Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: How to Design Policies that Work


Oppers_desk_portraitBy Erik Oppers

What’s up with weak credit? Five years into the economic crisis credit is still barely growing, and even declining in many advanced economies. Weak credit growth is a major factor holding back the economic recovery and governments have tried every policy they can come up with to jumpstart credit. Still, banks don’t seem to want to lend. Or is it the corporate sector and households that can’t afford to borrow? Many feel these policies are not working. What are policymakers to do?

Our analysis in the most recent Global Financial Stability Report tries to shed light on all this darkness to help countries figure out how to make these policies work. It turns out there is no cookie-cutter solution: the problem differs from country to country and changes over time. For example, in a number of euro area countries, a lackluster demand for loans limited credit growth early in the crisis, but then banks became reluctant to supply more loans as the crisis in Europe intensified in 2012.

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Fixing the Financial Sector: A Change the UK Must Bank On


Krishna SrinivasanBy Krishna Srinivasan

The UK economy is a long way from a strong and durable recovery. Growth has been flat for more than two years now, per capita income is about 7 percent below its pre-crisis peak, unemployment is elevated at 7.8 percent, with youth unemployment alarmingly high at 21 percent, and credit to the economy remains severely constrained.

Recent data are, however, encouraging, and policies should capitalize on the nascent signs of recovery to secure strong growth and rebalance the economy.  Fixing the financial sector, including by addressing banks’ asset quality, is a pre-requisite for a durable UK recovery. See the IMF’s assessment of the UK economy.

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Banking on Reform: Can Volcker, Vickers and Liikanen Resolve the Too-Important-to-Fail Conundrum?


by José Viñals and Ceyla Pazarbasioglu

The global regulatory landscape governing banks has changed from its pre-crisis status quo.

In addition to the Group of Twenty advanced and emerging economies led global regulatory reforms, like Basel III, the United States and the United Kingdom have decided to directly impose limits on the scope of banks’ businesses. The European Union is contemplating a similar move.

We discussed these structural banking reforms a few weeks ago with officials from finance ministries, central banks, and supervisory authorities from around the world during the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings. The design and implementation of these measures will have implications for global financial stability and sustainable growth, so we wanted to bring people together for the first global debate of the issue with G20 and other countries.

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The Evolving Role of the Banking Systems in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe


moghadamBy Reza Moghadam

What has been the role of foreign banks in financing growth and convergence in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and how is that role changing? This is discussed in the first issue of a new series of analytical work on the region called Regional Economic Issues, which we launched at a joint IMF/Czech National Bank conference two weeks ago in Prague.

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Preventing The Next Catastrophe: Where Do We Stand?


David RomerGuest post by David Romer
University of California, Berkeley, and co-host of Rethinking Macro II: First Steps and Early Lessons

(Versions in 中文, 日本語, and Русский)

As I listened to the presentations and discussions, I found myself thinking about the conference from two perspectives. One is intellectual: Are we asking provocative questions? Are interesting ideas being proposed? Are we talking about important issues? By that standard, the conference was very successful: the discussion was extremely stimulating, and I learned a great deal.

The second perspective is practical: Where do we stand in terms of averting another financial and macroeconomic disaster? By that standard, unfortunately, I fear we are not doing nearly as well. As I will describe, my reading of the evidence is that the events of the past few years are not an aberration, but just the most extreme manifestation of a broader pattern. And the relatively modest changes of the type discussed at the conference, and that in some cases policymakers are putting into place, are helpful but unlikely to be enough to prevent future financial shocks from inflicting large economic harms.

Thus, I believe we should be asking whether there are deeper reforms that might have a large effect on the size of the shocks emanating from the financial sector, or on the ability of the economy to withstand those shocks. But there has been relatively little serious consideration of ideas for such reforms, not just at this conference but in the broader academic and policy communities.

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How To Make A Graceful Exit: The Potential Perils of Ending Extraordinary Central Bank Policies


Erik Oppers MCMBy Erik Oppers

This spring monetary policy is the talk of the town.  It is everywhere you look, it’s unique, and you’ve never seen anything quite like it before: short-term interest rates at zero for several years running, and central bank balance sheets swelling with government bonds and other assets in the euro area Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

But the meteoric rise of this once dusty topic can’t last.  The end of these unconventional monetary policies will come and may pose threats to financial stability because of the length and breadth of their unprecedented reign.  Policymakers should be alert to the risks and take gradual and predictable measures to address them.

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Time For A Spring Cleaning: The Global Economy Will Thank You


Jose Vinals

by José Viñals

Version in Español

It is still winter in the northern hemisphere, but there is never a bad time for spring cleaning. I suggest that policymakers de-clutter their to-do lists by focusing on three priorities.

These policies will help economies grow and will significantly improve financial and monetary stability in 2013 and beyond.

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The Ties That Bond Us: What Demand For Government Debt Can Tell Us About the Risks Ahead


by Serkan Arslanalp and Takahiro Tsuda

It’s not news that emerging markets can be vulnerable to bouts of market volatility. Investors often pull sudden stops—they stop buying or start selling off their holdings of government bonds.

But what has become apparent in recent years is that advanced economy government bond markets can also experience investor outflows, and associated runs. At the same time, some traditional and new safe haven countries have seen their borrowing costs drop to historic lows as they experience rising inflows from foreign investors.

Our new research shows that advanced economies’ exposure to refinancing risk and changes in government borrowing costs depend mainly on who is holding the bonds— the demand side for government debt.

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Time Not On Our Side: Tough Decisions Needed to Strengthen Financial Stability


By José Viñals

(Versions in  عربي中文EspañolFrançaisРусский日本語)

Recent policy actions in Europe, the United States, in emerging markets, and here in Japan, where I’m attending the IMF-World Bank annual meetings, have improved investor sentiment and helped markets rebound in recent months.

Yet our latest assessment is that confidence is still very fragile and risks have increased, when compared to the IMF’s last report in April. Policymakers need to do more to gain lasting stability.

The principal risk remains the euro area. The forces of financial and economic fragmentation have widened the divide between countries at the core and the “periphery” of the euro zone. Faltering confidence and policy uncertainty have led to a pullback of cross-border private capital flows from the periphery—quite an extraordinary phenomenon within a currency union.

This has driven up funding costs to governments and banks, as well as for companies and households, and, in turn, threatening a vicious downward economic spiral.

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Not Making the Grade: Report Card on Global Financial Reform


by Laura Kodres

Despite a host of reforms in the right direction, the financial structures that were in place before the global crisis have not actually changed that much, and they need to if the global financial system is to become a safer place.

Although the intentions of policymakers are clear and positive, the system remains precarious.

Our new study presents an interim report card on progress toward a safer financial system. Overall, there is still a long way to go.

How we measure progress

In our study, we first tried to pay attention to those features of financial systems related to the crisis—the large dominant, highly interconnected institutions, the heavy role of nonbanks, and the development of complex financial products for instance—features that need to be addressed in some way.

To do this we needed to construct measures of these features in a way that would allow us to gauge how well the reforms are working toward changing them. We looked at a lot of data, but we focus on three types of features.

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