Communication Flows in International Economic Law
The recent and on-going debt crisis in Greece and the international community’s response to it have been interesting for a number of reasons. From the perspective of good governance it has ensured that parliamentary democracy has been involved in endorsing externally oriented austerity prescriptions negotiated with the Greek executive. From the perspective of the effective implementation of this austerity package it is necessary to ensure Greek ownership of the package. This Greek tragedy too has many lessons for the international community and indeed for the practice of the IMF in its relations with its Members. Yet despite this almost unprecedented parliamentary involvement in circumstances where at any rate the IMF has been involved, the demonstrations in the Greek capital have commanded international attention. Ownership of the austerity package therefore has to have deeper roots not merely up to the parliamentary level but has to percolate deeper in the Greek society. Indeed, the parliamentary engagement itself needs to be more compelling – perhaps consensus based rather than majoritarian.
Many years ago when I was fresh from completing my PhD the then IMF General Counsel chided me over my analysis that the IMF in legal analysis actually gave an ‘international loan’ with respect to disbursements from its General Resources and that the IMF standby arrangement could be considered as partaking of an ‘international agreement’. The IMF still maintains this legal pretence. Yet this Greek parliamentary approval and this emphasis on Greek ownership of the austerity package does not sit well with the legal fictional denial of the bilateral (in this case trilateral) nature of the transfer of resources at any rate to the extent originating from the IMF qua loan and international agreement.
More significantly the need, indeed the condition, to extend this ‘courtesy’ of a prior parliamentary approval of an externally generated austerity measure must surely embrace too the rest of the IMF membership, including in particular its developing country members.
Asif H Qureshi