Website of the Month: International Monetary Fund

Article excerpt

The International Monetary Fund (MF), an organization of 188 countries, supports the stability of the worldwide system of exchange rates and payments in order to facilitate international transactions. While the IMF's mission does not directly relate to the accounting profession, CPAs in both public and private practice, as well as those who work with international businesses, can find a variety of unique, useful, up-to-date, and free resources related to the IMF's participation in the global economy on its website, www.imf.org. The website provides access to a vast collection of economic and financial resources - generated both by the IMF and externally - on specific countries, regions, and international developments. Available materials include data on economic and financial indicators and exchange rates, videos, news and event information, reports, and other publications.

The top of the IMF's homepage and the accompanying main pages feature a menu bar that directs users to the site's major resource categories: "about the MF," "research," "country information," "news," "videos," "data and statistics," and "publications." The website is well organized and includes multiple paths to many resources. In the upper right-hand comer, the site offers links to a detailed alphabetical index and site map, along with information for first-time visitors. This is a great starting point for locating information. Periodic publications can generally be sorted by topic and date, and all featured website materials are kept current.

The MF website provides users with several options for keeping up with international news and current events. The IMF Survey Online Magazine - linked in the publications section - offers news, views, and analysis; it also offers highlights of other recent IMF publications. Finance & Development, a quarterly magazine that can be found both in the publications section and on the homepage, presents short articles on issues related to the international financial system, economic development, and other world economic issues. The site also offers hundreds of videos that cover press releases, presentations, and interviews, which range from one minute to more than one hour in length. Although the IMF's website is full of valuable information, this review will only look at some of the many resources that might be of interest to CPAs.

News and Current Events

The news section of the website provides minutes from IMF meetings, various press releases about IMF activities, and speeches by IMF staff , which are organized by date of issuance. CPAs might find this information pertinent for its global information content. Among the more interesting types of releases are public information notices (PIN), linked on the left-hand menu bar in the site's news section; PINs summarize the IMF's discussion of a specific country's economy and are issued with the country's consent These can be particularly useful for advising companies that intend to engage in transactions with organizations based in a particular country.

A recent PIN addressing Spain summarized the effects of the past four years' financial crises on the country's banking sector and its attempts at restructuring; it also included the IMF's recommendations for specific reforms. Another recent PIN concerning Macedonia described slow growth, inflation, interest rates, and fiscal management as a means for reducing the country's debt; IMF staff predicted relatively positive outcomes. A third PIN, released on June 7, 2012, addressed New Zealand: although reconstruction following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes has been slow, the country's economy was predicted to continue growing at a modest pace.

In the about the IMF section, users can access a "more resources" category, located at the bottom of the left-hand menu bar, which offers links to information about the IMF's activities, presented in two main formats: factsheets and key issues. …