" in the past 12 months. Much of the progress involves greater transparency in the publication of economic statistics and Fund reports on member economies.

The most important "architecture" issue up for discussion in Prague next week concerns the involvement of the private sector in financial crises. This has been a thorny problem ever since the Asian and Russian crises in 1997-98, with commercial banks unhappy about attempts to coerce them into playing a formal role, and G7 governments unable to agree on the best approach.

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