Euro Muscles in Brussels: Christine Lagarde on Greece


by iMFdirect

The head of the IMF Christine Lagarde was clear during her press conference in Brussels yesterday—European leaders’ deal to help Greece and the euro area is a very constructive and comprehensive package of measures to resolve debt problems.

“What to me is critical—really a game-changing decision—is the leaders’ commitment and determination to provide support to countries until they have regained market access, provided that they successfully implement their programs.”

Watch the press conference:

The 17 heads of state of the eurozone have agreed to provide €109 billion in fresh financing for Greece. Together with voluntary contributions from the private sector and continued support from the IMF, this will close the financing gap in Greece’s budget and give the country the breathing room it needs to restore growth and competitiveness.

Greece has not yet requested a new program from the IMF, but Lagarde said it was the global lender’s intention to be an active participant in helping Greece restore growth, debt sustainability and return to financial markets.

The European leaders also agreed to make the terms of the European Financial Stability Facility more flexible, a measure called for by the IMF in its recent assessment of the euro area.

“This flexibility is a key element, in the view of the IMF,” said Lagarde.

Avoiding Another Year of Living Dangerously: Time to Secure Financial Stability


By José Viñals

In various guises, the “Year of Living Dangerously” has been used to describe the global financial crisis, the policy response to the crisis, and its aftermath.

But, we’ve slipped well beyond a year and the financial system is still flirting with danger. Durable financial stability has, so far, proven elusive.

Financial stability risks may have eased, reflecting improvements in the economic outlook and continuing accommodative policies. But those supportive policies—while necessary to restart the economy—have also masked serious, underlying financial vulnerabilities that need to be addressed as quickly as possible. Continue reading

Shifting Gears: Where the Rubber Meets the Fiscal Road


By Carlo Cottarelli

Undertaking a sizable fiscal adjustment is a lot like driving up a tall mountain: it’s hard work, it can take a long time, and you don’t want to run out of fuel partway up the incline. Countries are starting the climb, cutting back government deficits and debt levels, but according to our analysis often current plans aren’t enough to get countries where they need and want to go.

The plans in place are large by historical standards, which brings with it difficult choices, and particular risks and uncertainties. Let me fill you in on what these are. Continue reading

Bridges to Growth, Not Roads to Nowhere: Scaling Up Infrastructure Investment in Low-Income Countries


By Hugh Bredenkamp and Roger Nord

(Version in  Français )

For low-income countries, the absence of reliable infrastructure—roads, railways, ports, but also power supply—has become an increasingly binding constraint on growth. And we know that investment in infrastructure can raise productivity, boost growth, and help reduce poverty. But as straightforward as it sounds, getting investment decisions right is no easy feat.

For starters, low-income countries have massive investment needs. The World Bank has estimated that, in sub-Saharan Africa alone, the total financing need is around $93 billion per year. And one third of this still unfunded.

Even when financing is available, there’s a raft of other issues to tackle. What investments offer the biggest boost to growth? How much investment is needed and by whom? How to finance this investment without taking on too much debt? Continue reading

Financial System Fragilities – Achilles’ Heel of Economic Recovery


By José Viñals

It would be unfair for any assessment of global economic and financial stability not to acknowledge that tremendous progress has been made in repairing and strengthening the financial system since the onset of the global crisis.

Still, the key message from the IMF’s October 2010 Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR) is clear. Progress toward global financial stability has suffered a setback over the past six months—the financial system remains the Achilles’ heel of the economic recovery. Continue reading

Watch This (Fiscal) Space: Assessing Room for Fiscal Maneuver in Advanced Countries


By Jonathan D. Ostry

Public debt sustainability in most advanced economies used to be a non-issue, or at most a back-burner one. A couple years back, if the topic came up, most people associated it with developing or emerging market countries. Defaults, rising sovereign risk premia, getting shut out from capital markets were, let’s face it, not really imagined to be possibilities for advanced economies. Of course there were fiscal challenges, demographic pressures being the obvious one, but these were issues for the long term, not the here and now.

But today, fiscal problems are a key concern of policy makers in many industrial countries, and a reassessment of sovereign risk is a palpable threat to global recovery. While the financial crisis may be a convenient scapegoat for the debt blowout in the advanced countries, blame lies elsewhere, in how fiscal policy was managed before the great recession, not during it. And, more sobering still, taming public debt will require steadfast policy efforts over the medium term: quick fixes will not do the trick.

What is the worry? At the heart of the issue is the extent to which governments have room for fiscal maneuver—“fiscal space”—before markets force them to tighten policies sharply and, relatedly, the size of adjustments needed to restore or maintain public debt sustainability.

Yet, surprisingly, much of the talk about fiscal space—how to measure it and the policy implications—has so far been rather fuzzy. A new staff position note, which I co-authored with several IMF colleagues, aims to remedy this, providing an operational definition of the fiscal space concept as well as empirical estimates of available fiscal space for 23 advanced economies.

Continue reading

The Priority of Growth and Jobs—the IMF’s Dialogue with the Unions


By Dominique Strauss-Kahn

I had the pleasure of addressing the 2nd World Congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, and participating in a panel debate. I also met privately with some key union leaders.

For me, three main points emerged.

First, I was confirmed in my belief that, for the IMF, our interaction with the labor movement is extremely valuable. We make it a point to meet with unions, including in the context of our lending programs. Over the past few years, I have personally met international trade union leaders four times—on the eve of important G-20 meetings—as well as with individual union leaders. So the labor movement has a lot of influence on the way we work—even if they do not always think so.

Continue reading

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