Socrates & the Pope: Overheard at the IMF’s Spring Meetings


By IMFdirect editors

Socrates’ famous method to develop his students’ intellect was to question them relentlessly in an unending search for contradictions and the truth—or at the very least, a great quote.

The method was alive and well among the moderators, panelists and audiences of the IMF’s Spring Meetings seminars that took place alongside official discussions, where boosting high-quality growth, with a focus on the medium term, was at the top of the agenda.  Our editors fanned out and found a couple of big themes kept coming up.  Here are some of the highlights.

Monetary policy 

Lots of people are talking about what happens when the flood of easy money into emerging markets thanks to low interest rates in advanced economies like the United States slows even more than it has in the past year.

At a seminar on fiscal policy the discussion focused on the challenges facing policymakers as central banks slowly exit from unconventional monetary policy and interest rates begin rising.

A live poll of the audience found 63 percent said the global economy remains weak and unconventional monetary policies should remain in place.

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Are Emerging Markets Still On the Receiving End?


By Aseel Almansour, Aqib Aslam, John Bluedorn and Rupa Duttagupta

(Version in  FrançaisРусский中文 and 日本語)

The recent slowdown in emerging market growth is fueling a growing mania across markets and policy circles. Some worry that a large part of their stellar pace of growth over the 2000s (Figure 1) was due to a favorable external environment—cheap credit and high commodity prices. And, therefore, as advanced economies gather momentum now and begin to normalize their interest rates, and commodity price gains begin to reverse, emerging market growth could slip further.

Others instead contend that internal or domestic factors have played a role, with improved standards of governance and genuine structural reforms and robust policies, driving a fundamental transformation in the sources of emerging market growth towards a lower yet more sustainable trajectory.

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Are Emerging Markets Adjusting to a New Normal?


By Aseel Almansour, Aqib Aslam, John Bluedorn and Rupa Duttagupta 

Emerging markets have grown at a remarkable pace through most of the 2000s. They even rebounded strongly from the Great Recession, notwithstanding the sluggishness in advanced economies. Easy global financial conditions, rising commodity prices and beneficial terms of trade potentially compensated for weak external demand from the advanced economies.

But now, emerging market growth, while still strong, has begun to slow. This oddly coincides with an outlook for advanced economies that is improving, even if gradually. So what’s behind this dichotomy?

Emerging markets are adjusting to changes in the external environment. On the one hand, the incipient recovery in advanced economies is helping emerging markets, including through higher exports. On the other hand, the favourable external financing conditions are now beginning to reverse, implying a tougher financial environment for emerging markets. Then you have domestic factors, which appear to have pulled down growth in some emerging markets (see also IMF blog post on January 22, 2014, and December 18, 2013).

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Africa’s Success: More Than A Resource Story


Antoinette SayehBy Antoinette M. Sayeh

When meeting with people outside Africa, I’m often asked whether Africa’s growth takeoff since the mid-1990s has been simply a “commodity story”—a ride fueled by windfall gains from high commodity prices. But finance ministers and other policymakers in the region, and I was one of them, know that the story is richer than that.

In this spirit, in our latest Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa a team of economists from the IMF’s African Department show that Africa’s continued success is more than a commodity story.  In fact, quite a few economies in the region have become high performers without basing their success on natural resources—thanks in no small part to sound policymaking.

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Still Some Hurdles On The Fiscal Path


Martine GuerguilBy Martine Guerguil

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

Five years into the crisis, the fiscal landscape remains challenging. On the positive side, deficit-cutting efforts and the first signs of recovery reduced the fiscal stress felt in many advanced economies; but debt ratios often remain at historical peaks. At the same time, slowing growth and rising borrowing costs, combined with unabated demands for improved public services, puts pressure on government budgets in emerging market economies.

So we created  an index of ‘fiscal difficulty’ that shows the biggest challenge ahead for advanced economies is to maintain budget surpluses until debt ratios return to lower levels.  We expect this will take several years.

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Transitions to Financial Stability: A Bumpy Ride


GFSRBy José Viñals

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

The global financial system faces several major transitions along the road to greater financial stability.  These transitions will be challenging because they are accompanied by substantial risks.

So what are these transitions?

  • The first one is the transition in the United States from a prolonged period of monetary accommodation towards a normalization of monetary conditions. Will this transition be smooth or bumpy?
  • Second, emerging markets face a transition to more volatile external conditions and higher risk premiums. What needs to be done to keep emerging markets resilient?
  • Third, the euro area is moving to a stronger union and stronger financial systems. This report focuses on the close links between the corporate and banking sectors. What are the implications of the corporate debt overhang for bank health?
  • Fourth, Japan is moving towards the new policy regime of Abenomics. The stakes are high. Will Japan’s policies be comprehensive enough to ensure stability?
  • And finally, there is the global transition to a safer financial system, where much remains to be done.

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How Emerging Markets Can Get Their Groove Back


By Kalpana Kochhar and Roberto Perrelli

(Version in Español  and عربي)

After a decade of high growth and a swift rebound after the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers, emerging markets are seeing slowing growth. Their average growth is now 1½ percentage points lower than in 2010 and 2011. This is a widespread phenomenon: growth has been slowing in roughly three out of four emerging markets. This share is remarkably high; in the past, such synchronized and persistent slowdowns typically have only occurred during acute crises.

Chart Growth Revisions.finalOur analysis attributes the slowdown in part to cyclical forces, including softer external demand and in part to structural bottlenecks, for example in infrastructure, labor markets, power sector. And this has happened in spite of supportive domestic macroeconomic policies, (still) favorable terms of trade, and easy financing conditions, which only began to tighten recently. However, a non-trivial portion of the slowdown remains unexplained, suggesting that other factors common to emerging markets are at play.

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Something New Out of Africa: A Global Player


By Dominique Strauss-Kahn,

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund

The sense of African energy and dynamism that I described during my visit to Kenya is reinforced strongly here in South Africa. And it’s not just World Cup fever—though there are plenty of signs of that too.

By some estimates, close to 10 million people are expected to visit South Africa this summer for the football (soccer) extravaganza—a further boost to its economy and its image in the world. South Africa is a global player.

This country has long been seen as the growth hub in the south and eastern part of the continent. But this past year, as a member of the G-20 group of nations, South Africa has come to be seen as much more–an emerging market, yes. And now also an influence on how global decisions are shaped. This is a new role for Africa in the world—and a new way for Africa to be seen by the world.

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