Chart of the Week: The Productivity Puzzle


By iMFdirect

Technological change seems to be happening faster than ever. The prospect of driverless cars, robot lawyers, and 3D-printed human organs becoming commonplace suggests a new wave of technological progress.  Continue reading

Why Productivity Growth is Faltering in Aging Europe and Japan


By iMFdirect

Many countries are experiencing a combination of declining birth rates and increasing longevity. In other words, their populations are aging. And graying populations pose serious issues for people, policymakers, and society.  Continue reading

China’s Rebalancing Explained in 6 Charts


By Longmei Zhang

Version in 中文 (Chinese)

The word “rebalancing” is often used to describe China’s economic transition. But what does it mean? And how much is China rebalancing? A recent IMF paper attempts to answer these questions.  Continue reading

The Euro Area Workforce is Aging, Costing Growth


By Shekhar Aiyar, Christian Ebeke, and Xiaobo Shao

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

In parallel to the aging of the general population, the workforce in the euro area is also growing older. This could cause productivity growth to decline in the years ahead, raising another policy challenge for governments already dealing with legacies from the crisis such as high unemployment and debt.  Continue reading

Growing Older: Germany Needs Reforms


By Enrica Detragiache, Jean-Marc Natal, and Joana Pereira

Version in Deutsch (German)

Germany, a champion of structural reform prescriptions within the European Union, needs a large dose of the same medicine at home, too. Beyond public investment in transport and telecommunications, and more competition in services, dealing with an aging population needs urgent attention. With the right policies, Germany can bring more people into the workforce—and for longer—to counter the demographic trend, argues a recent study accompanying the regular health check of the German economy by the International Monetary Fund.

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Beyond the Austerity Debate: the Deficit Bias in the post-Bretton Woods Era


By Carlo Cottarelli

(Version in Español)

The austerity vs. growth debate has raged in recent months, pitting those who argue that fiscal policy should be tightened more aggressively now to bring down high levels of debt, even though economic growth remains weak, against those who want to postpone the adjustment to better times. This is a critical issue for policymakers, perhaps the most important one in the short run.

And yet, this debate—which, mea culpa, I have myself contributed to―is attracting too much attention.

This is bad for two reasons:

  • The debate is driven, to some degree, by ideology and is therefore more focused on the relatively limited areas of disagreement than on the far broader areas of agreement. Most economists would agree that fiscal consolidation is needed in advanced economies, and that the average annual pace of adjustment during 2011-12―about 1 percentage point―is neither too aggressive nor excessively slow. Most economists would also agree that countries under pressure from markets have to adjust at a faster pace, while those that do not face such constraints have more time. Of course, there is disagreement on some aspects of the fiscal strategy, but it relates to specific country cases.
  • The debate is detracting attention from policy issues that may seem less urgent, but which are nevertheless critical in the medium term. I am referring to what I would call the institutional gaps in fiscal policymaking that still exist in most advanced and emerging economies. These gaps have contributed to a bias in the conduct of fiscal policy in favor of deficits that is behind many of the current problems.

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How to Get the Balance Right: Fiscal Policy At a Time of Crisis


By Anders Borg and Christine Lagarde

Last autumn was a turbulent time for Europe. The debt crisis deepened and financial markets became embroiled in turmoil, driven by fears of widespread restructuring of public debt. The crisis has harmed growth, increased unemployment, and left a large number of people less protected.

We are now seeing some signs of stabilization. Most countries are reducing their deficits and even if debt ratios are still rising, the return back to fiscal health has begun.

The International Monetary Fund and the Swedish Ministry of Finance are hosting an international conference in Stockholm on May 7-8, with the purpose of sharing knowledge and providing guidance on the best way to achieve fiscal consolidation, and on the role that effective fiscal policy frameworks and institutions can play in this endeavor.

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