Banking on the Government


By Jesus Gonzalez-Garcia and Francesco Grigoli

(Version in Español)

Government ownership of banks is still common around the world, despite the large number of privatizations that took place over the past four decades as governments reduced their role in the economy. On average, state-owned banks hold 21 percent of the assets of the banking system worldwide. In Latin American and Caribbean countries, the public banks’ share is about 15 percent, with some of them showing very large shares, for instance, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Costa Rica are all over 40 percent (see Figure 1).

State-owned banks play an important role in the financial system. They fulfill functions that are not performed by private banks, provide financing for projects that benefit the rest of the economy, and provide countercyclical lending (lending more when the economy is weak). But public banks usually respond to the needs of governments owing to the state’s obvious involvement in their administration. As a result, government’s participation in the banking system may weaken fiscal discipline by allowing the public sector to access financing that they would not obtain from other sources.

In our recent study, we use a panel dataset for 123 countries to test whether a larger presence of state-owned banks in the banking system is associated with more credit to the public sector, larger fiscal deficits, higher public debt ratios, and the crowding out of credit to the private sector. 

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Taper Tantrum or Tedium: How U.S. Interest Rates Affect Financial Markets in Emerging Economies


By Alexander Klemm, Andre Meier, and Sebastián Sosa

(Version in Español)

Governments in most emerging economies, including in Latin America, have reduced their exposure to U.S. interest rates over the past decade, by issuing a greater share of public debt in domestic currencies.

Even so, sudden changes in U.S. interest rates still have the power to roil financial markets in emerging economies. Witness last year’s “taper tantrum”—when the Fed hinted at the possibility of tapering its bond purchases sooner than previously expected, causing bond yields to rise sharply. Continue reading

Reduced Speed, Rising Challenges: IMF Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean


Alejandro WernerBy Alejandro Werner

(Version in Español and Português)

The prospects for global growth have brightened in recent months, led by a stronger recovery in the advanced economies. Yet in Latin America and the Caribbean, growth will probably continue to slow, although some countries will do better than others. We analyze the challenges facing the region in our latest Regional Economic Outlook and discuss how policymakers can best deal with them.

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The Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014


Alejandro WernerBy Alejandro Werner

(Version in EspañolPortuguês)

Looking to the year ahead, how do we see the global economic landscape, and what will this mean for our region? This question is especially on people’s minds today, given the risks of deflation in advanced economies and of sustained turbulence in emerging markets.

Despite these risks, we expect that the region will grow a little faster than last year—increasing from 2.6 percent in 2013 to 3 percent in 2014. Stronger global demand is one part of the story, but not the whole story; volatility is likely to be a significant feature of the landscape ahead. And regional growth rates will still be in low gear compared to historical trends, and downside risks to growth remain. So, let’s start with the global scene.

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U.S. Monetary Policy and Its Effects on Latin America


Alejandro WernerBy Alejandro Werner

(Version in Español and Português)

Some basic realities seem to be getting lost in the debate over the Fed’s “exit” from unconventional monetary policy and its impact on Latin America.

First, the still-loose stance makes sense. U.S. inflation is too low, the output gap too large, and the labor market too weak. And even during tapering, the Fed’s stance will remain highly loose. The 10-year Treasury rate, adjusted for core inflation, is about 230 basis points below its 30-year average and the inflation-adjusted Fed funds rate is 320 basis points below. These rates are likely to remain below their 30-year average for at least the next two to three years.

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The IMF Annual Research Conference: Economics of Crises―Past Experiences and Present Travails


2010 WEO BLANCHARD By Olivier Blanchard

Several years out from the global financial crisis, the world economy is still confronting its painful legacies. Many countries are suffering from lackluster recoveries coupled with high and persistent unemployment. Policymakers are tackling the costs stemming from the crisis, managing the transition from crisis-era policies, and trying to adapt to the associated cross-border spillovers.

Against this background, the IMF’s 14th Jacques Polak Annual Research Conference, entitled  “Crises: Yesterday and Today,”  to take place on November 7-8, will take stock of our understanding of past and present crises.

This year’s conference will be a special one as we shall honor Stanley Fischer’s many contributions to economic research and policy. Stan has extensively studied economic and financial crises, first as a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then as a policymaker with many hats over the years―the Chief Economist of the World Bank, the First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, and the Governor of the Bank of Israel.

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On A Roll: Sustaining Strong Growth in Latin America


By Sebastián Sosa, Evridiki Tsounta, and Hye Sun Kim

(Versions in Español and Português)

Latin America has enjoyed strong growth during the last decade, with annual growth averaging 4½ percent compared with 2¾ in the 1980s and 1990s. What is behind this remarkable economic performance and will this growth be sustainable in the years ahead?

Our recent study (see also our working paper) looks at the supply-side drivers of growth for a large group of Latin American countries, to identify what’s behind the recent strong output performance.

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Saving Latin America’s Unprecedented Income Windfall


by Gustavo Adler and Nicolás Magud

(Versions in Español and Português)

Commodity exporting countries in Latin America have benefited strongly from the commodity price boom that began around 2002. And the accompanying improvements in public and external balance sheets have fed a sense that this time the macroeconomic response to the terms-of-trade boom has been different (and more prudent) than in past episodes. But, has it?

In our recent work, we analyze the history of Latin America’s terms-of-trade booms during 1970–2012 and quantify the associated income windfall (i.e., the extra income arising from improved terms-of-trade). We also document saving patterns during these episodes and assess the extent of the “effort” to save the income windfall.

Our findings suggest that, although the additional income shock associated to the recent terms-of-trade boom is unprecedented in magnitude, the effort to save it has been lower than in past episodes.

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The Power of Cooperation


by iMFdirect

The planet’s most successful species are the great cooperators: ants, bees, termites, and humans.

In an article in the new issue of Finance & Development magazine, President Bill Clinton shares his experience working with governments, business, and civil society as part of his Clinton Global Initiative.

He says they are making the most progress in places where people have formed networks of creative cooperation where stakeholders come together to do things better, faster and cheaper than any could alone.

Latin American Firms: Keeping Corporate Vulnerabilities in Check


by María González-Miranda

(Version in Español)

Four years after the Lehman Brothers crisis, private companies in the largest and most financially integrated Latin American countries are doing relatively well, despite continuous bouts of global uncertainty. Like firms in other high-performing emerging markets in Asia, companies in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru (the “LA5”) have benefited from abundant external financing, strong domestic credit, and generally robust demand growth.

These favorable conditions have resulted in robust corporate profitability and valuation, reasonably contained debt ratios, and lower short-term maturity exposures than those observed in other emerging markets.

But some vulnerabilities are starting to build up.

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