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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For Your Eyes Only: Three Jobs Not to Defer in 2013


David LiptonBy David Lipton

(Versions in  عربي, 中文, EspañolFrançaisРусский, 日本語)

With the New Year, we all hope to put the global financial crisis behind us. We also need to do more to secure our future.

Beyond our current economic and financial problems, there are long-term issues that we all know about, but that get too little attention in an era when policymakers are so fully engaged in slogging away at more immediate problems. Unfortunately, long-term issues unaddressed today will become crises tomorrow.

So we had better lengthen our focus, see what looms on the horizon, and do more to steer the global economy in a better direction.

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Debt in a Time of Protests


by Nemat Shafik

As the world economy continues to struggle, people are taking to the streets by the thousands to protest painful cuts in public spending designed to reduce government debt and deficits. This fiscal fury is understandable.

People want to regain the confidence they once had about the future when the economy was booming and more of us had jobs.

But after a protracted economic crisis, this will take planning, fair burden-sharing, and time itself.

If history is any guide, there is no silver bullet to debt reduction. Experience shows that it takes time to reduce government debt and deficits. Sustained efforts over many years will ultimately lead to success.

Most countries have made significant headway in rolling back fiscal deficits. By the end of next year in more than half of the world’s advanced economies, and about the same share of emerging markets, we expect deficits —adjusted for the economic cycle—to be at the same level or lower than before the global economic crisis hit in 2008.

But with a sluggish recovery, efforts at controlling debt stocks are taking longer to yield results, particularly in advanced economies. Gross public debt is nearing 80 percent of GDP on average for advanced economies—over 100 percent in several of them—and we do not expect it to stabilize before 2014-15.

So what can governments do to ease the pain and pave the way for successful debt reduction?

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iMFdirect—Our Top 10 Posts


As iMFdirect looks back at two years since our blog on global economics was launched in August 2009, we’ve compiled a list of  the posts that have drawn the most attention.

Collectively, the posts give a snapshot of some of the biggest challenges in the world economy—which because of this summer’s developments remain, in some ways, much the same today as two years ago. It’s worth noting that John Lipsky’s outlook for 2011 listed as the No. 1 downside risk to the global economy: “Renewed turbulence in sovereign debt markets could spill over to the real economy and across regions.”

From the start our aim has been to stimulate debate about global economic issues and to open up discussion, through the blog, to a broader audience. During the past two years we’ve had more than 200 posts from leading economists, including several Nobel Prize winners. Many have been reproduced by other blogs around the world and hundreds of people have provided comment and feedback, and participated in constructive debate.

Here are the iMFdirect posts that have drawn the highest number of views:

1. Ten Commandments for Fiscal Adjustment in Advanced Economies

2. Rewriting the Macroeconomists’ Playbook in the Wake of the Crisis

3. Fair and Substantial—Taxing the Financial Sector

4. 2010 Outlook: New Year, New Decade, New Challenges

5. The Future of Macroeconomic Policy: Nine Tentative Conclusions

6. Nanjing and the New International Monetary System

7. Global Safety Nets: Crisis Prevention in an Age of Uncertainty

8. 2011—A Pivotal Year for Global Cooperation

9. Warning! Inequality May Be Hazardous to Your Growth

10. Thinking Beyond the Crisis: Themes from the IMF’s 10th Annual Research Conference

Let us know what you think and subjects you would like to discuss. What would you like to see more of and what less of? We welcome your views and comments.

No Time to Waste: IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde


by iMFdirect

The IMF’s managing director Christine Lagarde gave her first press conference today, in which she outlined three focal issues for the institution:

Our analysis of the connections between and among countries’ economies and financial sectors

The credibility of our analysis to countries must be candid and evenhanded

A comprehensive approach to our work that includes employment and social issues to help create stable economies.

Lagarde told the assembled reporters she had arrived in Washington soon after her selection because “there are many issues to address that cannot wait for a summer holiday.”

In an interview the day before, Lagarde said sovereign debt and capital flows were two of the main challenges facing the global economy.

