Five Lessons from a Review of Recent Crisis Programs

Vivek Arora.Feb2015-thumbBy Vivek Arora

Version in 中文 (Chinese), Español (Spanish)

IMF lending increased to unprecedented levels in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. As difficulties emerged, we extended financial support to countries across the world—in the euro area, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and emerging economies in Europe.

The IMF tried to draw lessons in real time as the crisis evolved in order to adapt our operations. We reviewed individual programs and, from time to time, paused and took stock of our experience across countries.

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Africa Pausing

Jeff HaydenBy Jeff Hayden

Strong performance by many African economies over the past two decades led some commentators to coin the term “Africa Rising” to describe the region’s surging economic power.

The term graced the cover of TIME magazine in December 2012, in an issue that chronicled the region’s decades-long journey from economic anemia to impressive vigor. Beginning in the mid-1990s, many—but certainly not all—countries in sub-Saharan Africa energized their economies, achieving in recent years some of the world’s highest growth. Living standards improved as a result, as did health care and other key services, inspiring hope for a bright future.

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Addition by Subtraction: How Diasporas Can Boost Home-Country Growth

Pritha Mitra-blogpicBy Pritha Mitra

Version in عربي (Arabic)

Every year, millions of people leave their countries of birth in search of better opportunities abroad. Often, these migrants are among the most talented workers in their home countries. At first glance, this is a loss for the home countries, which invested considerable time and money in educating and developing these people, only to watch them leave. But look again.

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Capacity Development in Africa: the Faces behind the Numbers

By Carla Grasso CGrasso

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

If there’s one thing all economists can agree on, it’s the importance of numbers. Without good data, it is difficult to assess how an economy is performing and formulate smart policies that help improve lives. Continue reading

Competitiveness in Sub-Saharan Africa: Time to Move Ahead

Antoinette Sayeh2

By Antoinette Sayeh

(Versions in EspañolFrançais, and Português)

The sub-Saharan Africa region is facing severe shocks associated with the steep decline in commodity prices and tightening global financial conditions. Against this background, it’s a good time to look back at the region’s recent growth experience and examine the relationship between growth rates and competitiveness. The extent to which sub-Saharan African companies are able to compete against their foreign competitors (that is, the extent to which they are competitive) could indeed play a role in sustaining growth going ahead.

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A Glimpse of the Future

Jeff Hayden altby Jeff Hayden

(Version in عربي)

One of my favorite car trips in the United States heads east out of Los Angeles and runs through the windswept San Gorgonio Pass, gateway to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. I’m a fan of the drive on Interstate 10 not only because it affords access to a dramatic desert landscape but also because the funnel-like pass at San Gorgonio prompts thoughts about the planet’s energy future.

The pass—one of the windiest places in the United States—is home to the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, an array of more than 4,000 turbines that harness wind to produce “clean”—non-fossil-fuel-based—energy. It’s a stunning sight, and I always wonder, is this what a sustainable energy future looks like? Can thousands of turbines sprawled over the landscape be part of society’s answer to a most pressing question: how to balance the massive need for energy to power economic growth and development while addressing our urgent need to sharply reduce carbon emissions, a chief contributor to climate change.

The question fuels intense debate—one that has become increasingly polarized and that frequently puts growth and sustainable energy in opposition. But are the two—growth and a more sustainable mix of energy sources—really enemies? Can a more benign mix of energy sources and technology bring power to the 1.3 billion people who don’t have it?

These questions, along with December’s United Nations climate summit in Paris, provided the inspiration for this issue of F&D.

The answers are complex but reassuring. Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics argues that the twin challenges of fighting poverty and climate change are not mutually exclusive. And the International Labour Organization’s Peter Poschen says we need not choose between green and jobs.

Continuing with the energy theme, IMF economist Ian Parry looks at the practical problems of setting a price for carbon that reflects its true costs. And F&D analyzes the four major declines in oil prices in the past 30 years and finds an eerie similarity today to the prolonged slump that began in 1986.

On other topics, Paul Collier and coauthors look at the costs of treating and preventing HIV/AIDS in Africa. This issue of F&D also examines the high penalty countries pay when they default on sovereign debt, skewering the conventional wisdom that the costs of default are minimal, and includes articles on the bad effect elections have on intelligent decision making about public investment, the increasingly common practice of offering citizenship “for sale,” and China’s investment in Africa. And we profile economist Richard Layard, who says economics has strayed too far from its original purpose of promoting happiness and maximizing well-being.

Tackling Inequality in sub-Saharan Africa Could Yield Mileage on Growth

Antoinette Sayehby Antoinette Sayeh

(Versions in Français and Português)

Rising inequality is both a moral and economic issue that has implications for the general health of the global economy, and impacts prosperity and growth.

So it’s not surprising that reducing inequality is an integral part of the Sustainable Development Goals  adopted by world leaders at the United Nations summit in September. I often discuss with my colleagues where sub-Saharan Africa stands with respect to these objectives. Unfortunately, the region remains one of the most unequal in the world, on par with Latin America (see Chart 1). In fact, inequality seems markedly higher at all levels of income in the region than elsewhere (see Chart 2).

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