Spring Meetings Redux!


DSC_7906By Sabina Bhatia

Washington is at its best in the spring. Green shoots pop out, daffodils and magnolias are in full bloom and the cherry blossoms cast a pink halo over the city. After a long, cold winter, there is hope everywhere.

And so it was with the 2015 Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank. Hope was in the air—would the global economy avoid the “new mediocre” from becoming the “new reality?” Would Greece reach agreement with its creditors? Would there be progress on IMF governance reform?

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Tolstoy & Billionaires: Overheard at the IMF’s Spring Meetings


By iMFdirect editors

All happy countries are alike; each unhappy country is unhappy in its own way.

This twist on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina echoed through the seminars during the IMF’s Spring Meetings as most countries, while recovering, are struggling with the prospect of lower potential growth and the “new mediocre” becoming a “new reality.”

Our editors fanned out to cover what officials and civil society had to say about how to help countries pave their own path to happiness.

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Northern Spring, Southern Chills: Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean


Alejandro WernerBy Alejandro Werner

(Version in Español and Português)

Economic activity in Latin America and the Caribbean has been cooling down for several years, and the temperature in many places is still falling. Regional growth is now expected to dip below 1 percent in 2015—down from 1.3 percent in 2014. Apart from a short-lived recession during the global financial crisis, this would be the slowest rate of growth since 2002.

However, growth dynamics vary across the region, broadly along North-South lines. While spring may be in the air for Mexico, Central America, and parts of the Caribbean, the economic climate remains decidedly chilly in much of South America. What is behind these divergent prospects, and how can a sunnier outlook be restored to the entire region?

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Four Forces Facing the Global Economy


WEOBy Olivier Blanchard 

(Versions in عربي and Español)

In our April 2015 World Economic Outlook, we forecast global growth to be roughly the same this year than last year, 3.5% versus 3.4%.   This global number reflects an increase in growth in advanced economies, 2.4% versus 1.8%, offset by a decrease in growth in emerging market and developing economies, 4.3% versus 4.6% last year.   In short, to repeat the words used by the IMF Managing Director last week, we see growth as “moderate and uneven”.

Behind these numbers lies an unusually complex set of forces shaping the world economy.  Some, such as the decline in the price of oil and the evolution of exchange rates, are highly visible.  Some, from crisis legacies to lower potential growth, play more of a role behind the scene but are important nevertheless.  Let me briefly review them.

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Growth Dividend from Stabilizing Fiscal Policies


Xavier DebrunBy Xavier Debrun 

(Versions in عربي中文, FrançaisРусский日本語and Español)

Anyone can easily picture an economy where instability, stagnation and runaway government deficits converge into a perfect storm. Yet the simple mirror image of stability, growth, and balanced budgets currently seems odd to many. And with monetary policy looking breathless, some even wonder whether sacrificing fiscal sanity for short-term growth might not be worth a try.

In any economic debate, looking at the data is always a good starting point. And the latest issue of the Fiscal Monitor does exactly that. Our study looks at the experience with fiscal stabilization during the past three decades in a broad sample of 85 advanced, emerging market, and developing economies. The message is loud and clear: governments can use fiscal policy to smooth fluctuations in economic activity, and this can lead to higher medium-term growth. This essentially means governments need to save in good times so that they can use the budget to stabilize output in bad times. In advanced economies, making fiscal policies more stabilizing could cut output volatility by about 15 percent, with a growth dividend of about 0.3 percentage point annually.

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No Puzzle About Weak Business Investment: It’s the Economy!


By Aqib Aslam, Daniel Leigh, and Seok Gil Park

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

The debate continues on why businesses aren’t investing more in machinery, equipment and plants. In advanced economies, business investment—the largest component of private investment—has contracted much more since the global financial crisis than after previous recession. And there are worrying signs that this has eroded long-term economic growth.

Getting the diagnosis right is critical for devising policies to encourage firms to invest more. If low investment is merely a symptom of a weak economic environment, with firms responding to weak sales, then calls for expanding overall economic activity could be justified. If, on the other hand, special impediments are mainly to blame, such as policy uncertainty or financial sector weaknesses, as some suggest, then these must be removed before investment can rise.

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The Promise of Islamic Finance: Further Inclusion with Stability


By Mohamed Norat, Marco Pinon and Zeine Zeidane

(Versions in عربي)

Since the global financial crisis, policymakers have sought to press the “reset” button to strengthen financial intermediation that is performed by conventional banks and non-bank financial institutions. The aim has been to address the fault lines that helped trigger one of the most devastating financial crises in a century, and to enable a more inclusive, stable financial system that promotes stability as well as economic development and growth.

Islamic finance offers several features that are consistent with these objectives. Islamic finance refers to financial services that conform with Islamic jurisprudence, or Shari’ah, which bans interest, speculation, gambling and short-sales; requires fair treatment; and institutes sanctity of contracts. And these principles hold the promise of supporting financial stability, since a key tenet of Islamic finance is that lenders should share in both the risks and rewards of the projects and loans they finance. 

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