The Logic and Fairness of Greece’s Program


By Olivier Blanchard

(Version in ελληνικά عربي)

To get back to health, Greece needs two things. First, a lower debt burden. Second, improved economic competitiveness. The new program addresses both.

Bringing down the debt

Some countries have been able to work down heavy public debt burdens. Those that were successful did it through sustained high growth. But in Greece’s case, it had become clear that high growth—let alone sustained high growth—was not going to come soon enough. Debt had to be restructured.

The process was long and messy. After all, bargaining between creditors and debtors is rarely a love affair. In the process, foreign creditors were often vilified in Greece as bad guys—rich banks, who could and should be willing to take a hit. But in the end, banks belong to people, many of them saving for retirement, who saw the value of their bank shares go down in value.

All said, the PSI (private sector involvement) dealthe largest ever negotiated write-down of public debt—has reduced the debt burden of every man, woman, and child in Greece by close to €10,000 on average, a sizable contribution on the part of foreign savers.

Greece now has to do its part―with sustained political commitment to implement the difficult but necessary set of fiscal, financial, and structural reforms that have been agreed as part of the program supported by Greece’s partners in the eurozone and the IMF. It is a huge challenge, no doubt. But it is also an opportunity–to take advantage of the economic space opened up by private and official creditors. Will Greece seize it?

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Avoiding a Lost Generation


By Nemat Shafik (Version in  عربي)

Young people were innocent bystanders in the global financial crisis, but they may well end up paying the heaviest price for the policy mistakes that have led us to where we are today.

Young people will have to pay the taxes to service the debts accumulated in recent years.

Moreover, the global economy is threatened by continued strains in the euro area, and unemployment is still climbing in several countries, in particular in Europe. Young people (those aged 15 to 24) are the most affected, and youth unemployment has reached record levels in a number of countries.

If the right policies are not put into place, there is a risk not only of a lost decade in terms of growth but also of a lost generation.

Consider this. In Spain and Greece, nearly half of all young people cannot find jobs. In the Middle East, young people account for 40 percent or more of all unemployed people in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia and nearly 60 percent in Syria and Egypt. And in the United States, which traditionally has had a strong job creation record, more than 18 percent of all young job seekers cannot find employment.

Legacy of loss

Youth unemployment has long-term consequences for economic growth because of the loss or degradation of human capital. But it also has many other consequences, both for the individuals affected and for society as a whole.

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IMF Welcomes New Eurozone Understanding on Greece


The IMF has welcomed the agreement by Eurozone finance minister on a new support package for Greece.

After talks that went on until the early hours of the morning in Brussels, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on February 21 she welcomed the “proposed understandings reached today by the Euro Group to support Greece.”

“The combination of ambitious and broad policy efforts by Greece , and substantial and long-term financial contributions by the official and private sectors, will create the space needed to secure improvements in debt sustainability and competitiveness,” she said in a statement. “These actions, together with a significant strengthening of the financial sector, will pave the way for a gradual resumption of economic growth.”

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Growing Pains: Europe’s Dilemma


By Bas Bakker

(Versions in Español and Français )

As the crisis in Europe deepens, it is worth asking how it all went wrong in the first place. In the past decade there have been stark differences in per capita GDP growth in Europe. Growth rates have ranged from close to zero in Italy and Portugal to more than 4 percent in the best performers. Why do some countries in Europe grow much faster than others? And how can those falling behind catch up before it is too late?

In part, these differences reflect “convergence”. It is much easier for poor countries to grow faster than it is for rich countries because they can import technology they do not already have. It is much more difficult to grow fast if you are already rich and at the technology frontier—now you can only get richer by innovation.

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Christine Lagarde on Sovereign Debt, Growth and Social Instability


by iMFdirect

The IMF chief gave a speech in New York City today that sets out how the IMF can help countries tackle this troika of challenges to the global economy.

 Watch the speech

 

Euro Muscles in Brussels: Christine Lagarde on Greece


by iMFdirect

The head of the IMF Christine Lagarde was clear during her press conference in Brussels yesterday—European leaders’ deal to help Greece and the euro area is a very constructive and comprehensive package of measures to resolve debt problems.

“What to me is critical—really a game-changing decision—is the leaders’ commitment and determination to provide support to countries until they have regained market access, provided that they successfully implement their programs.”

Watch the press conference:

The 17 heads of state of the eurozone have agreed to provide €109 billion in fresh financing for Greece. Together with voluntary contributions from the private sector and continued support from the IMF, this will close the financing gap in Greece’s budget and give the country the breathing room it needs to restore growth and competitiveness.

Greece has not yet requested a new program from the IMF, but Lagarde said it was the global lender’s intention to be an active participant in helping Greece restore growth, debt sustainability and return to financial markets.

The European leaders also agreed to make the terms of the European Financial Stability Facility more flexible, a measure called for by the IMF in its recent assessment of the euro area.

“This flexibility is a key element, in the view of the IMF,” said Lagarde.

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 Economy: Continuing Recovery But Clouds on the Horizon


By Olivier J. Blanchard 

The macroeconomic forecasts in the IMF’s latest  World Economic Outlook update reflect two opposing forces. Looking back, say over the first half of the year, numbers about economic activity have come in strong, indeed somewhat stronger than we had forecast. These would give reasons to be more optimistic than we were earlier.

Looking forward, however, strong clouds have appeared on the horizon.  They present real dangers and serious policy challenges, and give reasons to be less optimistic than we were earlier.

Assessing the balance of these two forces is a difficult exercise. Our forecast for world growth in 2010 is about 4½ %, a bit higher than our April forecast of around 4¼ %. This revision largely reflects the stronger activity during the first half of the year. Our forecast for 2011 is broadly unchanged, at about 4¼ %.

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Key Links for the Greek Financing Package


Greece announced May 2 it had reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, and the European Central Bank (ECB) on a targeted program to stabilize its economy, become more competitive, and restore market confidence with the support of a €110 billion (about $145 billion) financing package.

Negotiators over the weekend wrapped up details of the package, involving budget cuts, a freeze in wages and pensions for three years, and tax increases to address Greece’s fiscal and debt problems, along with deep reforms designed to strengthen Greece’s competitiveness and revive stalled economic growth.

Here’s links to key documents and material about Greece:

Greek Prime Minister announces agreement with the EU and the IMF
IMF Survey magazine article on the weekend deal
IMF approves loan
The IMF and Greece: fast facts
IMF and Greece: country page
IMF Managing Director on the program
Eurogroup ministers’ statement
Straus-Kahn and Merkel: pre-deal talks
Video: IMF mission chief explains the program
Institute of International Finance reaction
Video: Trichet sees program as decisive
Video: IMF mission chief on CNBC
ECB action
IMF welcomes euro stabilization plan
Straus-Kahn interviewed by Euronews
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