Have a look: 

 

 

More Diversity will Help the IMF at Work


By iMFdirect

Nemat Shafik, who took over as IMF Deputy Managing Director in April, says she has been surprised by the vigor of internal policy debate at the IMF. “From the outside looking in, you have the impression that the IMF is a monolith with a very single-minded view of the world. When you are inside the Fund, what is really striking is how active the internal debate is,” she says.

At a time when the global economy is being buffeted by continued uncertainty in Europe, uprisings in the Middle East, and signs of overheating in some emerging market economies, there’s a lot to discuss. And, in addition to global economic problems, the IMF’s work environment has come under increased scrutiny, in particular how women are treated and its professional code of conduct.

In an interview, Ms. Shafik discusses some of these issues Continue reading

Global Challenges, Global Solutions


By iMFdirect

The IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings are upon us here in Washington DC.

With global challenges that require global solutions—the theme of the meetings—IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn reminds us that this is “not the time for complacency.”

Government ministers and officials, members of civil society organizations, journalists, and others are flocking to Washington DC this week to discuss and decide on key issues facing the global economy. 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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Looking Beyond the Crisis


By John Lipsky in Jackson Hole

In my first two Jackson Hole blogs, I addressed some of the key challenges to restoring growth. Yet whatever shape the recovery takes once the Great Recession ends, several significant long-term problems will have to be faced if a solid expansion is to be sustained.

In particular, the principal sources of growth in many economies will shift, structural hurdles to growth will have to be overcome, the legacy of anti-crisis fiscal policies will have to be dealt with, and the governance of global economic policy will have to adjust to new realities. In other words, the agenda will be packed for many Jackson Hole Symposiums well into the future.

At present, growth in the principal economies is being restarted with the help of massive fiscal and monetary stimulus. As has been noted widely, a sustained expansion will require a shift back to private demand. Yet the U.S. recession has been marked by a significant increase in U.S. household saving out of current income that has been associated with the substantial losses in household net worth suffered during the past two years.

MARKETS STABLE DESPITE TERRORIST THREATS

The stimulus has provided a fillip to markets.

An immediate result has been weak consumption spending, and a significant decline in the U.S. current account surplus. Not only did these shifts appear to be inevitable even before the current crisis, but they almost certainly are going to be long-lasting.

In other words, it was the case prior to the crisis that sustaining a global expansion will require strengthened demand growth outside the United States, an aspect that the current crisis has served to make clear to all. This premise already underpinned the IMF-sponsored Multilateral Consultations on Global Imbalances that took place in 2006/07. The aim of that exercise was to develop mutually consistent policies that would support sustained growth while reducing global imbalances by facilitating an appropriate shift internationally in  the sources of growth, especially in economies that have relied on export-led growth. Whether the current crisis might have been moderated if the agreed policy programs had been fully implemented is moot, but the Consultation’s broad policy goals will remain relevant in the post-crisis period.

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Fixing the Financial System


By John Lipsky in Jackson Hole

Despite tentative signs that the global recession is ending, it’s clear that a full recovery will remain inhibited until financial markets are restored to health. While financial market conditions have improved—reflecting among other things massive public sector support—key credit channels remain strained, creating a drag on growth.

One of the keys to strengthening financial markets will be to put securitization markets on a sounder footing, an issue I discuss below.

Rebuilding active and innovative financial systems will be critical for sustaining a new global expansion. After being propped up by government intervention, a recovering economy increasingly will need to rely on private capital.  As confidence and trust are restored, government guarantees will be rolled back gradually, and the crisis-driven expansion in central bank balance sheets will be unwound.

The latest financial market developments have provided positive signals. Most markets have strengthened in recent months, and some asset prices are higher today than prior to last September’s severe turmoil. Equity prices have risen notably, while investment grade corporate and sovereign emerging market debt spreads have narrowed, mainly in response to reduced risk perceptions, but in the case of corporate debt also reflecting better-than-expected economic data.

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