Africa: Changing the Narrative


Jeremy CliftBy Jeremy Clift

Enduring poverty and conflict are so stark in Africa that it is sometimes difficult to see what else is happening.

In April 2011, a study published by the Columbia Journalism Review titled “Hiding the Real Africa” documented how easily Africa makes news headlines in the West when a major famine, pandemic, or violent crisis breaks. But less attention is given to positive trends and underlying successes.

In many cases, despite accelerated economic growth over the past 10 years, the rise of a middle class of consumers, and a more dynamic private sector attracting indigenous entrepreneurs, the narrative about Africa has remained focused on the bad news.

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The Other Rebalancing: Asia’s Quest for Inclusive Growth


By Anoop Singh

(Versions in 中文, 日本語)

For the past two or three decades, rising inequality—inequality of incomes, of economic outcomes and of economic opportunities—has taken a back seat to the goal of boosting overall growth. But growing discontent with the fallout of the global financial crisis has put inequality back on top of the policy agenda. While the symptoms may be different, tackling inequality is no less an issue in Asia.

Indeed, research shows that inequality can be counterproductive to sustaining longer-term growth. So, in increasingly turbulent global economic times, this gives added importance to promoting shared—or inclusive—growth in Asia that is more likely to be sustained.

This has been a major focus our latest Regional Economic Outlook, which we presented in Manila today. A great challenge for the government here, and for other countries across the region, is to raise living standards for a wide section of their populations. Continue reading

Keeping Asia from Overheating


By Anoop Singh

Asia’s vigorous pace of growth has seen the region play a leading role in the global recovery. But, there are also now growing signs of price pressure across the region’s goods and asset markets.

Headline inflation in Asia has accelerated since October 2010, mainly owing to higher commodity prices. There are, of course, variations in how much this has affected inflation across Asia, partly reflecting differences in the shares of food and energy items in expenditures.

But there are signs that higher commodity prices are spilling over to a more generalized increase in inflation. Continue reading

Subsidies—Love Them or Hate Them, It’s Better to Target Them


By Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي)

For decades, countries in the Middle East and North Africa have relied heavily on food and fuel price subsidies as a form of social protection. And, understandably, governments have recently raised subsidies in response to hikes in global commodity prices and regional political developments.

Like many things, there may be a time and a place for using subsidies.But, they need to be better targeted. And, often, there will be better alternatives. Alternatives that do a better job of protecting the poor. Continue reading

Latin America: Making the Good Times Better


By Dominique Strauss-Kahn

(Version in Español, Português)

Latin America has enjoyed tremendous economic dynamism and a rising quality of life in recent years. But, faced with new challenges, the question is: how best to sustain this progress?

As I travel through the region this week—visiting Panama, Uruguay, and Brazil—I’m looking forward to hearing the views of government officials, parliamentarians, and university students on the key challenges facing their countries today. Here are three questions that I look forward to discussing during my trip. Continue reading

Unleashing Growth Potential in the Middle East


By Masood Ahmed

Recent popular protests in the Middle East and North Africa region, although likely to have a negative economic impact in the short run, might actually help to unleash the countries’ long-term growth potential.

By providing the impetus for reforms, these events may encourage better governance, greater transparency, and more competition—in other words, tackling many of the constraints that have held back progress in these societies. Continue reading

More than 18 Million Jobs Needed!


By Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي )

For the six oil-importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa region—Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia—high unemployment is a chronic problem. Unemployment rates here are among the highest worldwide. This can have enormous economic and social costs, with the potential for what the IMF Managing Director has described as a ‘lost generation’ of unemployed.

Figures for these six countries in the region, outlined in our October 2010 Regional Economic Outlook, are staggering. Continue reading

The Priority of Growth and Jobs—the IMF’s Dialogue with the Unions


By Dominique Strauss-Kahn

I had the pleasure of addressing the 2nd World Congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, and participating in a panel debate. I also met privately with some key union leaders.

For me, three main points emerged.

First, I was confirmed in my belief that, for the IMF, our interaction with the labor movement is extremely valuable. We make it a point to meet with unions, including in the context of our lending programs. Over the past few years, I have personally met international trade union leaders four times—on the eve of important G-20 meetings—as well as with individual union leaders. So the labor movement has a lot of influence on the way we work—even if they do not always think so.

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Creating Breathing Room in Low-income Countries


By Hugh Bredenkamp

In my previous postings this week, I have talked about the “double whammy” that low-income countries have faced over the past 2-3 years—the surge in food and fuel prices and global financial crisis—and how the IMF has stepped up its support to help them cope with these shocks. Without this support, and that of other agencies and rich-country donors, governments would have to slash spending as their tax revenues slumped. This, of course, is the exact opposite of what any government should be doing in a recession—it would add fuel to the fire.

But preserving or even increasing spending when revenues are declining means larger budget deficits, and more borrowing. Doesn’t the IMF always preach tight budgets? The answer is “not always.” Fiscal discipline and carefully-managed borrowing policies are essential for long-term economic health. But when economies are hit by temporary shocks—and the current recession, though severe, will surely be temporary—it makes sense for governments to use policy to limit the short-term damage.

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