The More the Merrier? What Happens When More People Use Financial Services

By Ratna Sahay, Martin Cihak, Papa N’Diaye, Adolfo Barajas, and Srobona Mitra

(Version in FrançaisEspañolعربي)

A growing number of policymakers see financial inclusion—greater access to financial services throughout a country’s population—as a way to promote and make economic development work for society. More than 60 countries have adopted national financial inclusion targets and strategies. Opening bank accounts for all in India and encouraging mobile payments platforms in Peru are just two examples. Evidence for individuals and firms suggests that greater access to financial services indeed makes a difference in investment, food security, health outcomes, and other aspects of daily life. Our study looks at the benefits to the economy as a whole.

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Metals and Oil: A Tale of Two Commodities

By Rabah Arezki and Akito Matsumoto

(Version in Español)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” With these words Charles Dickens opens his novel “A Tale of Two Cities”. Winners and losers in a “tale of two commodities” may one day look back with similar reflections, as prices of metals and oil have seen some seismic shifts in recent weeks, months and years.

This blog seeks to explain how demand — but also supply and financial market conditions — are affecting metals prices. We will show some contrast with oil, where supply is the major factor. Stay tuned for a deeper analysis of the trends in a special commodities feature, which will be included in next month’s World Economic Outlook.

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The Road to Lima: Paved with Blogs

By iMFdirect

This year’s IMF Annual Meetings are going on the road…to Lima, Peru.  All the big debates will focus on economics, finance, inequality, financial inclusion, emerging markets, commodities and many more.

Since you’ve been reading gossip magazines at the beach busy this summer, we thought you might like a handy refresher on some of our blogs in recent months about Latin America.

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Olivier Blanchard’s Greatest Hits

By iMFdirect

For a man who declared on his arrival at the IMF “I do not blog,” Olivier Blanchard, our soon-to-be former Chief Economist, is one hell of a blogger.

Prolific and popular. A demi-god: half economist, half artist.  Blanchard writes the way he thinks: sharp, frank, and intellectual, while pushing against the edges of his métier with the creativity and honesty of a singular economist.

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Under Pressure

Jeff Hayden altBy Jeff Hayden

Between 2004 and 2013, Latin America recorded impressive growth and strong progress on a range of social issues. High commodity prices combined with strengthened economic management and progressive social policies to propel the region forward.

This strength was all the more striking against the backdrop of the 2008–09 global financial crisis, which mired many advanced economies in recession but saw emerging markets, including many in Latin America, power ahead. This led some observers to dub the period the “Latin American decade.”

Now, as the world’s economic leaders prepare to gather in Lima, Peru, in October for the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the picture looks quite different.

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Foreign Help Wanted: Easing Japan’s Labor Shortages

By Giovanni Ganelli and Naoko Miake

(Version in 日本語)

Take a walk in Tokyo, and you will see the sign スタッフ募集中, or “Staff Wanted”, outside many restaurants and convenience stores. These businesses often find it impossible to recruit the workers they need. According to recent statistics, for each job seeker in Japan applying to work as a waiter, there are more than three available positions. Home helpers and long-term caregivers are equally in demand. If you want to work as a security guard, you can choose from around five openings, and for some positions in the construction business the job-to-applicant ratio is over six.

Japan’s labor shortages are the result of both a shrinking population—which limits the overall pool of workers—and skill mismatches. The reduced supply of labor is one of the factors bringing down medium-term potential growth, which the International Monetary Fund estimates at just 0.6 percent. Labor market shortages are also bad for short-term growth, because they reduce the effectiveness of the monetary and fiscal stimulus that the authorities are using to try to boost demand.

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Making Monetary Policy Decisions in the Dark

By Francesco Grigoli, Alexander Herman, Andrew Swiston, and Gabriel Di Bella

(Version in Español and Português)

In the wake of the global financial crisis, monetary and fiscal policies were used aggressively to counteract the effects of the crisis on economic activity. Policymakers look at a number of indicators to guide them in assessing an economy’s level of activity relative to its productive capacity. But trying to figure out the position of the economy in real time is often quite challenging, with consequences for setting policy.

In the case of Brazil in 2011, for example, policymakers estimated in real time that the economy was at a level of output consistent with its productive capacity. Over time, however, the assessment of the cyclical position of the Brazilian economy changed drastically. It had not just been at full capacity, but was overheating. The economy was actually facing inflationary pressures, requiring policy tightening to bring it back to the central bank’s target.

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