Building Bridges To The Future In The Gulf


Christine LagardeBy Christine Lagarde

(Versions in عربي)

Two days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Kuwait, a member country of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It was a whirlwind visit, with many places to see and people to meet, in a thriving corner of the global economy. Kuwait has extended to me its emblematic tradition of hospitality— a testament to its ancient and noble culture. I was awed by the magnificent artifacts of the al-Sabah collection, which I saw in the beautifully restored Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah cultural center.

Back to economics. The member countries of the council—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—have some of world’s highest living standards. The region has also become a major destination for foreign workers and a source of remittances for their families back home. And it is a financial center and a hub for international trade and business services.

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Once And For All—Why Capital Levies Are Not The Answer


Mick Keen By Michael Keen

(Version in EspañolFrançais and  中文)

Holy grail

Last night, when you went to bed, you left $40 on the kitchen table. When you woke up this morning, you found only $30—and a note from the government saying, “Thank you very much, we took $10 as a tax payment.” This is, of course, extremely irritating. To an economist, however, it’s close to an ideal form of taxation, since there is nothing you can now do to reduce, avoid, or evade it—the holy grail of what economists call a non-distorting tax.

(This doesn’t mean that you won’t react in some way. Being worse off, you may now work a bit more, or save a bit less. But any other tax raising $1 would make you even worse off, because it would change relative prices (a tax on your earnings would make working less attractive, for instance), and so take your choices even further from those you would make in the absence of taxation.)

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The IMF Annual Research Conference: Economics of Crises―Past Experiences and Present Travails


2010 WEO BLANCHARD By Olivier Blanchard

Several years out from the global financial crisis, the world economy is still confronting its painful legacies. Many countries are suffering from lackluster recoveries coupled with high and persistent unemployment. Policymakers are tackling the costs stemming from the crisis, managing the transition from crisis-era policies, and trying to adapt to the associated cross-border spillovers.

Against this background, the IMF’s 14th Jacques Polak Annual Research Conference, entitled  “Crises: Yesterday and Today,”  to take place on November 7-8, will take stock of our understanding of past and present crises.

This year’s conference will be a special one as we shall honor Stanley Fischer’s many contributions to economic research and policy. Stan has extensively studied economic and financial crises, first as a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then as a policymaker with many hats over the years―the Chief Economist of the World Bank, the First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, and the Governor of the Bank of Israel.

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China’s Growth: Why Less is More


Steve BarnettBy Steven Barnett

(Version in 中文)

Less growth in China today will mean higher income in the future. So rather than worry, we should welcome the slowdown in China’s economy. Why? Because by favoring structural reforms over short-term stimulus, China’s leadership is illustrating their commitment to move to a more balanced and sustainable growth model.

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A Wish List for China’s Third Plenum


ASinghBy Anoop Singh

(Versions in 中文 and Español)

Hard landing, soft landing, no landing, overheating. Pundits’ views on China’s economy bounce around—often rapidly—between these descriptions.

Just two short months ago, the dominant concern was about a sharp slowdown, below this year’s official growth target of 7½ percent. Now, these fears have retreated, pushed aside by talk of renewed momentum.

Our sense, here at the International Monetary Fund, has always been that economic growth will slightly surpass this year’s official target. But we have also cautioned that China’s economic challenges are growing, and that accelerating reform is critical for containing risks and achieving a smooth transition to sustainable growth.

The upcoming Third Plenum provides an opportunity for the new leadership to provide guidance on how they plan to meet these challenges.

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Japan’s Abenomics: Time to Take Stock


ASinghBy Anoop Singh

Almost one year ago, the term Abenomics first surfaced in Japan. The idea of a coordinated policy effort to revive Japan’s economy and end deflation seemed a bold idea, but also a long-shot. Back in February, several young investment bankers told me that ending deflation within the next few years stood at most, a 20 percent chance.  They noted that they had never experienced rising prices in their lifetimes. By June they had upped the chances of success to 40 percent. With Abenomics approaching the one-year mark, is the new strategy working?

