What the Arab Spring Has Taught Us


By Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي)

As we launch the IMF’s Arabic blog, Economic Window, we are witnessing an historic shift in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It is clear that the popular uprisings that began 10 months ago were born of a desire for greater freedom and for a more widespread and fairer distribution of economic opportunities.

But the scale of protests in the region and the associated deplorable loss of life came as a surprise to everyone, including us at the IMF.

Like others, we had pointed to the ticking time bomb of high unemployment, but we did not anticipate the consequences of the unequal access to opportunities. We had focused our efforts on helping countries in the region build solid macroeconomic foundations, liberalize economic activity, and introduce market-based reforms that would generate higher economic growth. IMF lending, policy advice, and technical assistance have indeed contributed to improving the economic indicators of many countries in the region. However, with hindsight, it is clear that we were not paying enough attention to how the benefits of economic growth were being shared.

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Shared Frustrations: How to Make Economic Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa More Inclusive


By Antoinette M. Sayeh

(Version in Français)

Suddenly it’s the thing everyone is talking about. Income inequality. Not just between countries, but inequality within countries.

In North Africa and the Middle East, jobless youth sparked the Arab Spring. In the United States, the growing gap between rich and poor is the “meta concern” of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Worldwide, frustrations appear to be on the rise.

What about sub-Saharan Africa? Sustained economic growth has certainly produced some tremendous advances. But a large proportion of the population is still living in poverty. So frustrations about the inclusiveness of growth are also shared within the region.

Complex story

Is the story really as negative in sub-Saharan Africa as the relatively slow reduction in the incidence of poverty and some people’s frustration suggest? Or is the underlying situation a little more complex?

In July, I wrote about the importance of inclusive growth and whether economic growth was a necessary or a sufficient condition for poverty reduction. The IMF’s latest Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa takes that thinking a step further. The new analysis looks at how living standards for the poorest households have actually been changing in some countries in the region.

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The Other Rebalancing: Asia’s Quest for Inclusive Growth


By Anoop Singh

(Versions in 中文, 日本語)

For the past two or three decades, rising inequality—inequality of incomes, of economic outcomes and of economic opportunities—has taken a back seat to the goal of boosting overall growth. But growing discontent with the fallout of the global financial crisis has put inequality back on top of the policy agenda. While the symptoms may be different, tackling inequality is no less an issue in Asia.

Indeed, research shows that inequality can be counterproductive to sustaining longer-term growth. So, in increasingly turbulent global economic times, this gives added importance to promoting shared—or inclusive—growth in Asia that is more likely to be sustained.

This has been a major focus our latest Regional Economic Outlook, which we presented in Manila today. A great challenge for the government here, and for other countries across the region, is to raise living standards for a wide section of their populations. Continue reading

A Spotlight on the IMF’s Technical Assistance


By Nemat Shafik

(Version in عربي)

Of the three main pillars of the IMF’s work, technical assistance has been a sort of middle child; it doesn’t get the attention of the oldest and youngest children, yet in many ways is the glue that holds the family together.

The other two pillars are well known: we lend money to countries in times of need and crisis, and conduct annual check-ups of their economies and financial systems, known as surveillance.

As countries around the world cope with the global economic crisis, the IMF’s technical assistance is a vital part of the work that we do to help countries prevent, prepare for and resolve crises.  Technical assistance also helps countries master the form and details to govern themselves in an effective and legitimate way. Continue reading

Dealing with Uncertain Economic Times: The Outlook for Asia


By Anoop Singh

(Versions in 中文, 日本語)

Recent large equity sell-offs across Asia and safe haven flows into Japan illustrate perfectly the region’s vulnerabilities to further global shocks. While the region’s fundamentals—built up over the past decade—remain relatively strong, economic uncertainties in Europe and the United States pose large downside risks.

The world economy has entered a dangerous new phase and, as the IMF’s Managing Director stated recently, “what makes the situation all the more urgent is that it has implications for every country.”

Our Regional Economic Outlook for Asia and the Pacific emphasizes these risks, and stresses the need for policymakers to remain vigilant and nimble in this extraordinarily uncertain climate. The view from here in Tokyo—looking out at the region—may be more serene than the view from other advanced country capitals, but there are storm clouds on the horizon. Continue reading

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