Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Getting the Labor Markets Working Again


By Olivier Blanchard

The sharp and persistent rise in unemployment in advanced economies since the 2008-09 financial crisis is a hotly debated policy issue.  Rightly so:  High persistent unemployment has major human and economic costs, from loss of morale to loss of skills.  More broadly, it seems to undermine the very fabric of society.

Against this backdrop, the theme for the IMF’s 13th Jacques Polak Annual Research Conference, “Labor Markets through the Lens of the Great Recession,” could not be timelier. This year’s conference program weaves together a number of contributions by researchers both inside and outside the IMF, aiming to shed light on those labor market issues that are central to the current economic and social landscape.

Cyclical vs. structural

Peter Diamond, Nobel Prize winner in Economics and Professor of Economics at MIT, will give the keynote Mundell-Fleming lecture on the controversial issue of cyclical vs. structural unemployment.

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Sendai: A Tale of Natural Disaster, Resilience, and Recovery


in SendaiBy Christine Lagarde

Japan was struck, in the mid-afternoon of Friday, March 11, 2011,  by the country’s largest ever recorded earthquake. Within an hour, parts of Japan’s northeast coast were hit by a wall of water that swept away cars, boats, trains, buildings, roads—and thousands of lives.

It was with humility and respect, then, that I visited parts of the affected area more than 18 months on, in a special event this week in and around Sendai—the Japanese city most affected by the disaster, a couple of hours by train north of Tokyo. This “Sendai Dialogue,” cohosted by the Government of Japan and the World Bank, was part of the overall IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings being held in Tokyo this week.

Disaster turned to success

I went to two areas around Sendai—the first was the Arahama Elementary School, site of a successful evacuation during the disaster. The school is still in its wrecked state—just as it was straight after the tsunami struck. Debris is strewn all over the grounds–a mangled mass of vehicles resembling more a scrap yard than a school. The corridors and classrooms inside are also in ruins.

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Tokyo links — IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings


The 2012 annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank are being held this year in Tokyo at a crucial time for the world economy. Track everything through the live events schedule  (all Tokyo times).

Key reports out this week are

banner in Tokyo

Stay up-to-date through timely reports from IMF Survey online, through iMFdirect blog, World Bank Voices, and through regular video briefings and YouTube.  Also track news and commentary through Google +.

Extensive Japanese  (日本語) language content and updates are also available.

The Meetings bring together more than 10,000 central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives, academics, and journalists to discuss global economic issues and the interconnected world.

Promoting Multilateral Solutions for a Globalized World


Jeremy CliftBy Jeremy Clift

(Version in Español عربي)

We live in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, helping to spread ideas, information, and technology ever more quickly. The globalized economy has created a complex and interlocking network of capital and trade flows that have brought major economic gains, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty around the world.

But, as we have seen from the prolonged global financial crisis, our interconnectedness carries grave risks as well as benefits. With instant communication comes the risk of rapid contagion. There is, thus, a strong public interest in ensuring that global economic integration is supported by a coherent set of coordinated national macroeconomic policies and a harmonized international regulatory regime that addresses the fragilities in our global financial system.

The new issue of Finance & Development magazine looks at different aspects of interconnectedness. Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and author of the forthcoming book The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World, argues that what he terms the global village increasingly requires global solutions to big emerging problems such as climate change.

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Debt Hangover: Nonperforming Loans in Europe’s Emerging Economies


By Christoph Rosenberg and Christoph Klingen

Some hangovers take more than a good night’s sleep to get over. It’s been three years since the global economic crisis put an abrupt end to emerging Europe’s credit boom, but neither lenders nor borrowers are in much of a party mood. One key reason: many of the loans so readily dished out before the crisis have now gone sour.

Festering bad loans are a problem on many fronts:  banks, credit supply, economic growth, and people all suffer. Take Japan’s lost decade. There too, a credit boom ended in tears, new lending subsequently went from too much to too little, and a vicious cycle of credit squeeze, declining asset and collateral values, and economic paralysis followed.

In emerging Europe, the share of loans classified as nonperforming—many of them household mortgages—have exploded from 3 percent before the crisis to 13 percent at the peak. As can be seen in the chart below, levels in some parts of the Baltics and Balkans are already at par with previous financial crises elsewhere.

Tackling bad loans

Nobody wants this dire script to replay in emerging Europe. Policymakers, bankers, and international financial institutions therefore got together under the Vienna Initiative to identify ways to tackle nonperforming loans. A working group co-chaired by the IMF and World Bank just presented a report that analyzes the problem and offers a way out.

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Financial Reform: What Must Be Done


By José Viñals

Financial system reform has reached a critical point around the world. Pressure is building from the financial industry to slow reform and concerns about fiscal conditions risk drawing public and political energies away from the need to act on financial sector problems. Fortunately, the Group of Twenty (G-20) reaffirmed its commitment at a summit in Toronto on June 26-27 to a comprehensive reform agenda—and we must seize the moment.

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