Bridging the Gap: How Official Financing Can Ease the Pain of Adjustment


By Nicolás Eyzaguirre

After three and a half demanding and fulfilling years at the International Monetary Fund, I’ve had a chance to see, up close, countries trying to cope with the global economy in the same way a cook might operate a blender without the lid on—carefully, while creating as little mess as possible.

As I step down from my position as Director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department, I would like to share some reflections on one of the central issues facing many countries—adjustment under fixed exchange rates.  It goes without saying that these reflect a personal and not an institutional view.

A lot of ink has been spent over the question of why you would lend money to a country trying to bring down its government debt and deficit. The answer is simple: to give the reforms needed to make economies competitive again time to kick in.

In the old days, fixed exchange rates were the norm rather than the exception. A body of literature and a wealth of country experience have accumulated on how to adjust under such exchange rate regimes, mostly in emerging economies. The expression “adjustment and financing” came to summarize what economies should do when faced with severe funding constraints brought on by high borrowing costs for government debt in financial markets.

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Trade Winds—Has the Spectre of Protectionism Blown Away?


By Tamim Bayoumi

The global crisis has pushed trade reforms off—or at least to the edge of—the political radar screen. But shying away from improving the trade system in these tough economic times seems a little like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The IMF’s First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton summed the issue up in a recent speech: “trade wars can put millions of jobs in jeopardy, while trade integration can be an engine of growth.”

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Interest Rates and Investor Decisions: The Long and Short of It


By Erik Oppers

What drives the investment decisions of investors with a longer time horizon? Our research found these investors generally do not look at differences in interest rates among countries when deciding where to invest.

It turns out the factors they do consider in making these decisions are good and stable growth prospects, low country risks—including political and economic stability—and a stable exchange rate. This all makes good sense for long-term investors such as pension funds and insurance companies.

So why all this talk about how low interest rates in advanced economies are “pushing” investment flows to emerging countries, where interest rates are generally higher—is this story wrong? Continue reading

Asia’s Supply Chain and Global Rebalancing


By Anoop Singh

Much of the debate over global rebalancing has focused on the U.S.-China trade imbalance. But that’s missing the bigger picture.

With the growth of cross-border supply chains—a signature feature of Asia’s trade in recent decades—it would be misleading to focus on bilateral imbalances and exchange rates.

Instead of specializing in producing certain types of final goods, Asian exporters increasingly have specialized in certain stages of production and become vertically integrated with each other. So, as Asia’s economies strive to rebalance their growth models, we need to understand better how the regional supply chain affects the way exchange rates and shifts in global demand work. Continue reading

Does Foreign Exchange Intervention Slow the Pace of Currency Appreciation?


By Gustavo Adler and Camilo E. Tovar

(Version in Español)

Abundant global liquidity and high exposure to capital movements have put foreign exchange intervention at center stage of the policy debate in Latin America. Although intervention is widely used, there is limited evidence about its effects on the exchange rate, and particularly in terms of slowing the pace of currency appreciation.

In the latest Regional Economic Outlook: Western Hemisphere we took a fresh look at this issue, examining intervention practices and effectiveness for a group of economies in Latin America and other regions during 2004-10. In particular, we sought to answer the following questions:

  • How do Latin American countries intervene and in what respects do they differ from other economies?
  • What are the rationales for these policies?
  • How effective have they been in affecting the exchange rate?  Continue reading

A Stronger Financial Architecture for Tomorrow’s World


By Dominique Strauss-Kahn

(Version in Español Français 日本語)

The international monetary system (IMS) is a topic that encompasses a wide range of issues—reserve currencies, exchange rates, capital flows, and the global financial safety net, to name a few. It is one of the key issues on the G-20’s work agenda for 2011, and a topic that is eliciting lively discussion—for instance the recent, insightful report of the group chaired by Michel Camdessus, called the “Palais-Royal Initiative”.

Some are of the view that the current system works well enough. While not perfect, they point to its resilience during the crisis, citing the role of the U.S. dollar served as a safe haven asset. And now that the global recovery is underway, they see little reason to worry about the IMS. In other words, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

I take a less sanguine view. Continue reading

Does Cheap Foreign Money Bring Risks for Latin America?


By Nicolás Eyzaguirre

Versión en Español

Not so long after the global financial crisis, the supply of foreign financing has become abundant, and cheap, for many emerging market countries.  This sounds like good news for Latin America, and it is—creating opportunities for debt management, saving on interest paid to foreigners, and expanding opportunities for investment.  But it also comes with a number of potential risks that need to be managed.

Our new Regional Economic Outlook for the Western Hemisphere takes an in-depth look at the risks arising from what we call “easy external financial conditions.”  There we analyze how the more financially integrated economies of Latin America have responded to such conditions in the past, with comparison to countries of other regions. Our comparisons focus especially on a group of advanced economies—Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and Norway—that also are commodity exporters, as well as being inflation targeters with highly flexible exchange rates.

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