Asia’s Seismic Shift: How Can the Financial Sector Serve Better?


Min ZhuBy Min Zhu

(Versions in  中文Español)

Asia is set to be the powerhouse for growth in the next decade, just as it was in the last one. The size of its economy is expected to expand more rapidly than the other regions of the world, and its share in the world output is expected to rise from 30 percent to more than 40 percent in the coming decade. The structure of the economy is expected to continue to transform from a narrower manufacturing hub to a group of vibrant, diverse and large markets with a rising middle-class population.

The role of the financial sector is critical in the success of this seismic transformation. Let me explain by focusing on three areas:

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How Low-Income Countries Can Diversify and Grow


By Chris Papageorgiou, Lisa Kolovich, and Sean Nolan 

(Version in Español)

Low-income countries have spent a lot of time thinking about how they can achieve faster growth, and we have done some research to help them. We found that pursuing export diversification is a gateway to higher growth for these economies. Using a newly constructed diversification toolkit, our empirical analysis shows that both the range and quality of the goods a country produces has a direct impact on growth 

Country trends 

Low-income countries have historically depended on a narrow range of primary products and few export markets for the bulk of their export earnings.

But export diversification is associated with higher per capita incomes, lower output volatility, and higher economic stability—relationships that can be tracked using our new publically available  dataset, which gives researchers and policymakers access to measures of export diversification and product quality for 178 countries from 1962-2010.

We have looked at two measures of export diversification and their impact on economic growth.  One measure captures diversification into new product lines, the other development of a more balanced mix of existing products.  Analysis using these measures shows that export diversification in low-income countries is indeed among the most effective drivers of economic growth.

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The New Frontier: Economies on the Rise


Min ZhuBy Min Zhu

(Version in 中文,FrançaisPortuguês, and Español)

There is a group of fast-growing low-income countries that are attracting international investor interest—frontier economies. Understanding who they are, how they are different, and how they have moved themselves to the frontier matters for the global economy because they combine huge potential with big risks. 

Get to know them  

The first thing to note is that some of these countries already have moved to the lower-middle income group. While a working definition of frontier economies is subject to further discussion, broadly speaking, these countries have been deepening their financial markets, such as Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, and Vietnam.

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When You Move, I Move: Increasing Synchronization Among Asia’s Economies


Romain DuvalBy Romain Duval

(Version in 中文, and 日本語)

In recent decades, trade integration within Asia has increased more than in other regions. In valued-added terms, intraregional trade grew on average by over 10 percent a year from 1990 to 2012, twice the pace seen outside of Asia. Likewise, financial integration within the region has started to catch up, although it still lags behind trade integration. Concomitantly, business cycles in Asia have become steadily more synchronized over the past two decades, with the correlation between ASEAN economies’ growth rates almost reaching the very high levels seen within the Euro Area.

As outlined in the IMF Asia and Pacific Department’s latest Regional Economic Outlook, these facts are related. Namely, increases in trade and financial integration have strengthened the propagation of growth shocks between regional partners, leading Asian economies to move more in lockstep. One driver of this synchronization of business cycles has been the increase in size and connectedness of China’s economy. Looking ahead, we expect regional integration agenda and a bigger China to further increase spillovers and growth co-movement across the region. Greater international cooperation, particularly regional and global financial safety nets, can help countries respond to the associated risk of more synchronized, sharper downturns, and thereby help Asia make the most of greater regional integration.

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Reducing Risks in Asia with Macroprudential Policies


Edda ZoliBy Edda Zoli

(Version in 中文, and 日本語)

Booming real estate markets, rapid credit growth and—at least before the Fed’s tapering announcement last year—sustained capital inflows have raised financial stability challenges across many parts of Asia. To address them, policymakers have increasingly made use of macroprudential policies that address the stability of the financial system as a whole rather than that of individual institutions. In some cases they have also resorted to capital flow management measures to counter large capital inflows.

As new analysis in the IMF Asia and Pacific Department’s latest Regional Economic Outlook finds, macroprudential policies, especially measures related to the housing market, have helped mitigate the buildup of financial risks in Asia. In the event of sharp decreases in credit and asset prices going forward, however, it may become useful to ease certain of these measures to avoid excessive deleveraging.

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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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Public Finances Are on the Mend, but No Clean Bill of Health


By Sanjeev Gupta and Martine Guerguil

(Version in Español FrançaisРусский中文, and 日本語)

We’ve had a spate of good news on the economic front recently. Does this mean that we are finally out of the fiscal woods? According to our most recent Fiscal Monitor report, not yet, as public debt remains high and the recovery uneven.

First, the good news. The average deficit in advanced economies has halved since the 2009 peak. The average debt ratio is stabilizing. Growth is strengthening in the United States and making a comeback in the euro area, and should benefit from the slower pace of consolidation this year. Emerging markets and developing countries have maintained their resilience, in part thanks to the policy buffers accumulated in the pre-crisis period. Talks of tapering in the United States have left a few of them shaken, but not (quite) stirred.

But there is still some way to go. The average debt ratio in advanced economies, although edging down, sits at historic peaks, and we project it will still remain above 100 percent of GDP by 2019 (Chart 1). The recovery is still vulnerable to several downside risks, including those stemming from the lack of clear policy plans in some major economies. The recent bouts of financial turmoil have raised concerns that the anticipated tightening of global liquidity could expose emerging markets and low-income countries to shifts in investor sentiment and more demanding debt dynamics.

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