Socrates & the Pope: Overheard at the IMF’s Spring Meetings


By IMFdirect editors

Socrates’ famous method to develop his students’ intellect was to question them relentlessly in an unending search for contradictions and the truth—or at the very least, a great quote.

The method was alive and well among the moderators, panelists and audiences of the IMF’s Spring Meetings seminars that took place alongside official discussions, where boosting high-quality growth, with a focus on the medium term, was at the top of the agenda.  Our editors fanned out and found a couple of big themes kept coming up.  Here are some of the highlights.

Monetary policy 

Lots of people are talking about what happens when the flood of easy money into emerging markets thanks to low interest rates in advanced economies like the United States slows even more than it has in the past year.

At a seminar on fiscal policy the discussion focused on the challenges facing policymakers as central banks slowly exit from unconventional monetary policy and interest rates begin rising.

A live poll of the audience found 63 percent said the global economy remains weak and unconventional monetary policies should remain in place.

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Arab Economic Transformation Amid Political Transitions


Masood Ahmed #2By Masood Ahmed

(version in عربي)

The International Monetary Fund released today a new paper entitled “Toward New Horizons—Arab Economic Transformation amid Political Transitions.”

The paper makes the case for the urgency of launching economic policy reforms, beyond short-term macroeconomic management, to support economic stability and stronger, job-creating economic growth in the Arab Countries in Transition—Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen.

These countries face the risk of stagnation if reforms are delayed further.Economic conditions have deteriorated from transition-related disruptions, regional conflict, an unclear political outlook, eroding competitiveness, and a challenging external economic environment.

As economic realities fall behind peoples’ expectations, there is a risk of increased discontent. This could further complicate the political transitions, impairing governments’ mandates and planning horizons and, consequently, their ability to implement the policies necessary to catalyze the much-needed economic improvements.

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As Demand Improves, Time to Focus More on Supply


2010 WEO BLANCHARD By Olivier Blanchard

(Version in  FrançaisEspañol, Русский, عربي中文  and 日本語)

The dynamics that were emerging at the time of the October 2013 World Economic Outlook are becoming more visible. Put simply, the recovery is strengthening.

In our recent World Economic Outlook, we forecast world growth to be 3.6 percent this year and 3.9 percent next year, up from 3.0 percent last year.

In advanced economies, we forecast growth to reach 2.2 percent in 2014, up from 1.3 percent in 2013.

The recovery which was starting to take hold in October is becoming not only stronger, but also broader.  The various brakes that hampered growth are being slowly loosened.   Fiscal consolidation is slowing, and investors are less worried about debt sustainability. Banks are gradually becoming stronger. Although we are far short of a full recovery, the normalization of monetary policy—both conventional and unconventional—is now on the agenda.

Brakes are loosened at different paces however, and the recovery remains uneven.

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If China Sneezes, Africa Can Now Catch a Cold


By Paulo Drummond and Estelle Xue Liu

(Version in  中文)

Growing links with China have supported economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. But the burgeoning commercial and financial ties between the developing subcontinent and the world’s second-biggest economy carry risks as well. These links also expose sub-Saharan African countries to potentially negative spillovers from China if the Asian giant’s growth slows or the composition of its demand changes.

The old aphorism “If America sneezes, the world catches a cold” referred to the U.S. economy’s role as a locomotive for the global economy, but it can now apply to any symbiotic relationship between a dominant economy and its clients. China has become a major development partner of sub-Saharan Africa. It is now the subcontinent’s largest single trading partner and a key investor and provider of aid.

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Mali – At the Dawn of a New Year


MD's Updated HeadshotBy Christine Lagarde

(Version in Français)

My second stop on this trip to Africa, after Kenya, was Mali—a country that is facing an extraordinarily difficult transition: from restoring political stability to securing economic stability—from crisis to recovery.

Having gone through massive turmoil in 2012, Mali is emerging successfully, thanks to the perseverance and fortitude of its people. Parliamentary and presidential elections have been held, and the newly elected government has put forth a new economic program aimed at increasing growth and reducing poverty.

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A New Frontier for Kenya and Africa


MD's Updated Headshot By Christine Lagarde

For yet a third year I have kept my tradition of starting the New Year with a visit to Sub-Saharan Africa—a region that truly offers great promise! As the world economy has remained focused on the crisis of the advanced economies, Africa has quietly forged ahead with strong growth led by a vibrant private sector and surging foreign investment. Over the past decade Sub-Saharan Africa has posted growth averaging 5.6 percent a year.

The countries of East Africa have done especially well. So what better place to begin my travels this year than in Kenya, which has emerged as one of the region’s “frontier economies”—countries whose recent performance is propelling them toward middle-income status.

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Africa’s Success: More Than A Resource Story


Antoinette SayehBy Antoinette M. Sayeh

When meeting with people outside Africa, I’m often asked whether Africa’s growth takeoff since the mid-1990s has been simply a “commodity story”—a ride fueled by windfall gains from high commodity prices. But finance ministers and other policymakers in the region, and I was one of them, know that the story is richer than that.

In this spirit, in our latest Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa a team of economists from the IMF’s African Department show that Africa’s continued success is more than a commodity story.  In fact, quite a few economies in the region have become high performers without basing their success on natural resources—thanks in no small part to sound policymaking.

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Global Outlook—Still Three Speeds, But Slower


2010 WEO BLANCHARD By Olivier Blanchard

Today we released our update of the World Economic Outlook.

The world economy remains in 3-speed mode.  Emerging markets are still growing rapidly.  The US recovery is steady.  And much of Europe continues to struggle. 

There is however a twist to the story.   Growth almost everywhere is a bit weaker than we forecast in April, and the downward revision is particularly noticeable in emerging markets.  After years of strong growth, the BRICS in particular are beginning to run into speed bumps.  This means that the focus of policies will increasingly need to turn to boosting potential output growth or, in the case of China, to achieving more sustainable and balanced growth.

What the Numbers Show

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Africa: Second Fastest-Growing Region in the World


Antoinette SayehBy Antoinette M. Sayeh 

Sub-Saharan Africa is the second fastest-growing region of the world today, trailing only developing Asia.  This is remarkable compared to the current complicated state of the global economy, with Europe still struggling and the United States slowly on the mend.

In 2012, Sub-Saharan Africa maintained solid growth, with output growth at 5 percent on average. The factors that have supported the region through the Great Recession—strong investment, favorable commodity prices, and generally prudent macroeconomic management—continued to be at play.

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Time for Change—Shifting Energy Spending in Africa


Antoinette SayehBy Antoinette M. Sayeh

(Versions in 中文, Français, 日本語, Русский, and Español)

For many years, countries in sub-Saharan Africa have spent large amounts on subsidizing fuel and electricity. For both sources of energy combined, this averages around 3-4 percent of GDP. That’s about the same magnitude as public spending on health in many countries. Now we need to ask some important questions. Is this a good use of scarce resources?  Where does this money go? Is it helping to support the livelihood of the poorest in African economies?  Is it helping to boost the country’s competitiveness? The answers are largely, no. I believe this money can and must be used better to invest in the critical physical and social infrastructure required to sustain growth in sub-Saharan Africa. A recent IMF paper backs this up.

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