A Big Step Forward for Bolstering Financial Inclusion


By David Marston, Era Dabla-Norris, and D. Filiz Unsal

Economists are paying increasing attention to the link between financial inclusion—greater availability of and access to financial services—and economic development. In a new paper, we take a closer look at exactly how financial inclusion impacts a country’s economy and what policies are most effective in promoting it.

The new framework developed in this paper allows us to identify barriers to financial inclusion and see how lifting these barriers might affect a country’s output and level of inequality.  Because the more you know about what stands in the way of financial inclusion, the better you can be at designing policies that help foster it.

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Global Economy Faces Strong and Complex Cross Currents


WEOBy Olivier Blanchard

(version in Español)

The world economy is facing strong and complex cross currents.  On the one hand, major economies are benefiting from the decline in the price of oil.  On the other, in many parts of the world, lower long run prospects adversely affect demand, resulting in a strong undertow.

We released the World Economic Outlook Update today in Beijing, China. The upshot for the global economy is that while we expect stronger growth in 2015 than in 2014, our forecast is slightly down from last October.  More specifically, our forecast for global growth in 2015 is 3.5%, 0.3% higher than global growth in 2014, but 0.3% less than our forecast in October. For 2016, we forecast 3.7% growth, again a downward revision from the last World Economic Outlook.

At the country level, the cross currents make for a complicated picture. Good news for oil importers, bad news for exporters. Good news for commodity importers, bad news for exporters. Continuing struggles for the countries which still show scars of the crisis, not so for others. Good news for countries more linked to the euro and the yen, bad news for those more linked to the dollar. In short, many different combinations, many different boxes, and countries in each box.

Let me expand a bit on some of these themes.

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Seven Questions About The Recent Oil Price Slump


By Rabah Arezki and Olivier Blanchard[1]

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

Oil prices have plunged recently, affecting everyone: producers, exporters, governments, and consumers.  Overall, we see this as a shot in the arm for the global economy. Bearing in mind that our simulations do not represent a forecast of the state of the global economy, we find a gain for world GDP between 0.3 and 0.7 percent in 2015, compared to a scenario without the drop in oil prices. There is however much more to this complex and evolving story. In this blog we examine the mechanics of the oil market now and in the future, the implications for various groups of countries as well as for financial stability, and how policymakers should address the impact on their economies.  

In summary: 

  • We find both supply and demand factors have played a role in the sharp price decline since June. Futures markets suggest that oil prices will rebound but remain below the level of recent years. There is however substantial uncertainty about the evolution of supply and demand factors as the story unfolds.
  • While no two countries will experience the drop in the same way, they share some common traits: oil importers among advanced economies, and even more so emerging markets, stand to benefit from higher household income, lower input costs, and improved external positions. Oil exporters will take in less revenue, and their budgets and external balances will be under pressure.
  • Risks to financial stability have increased, but remain limited. Currency pressures have so far been limited to a handful of oil exporting countries such as Russia, Nigeria, and Venezuela. Given global financial linkages, these developments demand increased vigilance all around.
  • Oil exporters will want to smooth out the adjustment by not curtailing fiscal spending abruptly. For those without savings funds and strong fiscal rules, budgetary and exchange rate pressures may, however, be significant. Without the right monetary policies, this could lead to higher inflation and further depreciation. 
  • The fall in oil prices provides an opportunity for many countries to decrease energy subsidies and use the savings toward more targeted transfers, and for some to increase energy taxes and lower other taxes.  
  • In the euro area and Japan, where demand is weak and conventional monetary policy has done most of what it can, central banks forward guidance is crucial to anchor medium term inflation expectations in the face of falling oil prices.

Again, our simulations of the impact of the oil price drop do not represent a forecast for the state of the world economy in 2015 and beyond. This we will do in the IMF’s next World Economic Outlook in January, where we will also look at many other cross-currents driving growth, inflation, global imbalances and financial stability. 

What follows is our attempt to answer seven key questions about the oil price decline:

  1. What are the respective roles of demand and supply factors?
  2. How persistent is this supply shift likely to be?
  3. What are the effects likely to be on the global economy?
  4. What are likely to be the effects on oil importers?
  5. What are likely to be the effects on oil exporters?
  6. What are the financial implications?
  7. What should be the policy response of oil importers and exporters?

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Managing House Price Booms in Emerging Markets


Min ZhuBy Min Zhu

(Versions in 中文 and Español)

For the past decade, house prices have steadily increased in the vast majority of the 30 countries that make up the IMF’s House Price Index for Emerging Markets released today at a conference organized by the IMF and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India (Figure 1).

The index shows a lull in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, followed by an increase for nine consecutive quarters since 2012. This run-up—four times as fast as that in advanced economies—would be even more pronounced if the larger countries in the group such as China and India receive greater weight in the index.

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Legacies, Clouds and Uncertainties


WEOBy Olivier Blanchard

(Versions in Françaisespañol, 中文Русский日本語)

The recovery continues, but it is weak and uneven.

You have now seen the basic numbers from our latest projections in the October 2014 World Economic Outlook released today.  We forecast world growth to be 3.3% in 2014, down 0.1% from our July forecast, and 3.8% in 2015, down 0.2% from our July forecast.

This number hides however very different evolutions.  Some countries have recovered or nearly recovered.  But others are still struggling.

Looking around the world, economies are subject to two main forces.  One from the past:  Countries have to deal with the legacies of the financial crisis, ranging from debt overhangs to high unemployment.  One from the future, or more accurately, the anticipated future:   Potential growth rates are being revised down, and these worse prospects are in turn affecting confidence, demand, and growth today.

Because these two forces play in different countries to different degrees, economic evolutions are becoming more differentiated.  With this in mind, let me take you on the usual quick tour of the world:

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Now Is a Good Time to Invest in Infrastructure


By Abdul Abiad, Davide Furceri, and Petia Topalova

Infrastructure is the backbone of well-functioning economies. Unfortunately, that backbone is becoming increasingly brittle in a number of advanced economies. For example, there has been a decline in the overall quality of infrastructure in the United States and Germany (Figure 1; see the FT 2014 and ASCE 2013 for more in infrastructure in the U.S., and Der Speigel 2014 and Kunert and Link 2013 for Germany). In many emerging market and developing economies, the expansion of the backbone has not kept pace with the broader economy, and this is stunting the ability of these economies to grow.

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Asia’s Seismic Shift: How Can the Financial Sector Serve Better?


Min ZhuBy Min Zhu

(Versions in  中文Español)

Asia is set to be the powerhouse for growth in the next decade, just as it was in the last one. The size of its economy is expected to expand more rapidly than the other regions of the world, and its share in the world output is expected to rise from 30 percent to more than 40 percent in the coming decade. The structure of the economy is expected to continue to transform from a narrower manufacturing hub to a group of vibrant, diverse and large markets with a rising middle-class population.

The role of the financial sector is critical in the success of this seismic transformation. Let me explain by focusing on three areas:

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