Fiscal Policy’s Evolving Role


Fiscal policy makers have faced an extraordinarily challenging environment over the last few years. At the outset of the global financial crisis, the IMF for the first time advocated a fiscal expansion across all countries able to afford it, a seeming departure from the long-held consensus among economists that monetary policy rather than fiscal policy was the appropriate response to fluctuations in economic activity. Since then, the IMF has emphasized that the speed of fiscal adjustment should be determined by the specific circumstances in each country. Its recommendation that in general deficit reduction proceed steadily, but gradually, positions the IMF between the fiscal doves (who argue for postponing fiscal adjustment altogether) and the fiscal hawks (who argue for a front-loaded adjustment).

All this is highlighted in a  recently released book Post-Crisis Fiscal Policy, edited by Carlo Cottarelli, Philip Gerson and Abdelhak Senhadji,  that brings together the analysis underpinning the IMF’s position on the evolving role of fiscal policy.  The book underscores how the global financial crisis has reshaped our understanding of the role of fiscal policy with topics that include a historical view of debt accumulation; the timing, size, and composition of fiscal stimulus packages in advanced and emerging economies; the heated debate surrounding the size of fiscal multipliers and the effectiveness of fiscal policy as a countercyclical tool and more.

Check out this book, which is written for a wide audience, and watch the webcast of the book launch hosted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics on July 14 .

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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Global Recovery Strengthens, Tensions Heighten


By Olivier Blanchard

The world economic recovery is gaining strength, but it remains unbalanced.

Three numbers tell the story. We expect the world economy to grow at about 4.5 percent a year in both 2011 and 2012, but with advanced economies growing at only 2.5 percent, while emerging and developing economies grow at a much higher 6.5 percent.

On the good news side. Earlier fears of a double dip—which we did not share—have not materialized. Continue reading

The Long and the Short of It—Government Debt Plans in 2011 and Beyond


By Carlo Cottarelli

(Version in Español)

As we said in the just-published Fiscal Monitor update, fiscal policy this year in some leading advanced economies is shaping up to be quite different from what was expected just last November.

The United States and Japan are delaying their earlier plans to reduce their public deficits, choosing instead to provide further support to their economies. The change in plans is even more remarkable if you look at the cyclically adjusted balance. You can see this in the charts. Some of the change in the fiscal stance with respect to our earlier projections is attributable to the somewhat better than projected fiscal results in 2010, a point to which I will return in a moment. Most of it, however, is due to additional stimulus measures introduced during the last two months. These two countries need to strengthen their fiscal adjustment credentials by detailing the measures they will adopt to lower deficits and debt over the medium term. Continue reading

Two-speed Global Recovery Continues


By Olivier Blanchard

(Version in Español | Français | Русский | عربي| 中文 | 日本語 )

The world economic recovery continues. But it remains a two-speed recovery: slow in advanced countries, and much faster in emerging and developing economies. As a result, tensions and risks are emerging, which require strong policy responses.

The outlook

For some time, global activity was led by fiscal stimulus and the restocking of inventories. This process is now essentially over, which means that global growth is set to slow over the coming year. Fortunately, underlying private demand is improving, so we expect the slowdown to be modest, with global growth remaining at 4.4 percent in 2011, down from 5 percent in 2010. Continue reading

Exploring Economic Policy Frontiers After the Crisis: 2010 IMF Research Conference


By Olivier Blanchard

The crisis has forced economists and policymakers to go back to their drawing boards. Where did they go wrong, and what implications does the crisis have for both macroeconomic theory and macroeconomic policy making?

This was the topic of this year’s IMF Jacques Polak Research Conference. The conference was the first since the passing of Jacques Polak, after whom the conference has been named, and to which he came every year until last year. Present at the Fund’s creation and a long time Fund economist, Jacques had been described by the Managing Director as “a leader of critical thought during the post-war evolution of the global economy.” As such, this conference, and its focus on the post-crisis evolution of the global economy, was fitting a fitting tribute to Jacques. We shall miss him.

Post-crisis policymaking

The twelve papers presented at the conference provided rich fodder for discussion. For two days, researchers and policymakers explored the contours of policy making in the post-crisis world. I want to share with you some of the major themes: Continue reading

The Two Rebalancing Acts


By Olivier Blanchard

Achieving a “strong, balanced, and sustained world recovery”—to quote from the goal set in Pittsburgh by the G-20—was never going to be easy. It requires much more than just going back to business as usual. It requires two fundamental and complex economic rebalancing acts.

First, internal rebalancing. When private demand collapsed, fiscal stimulus helped reduce the fall in output. This helped avoid the worst. But private demand must now become strong enough to take the lead and sustain growth, while fiscal stimulus gives way to fiscal consolidation.

The second is external rebalancing. Many advanced countries, most notably the United States, relied excessively on domestic demand before the crisis, and they must now rely more on net exports. Many emerging market countries, most notably China, had relied excessively on net exports, but must now look to domestic demand. Continue reading

Continuing the Momentum—Asia’s Updated Economic Outlook


By Anoop Singh

Asia’s leadership of the global economic recovery is continuing unabated. And, even though heightened risks mean there may be tough times ahead again, the region is well equipped to handle them.

Asia’s remarkably fast recovery from the global financial crisis continued in the first half of 2010, despite the recent tensions in global financial markets. In fact, GDP growth in the first quarter was generally stronger than we anticipated in our Regional Economic Outlook in April. And high-frequency indicators suggest that Asian economic activity remained brisk in the second quarter. Even more notable, this is true both for economies that escaped a recession in 2009, thanks to their relatively larger domestic demand bases (China, Indonesia, and India), and for the more export-oriented economies such as Japan, the Newly Industrialized Economies (NIEs), and the rest of the ASEAN.

Two growth engines

What explains the strong economic momentum across the region? It is simple. The two “engines of growth” that spurred Asia’s recovery in 2009— exports and private domestic demand—have remained robust in 2010.

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Emerging Market Countries and the Crisis: How Have They Coped?


By Reza Moghadam

How time flies: only a year ago, we were in the throes of the biggest global crisis since the Great Depression. As the extent of the damage to institutions in financial centers became evident—starkly highlighted by the Lehman bankruptcy—and the crisis started to affect emerging market economies (EMs), a timely and coordinated countercyclical response was launched.

This helped stave off the worst of the crisis. The IMF supported the global response by increasing its resources and overhauling its lending framework to help those facing financing pressures. A recovery is now taking hold in many parts of the world.

Six months ago, we took a preliminary look at the design and performance of IMF-supported programs in emerging markets. In a forthcoming paper, we are casting a wider net—examining factors that determined the extent to which a broader group of EMs were affected by the crisis, the policy measures they have taken, factors shaping the ongoing recovery, and sustainability considerations over the medium term.

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