A New Frontier for Kenya and Africa


MD's Updated Headshot By Christine Lagarde

For yet a third year I have kept my tradition of starting the New Year with a visit to Sub-Saharan Africa—a region that truly offers great promise! As the world economy has remained focused on the crisis of the advanced economies, Africa has quietly forged ahead with strong growth led by a vibrant private sector and surging foreign investment. Over the past decade Sub-Saharan Africa has posted growth averaging 5.6 percent a year.

The countries of East Africa have done especially well. So what better place to begin my travels this year than in Kenya, which has emerged as one of the region’s “frontier economies”—countries whose recent performance is propelling them toward middle-income status.

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Fiscal Policy in Latin America: Prudence Today Means Prosperity Tomorrow


Alejandro WernerBy Alejandro Werner

(Versions Español and Português)

Public finances in most Latin American countries strengthened significantly before the global financial crisis. Since 2009, countries have generally increased public deficits, drawing down on their fiscal coffers.

These expansionary policies continue and are yet to be reversed. With further pressures likely to build over the period ahead—as economic growth has slowed, commodity prices have softened, and external funding costs are bound to rise—now is the right time to rethink fiscal policies across the region.

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Monetary Policy Will Never Be the Same


WEOBy Olivier Blanchard

(Version in Español)

Two weeks ago, the IMF organized a major research conference, in honor of Stanley Fischer, on lessons from the crisis. Here is my take.   I shall focus on what I see as the lessons for monetary policy, but before I do this, let me mention two other important conclusions.

One, having your macro house in order pays off when there is an (external) crisis.  In contrast to previous episodes, wise fiscal policy before this crisis gave emerging market countries the room to pursue countercyclical fiscal policies during the crisis, and this made a substantial difference.

Second, after a financial crisis, it is essential to rapidly clean up and recapitalize the banks. This did not happen in Japan in the 1990s, and was costly.  But it did happen in the US in this crisis, and it helped the recovery.

Now let me now turn to monetary policy, and touch on three issues: the implications of the liquidity trap, the provision of liquidity, and the management of capital flows.

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The IMF Annual Research Conference: Economics of Crises―Past Experiences and Present Travails


2010 WEO BLANCHARD By Olivier Blanchard

Several years out from the global financial crisis, the world economy is still confronting its painful legacies. Many countries are suffering from lackluster recoveries coupled with high and persistent unemployment. Policymakers are tackling the costs stemming from the crisis, managing the transition from crisis-era policies, and trying to adapt to the associated cross-border spillovers.

Against this background, the IMF’s 14th Jacques Polak Annual Research Conference, entitled  “Crises: Yesterday and Today,”  to take place on November 7-8, will take stock of our understanding of past and present crises.

This year’s conference will be a special one as we shall honor Stanley Fischer’s many contributions to economic research and policy. Stan has extensively studied economic and financial crises, first as a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then as a policymaker with many hats over the years―the Chief Economist of the World Bank, the First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, and the Governor of the Bank of Israel.

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Japan’s Three Arrows―Will They Fly?


Jerry SchiffBy Jerry Schiff 

(Versions in 日本語l and 中文)

Discussions in Japan of the “three arrows” of Abenomics—the three major components of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic plan to reflate the economy—are rampant among its citizens as well as economists, journalists and policy-makers worldwide. Even J-Pop groups are recording paeans to the economic policy named after the newly-elected premier.  It is clear that “Abenomics” has been a remarkable branding success. But will it equally be an economic triumph?

We think it can be, and initial signs are positive.  But such success is not assured. It will require difficult decisions as the country moves into largely uncharted territory. And much will depend on changing expectations within the country.

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The Times They are a-Changin’: will (fiscal) history repeat itself?


Carlo CottarelliBy Carlo Cottarelli

Recent political and social unrest in some emerging and developing countries may have idiosyncratic features. But they also have a common denominator: a yearning for more equality in incomes, economic self-determination, and political power. Are these developments in seemingly unrelated emerging economies the beginning of a trend?

Simple—some would say simplistic!—empirical evidence suggests that this may indeed be the case: look at the convergence of real per capita GDP in emerging markets to the level observed in Western Europe and the United States in the early sixties (see chart 1). One can conjecture that, once per capita income achieves this level, the rise of the middle class prompts demands for more equity in the distribution of economic and political power. We know the sixties. It was a time when the rise of the middle class led to a wave of social unrest and change that rocked the economy and society—a change that gradually spread throughout the western world (what we now call “advanced economies”), with a call for more social justice, more democracy, and a better life for everyone. What followed were deep social and economic transformations.

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Strengthening the Foundations for Fiscal Policymaking: A New Fiscal Transparency Code


By Min Zhu

In the last two decades, countries have come a long way in shedding greater light on their public finances. The global economic crisis has reminded us, however, that we need to do more to ensure fiscal policymaking is based on reliable data on fiscal outcomes, credible forecasts of fiscal prospects, and a comprehensive assessment of fiscal risks. Working with civil society, governments, and others, the IMF has just presented a revised draft of its Fiscal Transparency Code, and we would like to know what you think of it so we can improve it further. You can comment here.

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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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The Cat in the Tree and Further Observations: Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy


akerlofGuest post by George A. Akerlof
University of California, Berkeley
Senior Resident Scholar at the IMF, and co-host of the Conference on Rethinking Macro Policy II: First Steps and Early Lessons

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

I learned a lot from the conference , and I’m very thankful to all the speakers.  Do I have an image of the whole thing?  I don’t know whether my image is going to help anybody at all, but my view is that it’s as if a cat has climbed a huge tree. It’s up there, and oh my God, we have this cat up there.  The cat, of course, is this huge crisis.

And everybody at the conference has been commenting about what we should do about this stupid cat and how do we get it down and what do we do.  What I find so wonderful about this conference is all the speakers have their own respective image of the cat, and nobody has the same opinion.  But then, occasionally, those opinions mesh.  That’s my image of what we have been accomplishing.

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Subsidizing Energy Consumption: Why it’s Wrong and What Can Be Done About it


Carlo CottarelliBy Carlo Cottarelli

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

Let’s face it. Everybody loves cheap energy. Almost all human activities require energy consumption and, if something is so basic, it seems pretty obvious that it should not be denied to anyone and government should make it as cheap as possible to both households and companies, including through subsidies. This can help households avoid paying exorbitant energy bills at the end of the month, something that the poor may not be able to afford even for basic needs like heating and cooking.

Companies may also need energy subsidies to help them stay competitive. Energy subsidies appear even more appropriate, and even the obvious thing to do, in countries that have a large supply of energy, like oil producers. After all, this natural wealth in the form of energy belongs to the people; why shouldn’t it be cheap?

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