Dealing with Sovereign Debt—The IMF Perspective


By Sean Hagan, Maurice Obstfeld, and Poul M. Thomsen

Versions in Français (French), Deutsch (German), ελληνικά (Greek), and Español (Spanish)

Debt is central to the functioning of a modern economy. Firms can use it to finance investments in future productivity. Households can use it to finance lumpy purchases, such as big consumer durables, or a home. Sometimes, however, firms’ investments do not pan out or a household’s main earner loses his or her job. Countries’ legal systems generally recognize that in these cases, debtors and creditors alike—along with society at large—may be better off if there is an orderly procedure for reorganizing debts.  Continue reading

The IMF is Not Asking Greece for More Austerity


By Maurice Obstfeld and Poul M. Thomsen

Versions in عربي (Arabic); Français (French); Deutsch (German); ελληνικά (Greek); and Español (Spanish)

Greece is once again in the headlines as discussions for the second review of its European Stability Mechanism (ESM) program are gaining pace. Unfortunately, the discussions have also spurred some misinformation about the role and the views of the IMF. Above all, the IMF is being criticized for demanding more fiscal austerity, in particular for making this a condition for urgently needed debt relief. This is not true, and clarifications are in order. Continue reading

Greece: Toward a Workable Program


poul-thomsen1By Poul M. Thomsen

Versions in عربي (Arabic), EspañolFrançais, and ελληνικά (Greek)

Having successfully pulled Greece from the brink last summer and subsequently stabilized the economy, the government of Alexis Tsipras is now discussing with its European partners and the IMF a comprehensive multi-year program that can secure a lasting recovery and make debt sustainable. While discussions continue, there have been some misperceptions about the International Monetary Fund’s views and role in the process. I thought it would be useful to clarify issues.

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Fiscal Costs of Hidden Deficits: Beware—When It Rains, It Pours


By Elva Bova, Marta Ruiz-Arranz, Frederik Toscani, and Elif Ture

(Version in Español)

Budgets can be full of surprises. And not always good ones. Often times, debt increases significantly because an unforeseen obligation materializes. These contingent liabilities, as they are known in the economist’s jargon, can have significant economic and fiscal costs. In fact, on many occasions, large and unexpected increases in debt across the world were due to the materialization of contingent liabilities. That is why they are often called hidden deficits.

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The Top Ten Blogs of 2015


by iMFdirect

2015 was a bold year for blogs at the IMF.  Boldness grows less common in the higher ranks, according to Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, but he couldn’t be more wrong when it comes to these blogs: the list includes work by the IMF’s former chief economist Olivier Blanchard and Vitor Gaspar, head of the Fiscal Affairs Department.

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Olivier Blanchard’s Greatest Hits


By iMFdirect

For a man who declared on his arrival at the IMF “I do not blog,” Olivier Blanchard, our soon-to-be former Chief Economist, is one hell of a blogger.

Prolific and popular. A demi-god: half economist, half artist.  Blanchard writes the way he thinks: sharp, frank, and intellectual, while pushing against the edges of his métier with the creativity and honesty of a singular economist.

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Greece: Past Critiques and the Path Forward


IMG_0248By Olivier Blanchard

(Versions in DeutschEspañolFrançaisItalianoελληνικάРусский中文, 日本語عربي, and Português)

All eyes are on Greece, as the parties involved continue to strive for a lasting deal, spurring vigorous debate and some sharp criticisms, including of the IMF.

In this context, I thought some reflections on the main critiques could help clarify some key points of contention as well as shine a light on a possible way forward.

The main critiques, as I see them, fall under the following four categories:

  • The 2010 program only served to raise debt and demanded excessive fiscal adjustment.
  • The financing to Greece was used to repay foreign banks.
  • Growth-killing structural reforms, together with fiscal austerity, have led to an economic depression.
  • Creditors have learned nothing and keep repeating the same mistakes.

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