Oil Prices and Public Finances: A Double-Edged Sword

By Benedict Clements and Marta Ruiz-Arranz 

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

Plunging oil prices have taken the public finances on an exciting ride the past six months. Oil prices have fallen about 45 percent since September (see April 2015 World Economic Outlook), putting a big dent in the revenues of oil exporters, while providing oil importers an unexpected windfall.  How has the decline in oil prices affected the public finances, and how should oil importers and exporters adjust to this new state of affairs?

In the April 2015 Fiscal Monitor, we argue that the oil price decline provides a golden opportunity to initiate serious energy subsidy and taxation reforms that would lock in savings, improve the public finances and boost long-term economic growth.

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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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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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Fair Play—Equal Laws for Equal Working Opportunity for Women

2014MDNEW_04By Christine Lagarde 

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

Leveling the legal playing field for women holds real promise for the world—in both human and economic terms. Unfortunately, that promise remains largely ignored and its potential untapped. In too many countries, too many legal restrictions conspire against women to be economically active—to work.

What can be done to remove these barriers?  A new study done by IMF economists seeks to answer that question.

The bottom line? It’s about a fair, level playing field.

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How Can Egypt Achieve Economic Stability and Better Living Standards Together?

Chris JarvisBy Christopher Jarvis

(Version in عربي)

Egypt currently faces what may seem to be conflicting objectives. On the one hand, there’s an urgent need to restore economic stability—by achieving lower budget deficits, public debt and inflation, and adequate foreign exchange reserves. At the same time, there’s a long-standing need to achieve better standards of living—with more jobs, less poverty, and better health and education systems—one of the key reasons why people took to the streets in 2011.

Some might think that those two goals don’t go together—that the actions needed to reduce the budget and external deficits will necessarily take away from jobs and growth. But that’s not true. Some of the same policies that will improve Egypt’s financial situation can also help improve living standards.

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Learning to Live with Cheaper Oil in the Middle East

masood-ahmedBy Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي)

The steep decline in global oil prices, by 55 percent since last September, has changed the economic dynamics of oil exporters in the Middle East and North Africa. Our update of the Regional Economic Outlook, released yesterday, shows that these countries are now faced with large export and government revenue losses, which are expected to reach about $300 billion (21 percent of GDP) in the Gulf Cooperation Council and about $90 billion (10 percent of GDP) in other oil-exporting countries.

Where prices will eventually settle is, of course, uncertain, making it hard for policymakers to gauge how much of the bane is temporary in nature and what share of it they should expect to last.

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The Top Ten Blogs of 2014

by iMFdirect

As 2014 draws to a close, we thought you might like a look back at the most read blogs of the year.  These are the headlines and ideas that caught your eyes and the list is based on readership.  We thought we’d pull them all together for you in one quick read.

Wishing you a wonky & worldy 2015 from all of us at iMFdirect.

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