European Life Insurers: Unsustainable Business Model

By Reinout De Bock, Andrea Maechler, and Nobuyasu Sugimoto

(Versions in Français and deutsch)

Low interest rates in the euro area pose substantial challenges to the life insurance industry. Insurers—particularly in Germany and Sweden—offer their clients long-term policies, sometimes more than 30 years, without holding assets of a correspondingly long duration. Moreover, many policies contain generous return guarantees, which are unsustainable in today’s low interest rate environment.

In 2014, stress tests showed European life insurers are vulnerable to a “Japanese-like” scenario.

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How Much Finance Is Too Much: Stability, Growth & Emerging Markets

By Ratna Sahay, Martin Čihák, and Papa N’Diaye 

The world still lives in the shadow of the global financial crisis that began in the United States in 2008.  The U.S. experience shone a spotlight on the dangers of financial systems that have grown exponentially and beyond traditional banks. It triggered a rethinking of the extent and speed of the expansion of a country’s financial sector, and raised questions about which policies promote a safe financial system.

In our new study, we emphasize that the most commonly used indicator—bank credit—is not sufficient to measure the size and scope of a country’s financial development. We create a comprehensive index for over 170 countries to answer several policy questions from the perspective of emerging markets.

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Multi-Track Monetary Policies in Advanced Economies: What This Means for Asia

By James Daniel and Rachel van Elkan

Since mid-2014, diversity and divergence—applying to countries’ economic situations, policies and performance—have dominated global economic discussions. Differing economic performance in major advanced countries has led to divergent monetary policies.

Both the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank have started significant expansions of their balance sheets, while the U.S. Federal Reserve has ended its bond-buying program and is expected to start raising rates. This has had many effects, in particular, contributing to a sharp depreciation of the Yen and the Euro against the U.S. dollar (see chart 1).

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Four Forces Facing the Global Economy

WEOBy Olivier Blanchard 

(Versions in عربي and Español)

In our April 2015 World Economic Outlook, we forecast global growth to be roughly the same this year than last year, 3.5% versus 3.4%.   This global number reflects an increase in growth in advanced economies, 2.4% versus 1.8%, offset by a decrease in growth in emerging market and developing economies, 4.3% versus 4.6% last year.   In short, to repeat the words used by the IMF Managing Director last week, we see growth as “moderate and uneven”.

Behind these numbers lies an unusually complex set of forces shaping the world economy.  Some, such as the decline in the price of oil and the evolution of exchange rates, are highly visible.  Some, from crisis legacies to lower potential growth, play more of a role behind the scene but are important nevertheless.  Let me briefly review them.

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Can Abenomics Succeed? Overcoming the Legacy of the Lost Decades

Changyong RheeBy Changyong Rhee

(Versions in 日本語)

Abenomics can succeed, despite recent setbacks to growth and inflation, in revitalizing Japan by making steadfast progress on all three of its arrows equally and simultaneously, as we show in our new book. This is also essential to avoid an undue weakening of the yen and ensure positive spillovers to Japan’s neighbors, its region, and the global economy.

The Legacy: Structural Changes During the Lost Decades

Most Japan followers will be familiar with the following striking statistic: in 2013, Japan’s level of nominal GDP was about 6 percent below its mid 1990s level. During this period, three important structural changes have been a brake on growth and efforts to get out of deflation: Continue reading

What Advanced Economies Can Do to Rise Above the “New Mediocre”

By Era Dabla-Norris, Vikram Haksar, and Kalpana Kochhar

Global growth remains anemic more than five years after the global financial crisis. If nothing is done, the prospect of settling into a “new mediocre” will become reality, especially in advanced economies.

In many advanced economies, accommodative monetary policies, growth-friendly fiscal frameworks, and efforts to tackle private debt overhang and improve tax revenues and compliance are essential to lift economic growth in the short term.

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Dams And Dikes For Public Finances

By Vitor Gaspar, Richard Hughes, and Laura Jaramillo

Fortune, wrote Machiavelli five hundred years ago in The Prince, is like a violent river. She “shows her power where virtue has not been put in order to resist her and therefore turns her impetus where she knows that dams and dikes have not been made to contain her.” Managing the ebb and flow of government’s fiscal fortunes poses similar challenges today. We need a risk-based approach to fiscal policymaking that applies a systematic analysis of potential sources of fiscal vulnerabilities. This method would help countries detect potential problems early, and would allow for institutional changes to build resilience.

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