Capital Flows to Asia Revisited: Monetary Policy Options


By Anoop Singh

Capital flows into emerging Asia should be high on the ‘watch list’ for policymakers in the region. But, perhaps, not in the way we had previously anticipated.

Twelve months ago our policy antennae were keenly attuned to the risks posed by the foreign capital that flooded into Asia from mid-2009 onwards. What was remarkable about this was the speed of the rebound after the massive drop during the global financial crisis. Within just 5 quarters, net inflows rose from their early 2009 trough to their mid-2010 peak—a mere one-fifth of the time that typically elapsed between troughs and peaks in the cycle of capital flows during the pre-Asian crisis period.

Another twelve months on, what we’re seeing is not really all that “exceptional”—a point often overlooked in the current debate on capital inflows to emerging markets. Continue reading

Listening to and Learning from Asia


By Dominique Strauss-Kahn

(Version in 中文,  日本語 and 한국어)

In Daejeon, Korea earlier this week, a remarkable event took place that enabled the world to hear the voice of Asia and to learn how the region has been able to show such great resilience in the face of the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s. On July 12 and 13, more than 1,000 officials, economists, bankers, analysts, and media assembled for a conference titled Asia 21: Leading the Way Forward, hosted by the Korean government and the IMF. I personally learned a great deal about Asia’s growing stake in the global economy—and the global economy’s growing stake in Asia. As the world strives to leave the crisis behind, the economic center of gravity is shifting increasingly eastwards, and Asia’s role is more vital than ever before.

Our objectives with this conference, jointly organized with the superb help of our Korean partners, were three-fold:  Continue reading

Asia’s Corporate Saving Mystery


By Anoop Singh

As Asia starts down the path to recovery, it is going to have to tackle two issues which are constraining its long-term growth potential: firms that save but do not invest and wealthy households that are reluctant to consume.

At first glance, such behavior seems inexplicable and counter-intuitive.  Let’s imagine for a moment you are an investor—you may well be— you put quite a bit of money into a company to back its expansion plans. Initially, these plans prove successful, and the company makes quite a bit of money. But then the firm ran out of investment ideas. What would you expect them to do?

Surely, you would expect them to return the money you provided, for example by paying it out as dividends. But in the past, prosperous decade before the current downturn this hasn’t been happening in emerging Asia. Firms have been sitting on their profits, not investing them, but not paying them out in dividends, either. That is a puzzle, and a problem.

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Debating the IMF with Students


By Caroline Atkinson

In town for the Annual Meetings, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, our Managing Director, paid a visit to Bilgi University in the heart of Istanbul. He spoke to a gathering of students about the role of the IMF in the current crisis, and took some of their questions. 

The Managing Director likened the IMF to an “economic Red Cross” because its goal is to help solve a country’s economic problems while avoiding social unrest and war. He noted that the relationship between peace and economic stability was well understood by the people who founded the IMF in 1944, in the aftermath of the Great Depression and the second world war. 

Continuing with the medical analogy, he pointed out that countries only need IMF resources when they are “sick”—when they face serious balance of payments problems requiring policy adjustment. If you go to the doctor with a liver problem, he mused, the doctor will treat you, yes, but will also insist that you stop drinking. So policy conditions are necessary. Still, the Managing Director admitted, the medicine had sometimes been too bitter in the past. The IMF had developed a “harsh image”—not paying enough attention to local circumstances, political realities, or social consequences. It was seen as more of a policeman than a doctor. 

Strauss-Kahn at Bilgi University: IMF is like an “economic Red Cross” because its goal is to help solve a country’s economic problems while avoiding social unrest and war (photo: Stephen Jaffe/IMF)

Strauss-Kahn at Bilgi University: IMF is like an “economic Red Cross” because its goal is to help solve a country’s economic problems while avoiding social unrest and war (photo: Stephen Jaffe/IMF)

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