Lot of policy action

The year started with a flurry of new policy initiatives: in January, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) adopted a 2 percent inflation target, followed by new fiscal stimulus, and a decision to join  negotiations over the  Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposal for a free trade agreement spanning countries from Australia, Brunei, to Chile, Canada, and the U.S.  Shortly after,  Haruhiko Kuroda took the helm at the Bank of Japan and introduced  Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing—an aggressive plan to reach 2 percent inflation in about 2 years mainly through large-scale bond purchases. Just, a few days ago, the government agreed to go ahead with the consumption tax increase in 2014 and announced further fiscal stimulus to soften the growth impact. Discussions on growth reforms are next on the agenda, with a special Diet session starting this month. Plenty of action, but has this whirlwind of activity paid off?
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Cloudy With a Chance of Rain—Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean


Alejandro WernerBy Alejandro Werner

(Version in Español & Português)

For many Latin American and Caribbean economies, clouds have appeared on the economic horizon. As the global growth momentum shifts from the emerging to the advanced economies, the strength of domestic economic policies will be crucial for how countries can cope with the combination of lower commodity prices and tighter external financing conditions.

Lower commodity prices have already started to affect the region’s commodity exporters. Even though prices remain high by historical standards, countries can no longer count on the tailwind from ever-improving terms of trade, which had propelled economic activity over the past decade.

Meanwhile, longer-term U.S. interest rates have started to rise, with knock-on effects for emerging markets. Across all of the financially integrated economies of Latin America, bond yields have increased, equity prices have fallen, and currencies have depreciated since May, when the U.S. Fed first mentioned the possibility of tapering its bond purchases later this year. Financial conditions remain fairly benign for now, but the strong tailwind from ultra-low external financing costs may also be gone for good.

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Europe’s Choice: Risk Stagnation or Pursue Integration


Shafik 3By Nemat Shafik

Europe faces a stark choice: risk stagnation or pursue integration. It can continue to muddle through, and hope that growth in the world economy will eventually pick up enough steam to pull its economy out of the doldrums. Or it can make a decisive push to revitalize its economy and complete the reforms needed to achieve a fully integrated economic and monetary union

Five years into the crisis, recovery in the euro area remains fragile. Important actions at both the national and euro-wide levels have tackled the immediate threats to the single currency. These include the European Central Bank’s announcement in 2012 that it stands ready to undertake outright monetary transactions in secondary sovereign bond markets, the completion of the European Stability Mechanism, which created a financial firewall around the euro area, and efforts to restore the health of public finances and implement structural reforms.

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Still Some Hurdles On The Fiscal Path


Martine GuerguilBy Martine Guerguil

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

Five years into the crisis, the fiscal landscape remains challenging. On the positive side, deficit-cutting efforts and the first signs of recovery reduced the fiscal stress felt in many advanced economies; but debt ratios often remain at historical peaks. At the same time, slowing growth and rising borrowing costs, combined with unabated demands for improved public services, puts pressure on government budgets in emerging market economies.

So we created  an index of ‘fiscal difficulty’ that shows the biggest challenge ahead for advanced economies is to maintain budget surpluses until debt ratios return to lower levels.  We expect this will take several years.

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Advanced Economies Strengthening, Emerging Market Economies Weakening


WEOBy Olivier Blanchard

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

The issue probably foremost on everyone’s mind, is the fiscal situation in the United States, and its potential implications.

While the focus is on the shutdown and the debt ceiling,  we should not forget the sequester, which is leading to a fiscal consolidation this year which is both too large and too arbitrary. The shutdown is yet another bad outcome, although one which, if it does not last very long, has limited economic consequences.  

Failure to lift the debt ceiling would, however, be a game changer.  Prolonged failure would lead to an extreme fiscal consolidation, and surely derail the U.S. recovery. But the effects of any failure to repay the debt would be felt right away, leading to potentially major disruptions in financial markets, both in the U.S. and abroad.   We see this as a tail risk, with low probability, but, were it to happen, it would have major consequences.

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