Connecting the Dots Between Global Risks


By iMFdirect

Finance ministers and central bank governors from around the world, gathering at the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington last week, identified a slew of continued and emerging risks to the global economy, including higher food and fuel prices, the disaster in Japan, unrest in the Middle East, lingering unemployment in parts of the world, and the risk of overheating in some dynamic emerging markets.

With the recovery solidifying but still fragile, ministers put the spotlight on how to strengthen the IMF’s surveillance—its economic assessment and analysis—to help countries take the action needed to address risks and avoid future crises. Continue reading

Avoiding Another Year of Living Dangerously: Time to Secure Financial Stability


By José Viñals

In various guises, the “Year of Living Dangerously” has been used to describe the global financial crisis, the policy response to the crisis, and its aftermath.

But, we’ve slipped well beyond a year and the financial system is still flirting with danger. Durable financial stability has, so far, proven elusive.

Financial stability risks may have eased, reflecting improvements in the economic outlook and continuing accommodative policies. But those supportive policies—while necessary to restart the economy—have also masked serious, underlying financial vulnerabilities that need to be addressed as quickly as possible. Continue reading

Macroprudential Policy—Filling the Black Hole


By José Viñals

When the global financial system was thrown into crisis, many policymakers were shocked to discover a gaping hole in their policy toolkit.

They have since made significant progress in developing macroprudential policy measures aimed at containing system-wide risks in the financial sector. Yet progress has been uneven. Greater efforts are needed to transform this policy patchwork into an effective crisis-prevention toolkit. 

Given the enormous economic and human cost of the recent financial debacle, I strongly believe that we cannot afford to miss this opportunity for substantial reform. Continue reading

Reducing the Chance of Pulling the Plug on Liquidity


By Jeanne Gobat

The near collapse of the financial system that set off the global crisis was due in part to financial institutions suddenly lacking access to funding markets, and liquidity drying-up across securities markets.

Many financial institutions were unable to roll over or obtain short term funding without sustaining significant losses. This threatened to sink them.

Financial institutions did not factor in how their own responses to a liquidity shortfall could make the entire system shut down and less stable—that is, they underestimated their contribution to systemic liquidity risk in good times, and did not bear the cost of their actions on others in bad times.

It only takes a few institutions to pull the plug on a liquidity-filled bathtub before it runs dry, and the central bank needs to open the spigots again. Continue reading

Who’s Talking About the Future of Macroeconomic Policies


By iMFdirect

Open, wide-ranging, and balanced discussion. For Olivier Blanchard—and co-hosts David Romer, Michael Spence & Joseph Stiglitz—that was the goal of last month’s conference at the IMF on the future of macroeconomic policies after the global financial crisis. And it is exactly what they got.

The crisis was a wakeup call for theorists and policymakers… Economic models, policy tools, and how they are applied need to catch up with changes in the global economic and financial system.

 You’ve heard here about views from the conference, but there’s plenty of discussion going on outside the IMF. Here’s a snapshot…. Continue reading

South Africa’s Unemployment Puzzle


By Abebe Aemro Selassie

Among the havoc wrought by the global financial crisis, unemployment ranks at the top. This discussion often focuses on the situation in advanced countries. Unemployment in the United States, for example, continues to hover around 9 percent.

Take that and double it. Then you can begin—yes, just begin—to get a sense of the magnitude of the problem in South Africa. Unemployment in South Africa now stands at some 24 percent. Youth unemployment is phenomenally higher still at some 50 percent. Continue reading

New Policy Ideas for a New World: Interview with Robert Solow


By iMFdirect

There has been plenty of reflection, during the past few years, on the causes of the global financial crisis. But, last month’s conference at the IMF focused on taking what we’ve learned from the crisis and looking toward the future of economic policy.

Robert Solow—Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Nobel Prize winning economist—was among those who brought interesting perspectives and a wealth of experience to the conference discussions.

Watch Professor Solow’s interview and hear more about what he has to say on… 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

End the Credit Rating Addiction


By John Kiff

One of the earliest take aways from the global financial crisis was the importance of access to information for effectively functioning financial markets. And, in that regard, credit ratings can serve an incredibly useful role in global and domestic financial markets—in theory.

In practice, credit ratings have inadvertently contributed to financial instability—in financial markets during the recent global crisis and more recently with regard to sovereign debt. To be fair, the problem does not lie entirely with the ratings themselves, but with overreliance on ratings by both borrowers and creditors.

In one of the background papers for the Fall 2010 Global Financial Stability Report that I prepared with IMF colleagues, we recommend that regulators should reduce their reliance on credit ratings. Markets need to end their addiction to credit ratings. Continue reading

Forewarned Is Forearmed: How the Early Warning Exercise Expands the IMF’s Surveillance Toolkit


By John Lipsky

“Never again can we let ourselves be caught unprepared by an economic and financial crisis of such global magnitude.” This was the spirit in which G-20 Finance Ministers in late 2008 tasked the IMF and the newly-formed Financial Stability Board to jointly develop an Early Warning Exercise (EWE), to be ready by the IMF’s 2009 Istanbul Annual Meetings.

The inspiration was clear: In the wake of the September 2008 onset of unprecedented financial turmoil, policymakers recognized that earlier danger signs had not been synthesized into an actionable warning. The EWE was intended to fill the analytical gap: the goal is to produce an effective “call to arms” as threats emerge—but well before crises erupt. Continue reading

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