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.

Continue reading

China and Africa: Will the Honeymoon Continue?


By Wenjie Chen and Roger Nord

(Versions in عربي中文, Français, Português, and Español)

China’s President Xi Jinping’s recent pledge of US$60 billion in financial support over the next three years illustrates the depth of the partnership between China and Africa.

However, China’s shift from an investment-heavy, export led growth strategy to an economic model that relies more on domestic consumption has led to a dramatic decline in commodity prices. Lower commodity prices and lower volumes of trade have hit sub-Saharan Africa’s commodity exporters hard. But over the medium term, this shift may offer sub-Saharan African countries the opportunity to diversify their economies away from natural resources, and create jobs for their young populations, provided they pursue the right policies to foster competitiveness and integrate into global value chains.

Continue reading

The Price of Oil and the Price of Carbon


By Rabah Arezki and Maurice Obstfeld

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

“The human influence on the climate system is clear and is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.”Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fifth Assessment Report

Fossil fuel prices are likely to stay “low for long.” Notwithstanding important recent progress in developing renewable fuel sources, low fossil fuel prices could discourage further innovation in and adoption of cleaner energy technologies. The result would be higher emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Policymakers should not allow low energy prices to derail the clean energy transition. Action to restore appropriate price incentives, notably through corrective carbon pricing, is urgently needed to lower the risk of irreversible and potentially devastating effects of climate change. That approach also offers fiscal benefits.

Continue reading

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.

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.

Continue reading

Trading Out of Trouble in Latin America


By Natalija Novta and Fabiano Rodrigues Bastos

(Versions in Español and Português)

Growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is suffering a double whammy—economic activity has slowed down sharply and the medium-term outlook continues to deteriorate. It is therefore not surprising that policymakers across the region are eagerly searching for ways to revitalize growth.

One answer may be more trade—both within the region and with the rest of the world. Our new study analyzes the export performance in developing and emerging market regions over the past two decades to assess the potential for future export growth in Latin America. We find evidence that most countries in the region “undertrade” compared to what standard models would predict. This has been an entrenched problem for almost a quarter of a century, partly as a result of the region’s geography and a legacy of protectionist policies.

Continue reading

How to Manage the Commodity Roller Coaster


Vitor Gasparby Vitor Gaspar 

(Versions: عربي中文FrançaisРусский, and Español)

The world economy is experiencing important transitions and associated uncertainties.

  • Commodity prices have fallen sharply, with adverse consequences for exporting countries.
  • China’s rebalancing and the prospect of U.S. interest rate increases are having important and costly spillover effects on other economies.
  • And these and other factors are posing important fiscal challenges, especially for emerging markets.

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,428 other followers

%d bloggers like this: