Rethinking Policy at the IMF


By iMFdirect

The global financial crisis led to a broad rethink of macroeconomic and financial policies in the global academic and policy community. Eight months into the job as IMF Chief Economist, Maury Obstfeld reflects on the IMF’s role in this rethinking and in furthering economic and financial stability.

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A New Look at the Benefits and Costs of Bank Capital


By Jihad Dagher, Giovanni Dell’Ariccia, Luc Laeven, Lev Ratnovski, and Hui Tong

The appropriate level of bank capital and, more generally, a bank’s capacity to absorb losses, has been a contentious subject of discussion since the financial crisis. Larger buffers give bankers “skin in the game” helping to prevent excessive risk taking and absorb losses during crises. But, some argue, they might increase the cost of financial intermediation and slow economic growth.

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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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Financial Stability Committees: Learning from the Experts


By Jorge Roldos and Alejandro Werner

(Versions in Español and Português)

Macroeconomists and financial sector experts need to talk to each other. Such communication is important to help identify and measure systemic risks as well as to coordinate and/or conduct macroprudential policies—rules that reduce instability across the financial system.

The creation of financial stability committees, including in Latin America, have been a forum for precisely this—working together to share information about evolving risks, develop monitoring and mitigating tools, and to define the decision-making authority, accountability, and communication to the general public. But institutional design and governance of these councils differ across countries.

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Ten Take Aways from the “Rethinking Macro Policy: Progress or Confusion?”


blanchBy Olivier Blanchard

On April 15-16, the IMF organized the third conference on “Rethinking Macro Policy.

Here are my personal take aways.

1. What will be the “new normal”?  

I had asked the panelists to concentrate not on current policy challenges, but on challenges in the “new normal.” I had implicitly assumed that this new normal would be very much like the old normal, one of decent growth and positive equilibrium interest rates. The assumption was challenged at the conference.

On the one hand, Ken Rogoff argued that what we were in the adjustment phase of the “debt supercycle.” Such financial cycles, he argued, end up with debt overhang, which in turn slows down the recovery and requires low interest rates for some time to maintain sufficient demand.  Under that view, while it may take a while for the overhang to go away, more so in the Euro zone than in the United States, we should eventually return to something like the old normal.

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Managing Capital Flows in Frontier Economies


By Jonathan D. Ostry, Atish R. Ghosh, and Mahvash S. Qureshi 

There has been a remarkable increase in financial flows to frontier economies from private sources which, in relation to their economic size, are now on par with those to emerging economies (see chart).

Ostry Capital Flows

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