The Whole Can Be Greater Than the Sum of its Parts


By Vitor Gaspar, Maurice Obstfeld and Ratna Sahay

There are policy options to bring new life into anemic economic recoveries and to counteract renewed slowdowns.  Our new paper, along with our co-authors, debunks widespread concerns that little can be done by policymakers facing a vicious cycle of (too) low growth, (too) low inflation, near-zero interest rates, and high debt levels.

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The Calculus of Conflict in the Middle East


Lagarde.2015MDPORTRAIT4_114x128By Christine Lagarde

Versions in: عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語(Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

As world leaders head to New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly, there is still no end to the heart-breaking images of war-torn cities in the Middle East and North Africa, and of a massive exodus of people looking for sanctuary and opportunities to sustain a livelihood.

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Robots, Growth & Inequality


by iMFdirect

Are robots taking over the world economy? Life imitates art, and as robotic technology becomes more sophisticated, robots could soon become perfect substitutes for human labor.

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A Tale of Two Tellers


Jeff Hayden

by Jeff Hayden

My mother eases her car into the drive-through lane at our local bank, signs the back of her check, and places it in a metal canister. WHOOSH—the cylinder flies through a pneumatic tube to the teller inside the building.

In a few minutes, the teller squawks her thanks from the intercom speaker nearby. Another WHOOSH, and the canister returns. Inside we find a deposit receipt and a lollipop. Welcome to high-efficiency consumer banking, circa 1973.

Summer 2016. In our kitchen, I watch my oldest son rip open his paycheck and whip out his iPhone. TAP. SWIPE. CLICK. The deposit is made in an instant, thanks to an app that plugs him into an electronic banking network.

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An Argument for Paying Down Public Debt


By Vitor Gaspar and Julio Escolano

What should governments do about high public debt-to-GDP ratios?  This question is getting much-deserved attention. Let’s abstract from macroeconomic (business cycle) considerations and look at the issue purely from an optimal tax smoothing perspective—that is, weighing the cost and benefits of raising taxes to pay down debt. By doing so we decidedly do not engage in the current debate about the contribution that fiscal policy may make to demand management. Continue reading

The ECB’s Negative Rate Policy Has Been Effective but Faces Limits


By Andy Jobst and Huidan Lin

Versions in Français (French), and Español (Spanish)

More than two years ago, seeking to revive a moribund economy, the European Central Bank (ECB) embarked on a new monetary policy measure: charging interest on excess liquidity that banks held at the central bank. The move complemented a series of other easing measures aimed at bringing inflation back to the ECB’s price stability objective of below, but close to, two percent over the medium term. Continue reading

Sluggish Business Investment in the Euro Area: The Roles of Small and Medium Enterprises and Debt


By John C. Bluedorn and Christian Ebeke

Small businesses could be the lifeblood of Europe’s economy, but their size and high debt are two of the factors holding back the investment recovery in the euro area. The solution partly lies in policies to help firms grow and reduce debt.

Our new study, part of the IMF’s annual economic health check of the euro area, takes a novel bottom-up look at the problem. We analyze the drivers of investment using a large dataset of over six million observations in eight euro area countries, from 2003 to 2013: Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Finland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Continue reading

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