Can Policymakers Stem Rising Income Inequality?


By David Coady and Sanjeev Gupta

The issue of rising income inequality is now at the forefront of public debate. There is growing concern as to the economic and social consequences of the steady, and often sharp, increase in the share of income captured by higher income groups.

While much of the discussion focuses on the factors driving the rise in inequality—including globalization, labor market reforms, and technological changes that favor higher-skilled workers—a more pressing issue is what can be done about it.

In our recent study we find that public spending and taxation policies have had, and are likely to continue to have, a crucial impact on income inequality in both advanced and developing economies.

In advanced economies, this is especially important given that the ongoing fiscal adjustment needs to be continued for many years to reduce public debt to sustainable levels. But it is equally important in developing economies where inequality is relatively high.

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Global Crisis — Top Links from the IMF for Economics and Finance


Our top links for June, 2012 from iMFdirect blog and others:

Paying the Price for the Future We Want


By Min Zhu

Putting an accurate price on pollution is something the world has been struggling with now for decades. Getting prices to reflect environmental damage will help slow pollution by encouraging people and firms to change their behavior and shift away from activities and products that pollute the planet. Paying true prices is something we need to do if we want to keep economic development on an environmentally sustainable track.

Behind the concept of sustainable development lies a bold vision of the future, or “The Future We Want,” as Ban Ki-Moon puts it. It is about the vitality of our global economy, the harmony of our global society, the nurturing of our global inheritance.

It is about laying the foundation so that every single person can flourish and reach their true potential.

Eyes on Rio

This week the world is looking to Rio de Janeiro as those of us gathered there for the Rio+20, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development affirm our commitment to sustainable development—the idea that we should strive for economic growth, environmental protection, and social progress at the same time.

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Latin America: Riding the Global Financial Waves


By Gustavo Adler and Camilo E. Tovar

(Version in Español)

Latin America has a long history of accidents that have occurred while navigating turbulent financial international waters. With risks looming over the world economy, should the region worry about new global financial waves?

Global financial markets have seen frequent bouts of severe stress since 2008, although this isn’t really anything new for the region. Global financial shocks have occurred on average every 2½ years since 1990, with significant effects on Latin America.

But how costly are these shocks in terms of domestic output, and is Latin America better placed to cope with them this time?

In Chapter 3 of the IMF’s latest Regional Economic Outlook: Western Hemisphere, we analyze whether changes in underlying fundamentals have made the region more or less vulnerable over time. The analysis, which complements our work on the effects of terms-of-trade shocks, looks at what country features and policies make a difference. We focus here solely on the impact of the financial shocks by isolating the effect from commodity prices and global demand shocks.

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Lost & Found in Eastern Europe: Replacing Funding by Western Europe’s Banks


By Bas Bakker and Christoph Klingen

With Western Europe’s banks under pressure, where does this leave Europe’s emerging economies and their financial systems that are dominated by subsidiaries of these very same banks?  There is little doubt that the era of generous parent-funding for subsidiaries is over.  But parent bank deleveraging—selling off assets, raising capital, and reducing loans, including to their subsidiaries—need not translate into a reduction of bank credit in emerging Europe.

A credit crunch can be avoided as long as parent banks reduce exposures gradually and domestic deposits, other banks, and local financial markets fill the void. Policymakers should create the conditions for this to happen.

The ties that bind

The dependence of the banking systems in emerging Europe on Western European banks is well known:

  • Ownership— foreign banks control more than half of the banking systems in most of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Their share exceeds 80 percent in Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Romania, and Slovakia. Only in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Slovenia, and Turkey do they not dominate.

Lessons from Latvia


By Olivier Blanchard

In 2008, Latvia was widely seen as an economic “basket case,” a textbook example of a boom turned to bust.

From 2005 to 2007, average annual growth had exceeded 10%, the current account deficit had increased to more than 20% of GDP.  By early 2008 however, the boom had come to an end, and, by the end of 2008, output was down by 10% from its peak, the fiscal deficit was shooting up, capital was leaving the country, and reserves were rapidly decreasing.

The treatment seemed straightforward: a sharp nominal depreciation, together with a steady fiscal consolidation.  The Latvian government however, wanted to keep its currency peg, partly because of a commitment to eventually enter the euro, partly because of the fear of immediate balance sheet effects of devaluation on domestic loans, 90% of them denominated in euros.  And it believed that credibility required strong frontloading of the fiscal adjustment.

Painful adjustment

Many, including me, believed that keeping the peg was likely to be a recipe for disaster, for a long and painful adjustment at best, or more likely, the eventual abandonment of the peg when failure became obvious.

Nevertheless, given the strong commitment of both Latvia and its European Union partners, the IMF went ahead with a program which kept the peg and included a strongly front-loaded fiscal adjustment.

Four years later, Latvia has one of the highest growth rates in Europe, the peg has held, and the fiscal and current accounts are close to balance.

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Imagining If Key Foreign Banks Start Reducing Their Exposure in Asia


By Anoop Singh

European banks play an important role in supplying credit to several Asian economies. What happens if they start reducing their exposure to the region?

The largest borrowers from European banks are Australia, Hong Kong SAR, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan Province of China, while China, India, and the economies of South East Asia generally have smaller liabilities.

Among European banks, those from the United Kingdom have a particularly significant presence in Asia. For most regional economies, the nonbank private sector—businesses and households—is the main recipient of credit from foreign banks as a whole.

Prominent role

European banks play a prominent role in the areas of trade credit and specialized project financing. In several Asian economies, however, lending by local subsidiaries and branches is funded primarily by local deposits, reducing potential deleveraging pressures.

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