Subdued Growth, Diminished Prospects, Action Needed


By Maurice Obstfeld

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

At the start of 2016, turbulence in financial markets has returned amid renewed concern about risks to global economic growth. The fundamental forces that underlay our October World Economic Outlook projections have not dissipated, and in some respects have intensified, leading us to trim our expectations for future medium-term growth of the world economy.

In the World Economic Outlook Update released today, we still, however, expect growth to pick up this year in most countries.

Despite the modesty of the reduction we see in general growth prospects and the promise of improvement in coming years, downside risks to our central scenario have intensified. In our view, a focus on these risks is the main factor driving recent developments in financial markets.

We may be in for a bumpy ride this year, especially in the emerging and developing world.

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Are Capital Flows Expansionary or Contractionary? It Depends What Kind


By Olivier Blanchard, Jonathan D. Ostry, Atish R. Ghosh, and Marcos Chamon

(Version in Español)

With the expected move by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates before the end of the year, many are asking about the effects on emerging market countries. Will outflows increase, and how will this affect economic activity in emerging markets? To answer that, we need to know if capital inflows are in general expansionary or contractionary.

One would think that the question was settled long ago. But, in fact, it is not. It is a case where theory suggests one thing and practice another. The workhorse model of international macro (the Mundell-Fleming model), for example, suggests that, for a given monetary policy rate, inflows lead to an appreciation, and thus to a contraction in net exports—and a decrease in output. Only if the policy rate is decreased sufficiently can capital inflows be expansionary. Symmetrically, using a model along these lines, Paul Krugman argued in his 2013 Mundell-Fleming lecture that capital outflows are expansionary.

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Openness and Inequality: Distributional Impacts of Capital Account Liberalization


By Davide Furceri and Prakash Loungani

(Version in Español)

It is well accepted that trade generates winners and losers. The past few decades have seen increases not just in trade in goods and services but trade in assets, as countries relax restrictions on the ability of capital to flow across national boundaries. Surprisingly, while the impact of trade in goods and services on inequality has been extensively studied, little attention has been paid to the distributional impacts of opening up capital markets. Our paper fills this gap.

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The Effects of Wage Moderation: Can Internal Devaluations Work?


By Jorg Decressin and Prakash Loungani

Devaluation is often part of the remedy for a country in financial trouble. Devaluation boosts the competitiveness of a country’s exports and curtails imports by making them more costly. Together, the higher exports and the reduced imports generate some of the financial resources needed to help the country get out of trouble.

For countries that belong to—and want to stay in—a currency union, however, devaluation is not an option. This was the situation facing several euro area economies at the onset of the global financial crisis: capital had been flowing into these countries before the crisis but much of it fled when the crisis hit.

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Migration: A Global Issue in Need of a Global Solution


2014MDNEW_04By Christine Lagarde

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

As the Group of Twenty leaders gather in Turkey this weekend, they will have on their minds heartbreaking images of displaced people fleeing countries gripped by armed conflict and economic distress.  The surge of refugees in the last few years has reached levels not seen in decades. And these numbers could increase further in the near future. 

The immediate priority must be to help the refugees—who bear the heaviest burden, and too often tragically—with better access to shelter, health care and quality education.

Many of the countries neighboring conflict zones—which have welcomed most of the refugees—have stretched their capacity to absorb people to the limit. To support additional public services for refugees, they will require more financial resources. The international community must play its part. With the IMF’s support, for example, Jordan has been able to adjust its fiscal targets to help meet this need.

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Bad Debt in Emerging Markets: Still Early Days


by John Caparusso, Yingyuan Chen, Evan Papageorgiou and Shamir Tanna

(Versions in 中文, PortuguêsРусский, and Español)

Emerging markets have had a great run. The fifteen largest emerging market economies grew by 48% from 2009 to 2014, a period when the Group of Twenty economies collectively expanded by 6%.

How did emerging markets sustain this growth? In part, they drew upon bank lending to drive corporate credit expansion, strong earnings, and low defaults. This credit boom, combined with falling commodity prices and foreign currency borrowing, now leaves emerging market firms vulnerable and financial sectors under stress, as we discuss in the latest Global Financial Stability Report.

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Corruption: A Hidden Tax on Growth


By Vitor Gaspar and Sean Hagan

(Versions in Español عربي中文Français日本語, Русскийعربي)

In recent years, citizens’ concerns about allegations of corruption in the public sector have become more visible and widespread. From São Paulo to Johannesburg, citizens have taken to the streets against graft. In countries like Chile, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Malaysia and Ukraine, they are sending a clear and loud message to their leaders: Address corruption!

Policymakers are paying attention too. Discussing corruption has long been a sensitive topic at inter-governmental organizations like the International Monetary Fund. But earlier this month at its Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru, the IMF hosted a refreshingly frank discussion on the subject.  The panel session provided a stimulating debate on definitions of corruption, its direct and indirect consequences, and strategies for addressing it, including the role that individuals and institutions such as the IMF can play. This blog gives a flavor of the discussion.

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