Can Raising Japan’s Minimum Wage Accelerate Wage Growth?


By Luc Everaert and Giovanni Ganelli

Version in 日本語 (Japanese)

Japan’s minimum wage is 798 JPY ($6.52) per hour, lower than many other advanced countries, including the United States, and among the lowest relative to the average wage (see chart). For a country that needs consumers to boost spending to pull the economy out of 15 years of deflation and reinvigorate growth, a hike in wages across the board can go a long way. Continue reading

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

Growing Pains: Europe’s Dilemma


By Bas Bakker

(Versions in Español and Français )

As the crisis in Europe deepens, it is worth asking how it all went wrong in the first place. In the past decade there have been stark differences in per capita GDP growth in Europe. Growth rates have ranged from close to zero in Italy and Portugal to more than 4 percent in the best performers. Why do some countries in Europe grow much faster than others? And how can those falling behind catch up before it is too late?

In part, these differences reflect “convergence”. It is much easier for poor countries to grow faster than it is for rich countries because they can import technology they do not already have. It is much more difficult to grow fast if you are already rich and at the technology frontier—now you can only get richer by innovation.

Continue reading

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: U.S. Fiscal Policy


By Rodrigo Valdés

(Versions in عربي,  中文日本語EspañolFrançaisРусский)

The United States faces two pressing challenges to fiscal policy: raise the debt ceiling, and begin the arduous process of reducing deficits and debt.

And, right now, this leaves U.S. fiscal policy between a rock and a hard place. How much savings should be found and in what form are crucial questions. So is when to put those savings in effect. Continue reading

South Africa’s Unemployment Puzzle


By Abebe Aemro Selassie

Among the havoc wrought by the global financial crisis, unemployment ranks at the top. This discussion often focuses on the situation in advanced countries. Unemployment in the United States, for example, continues to hover around 9 percent.

Take that and double it. Then you can begin—yes, just begin—to get a sense of the magnitude of the problem in South Africa. Unemployment in South Africa now stands at some 24 percent. Youth unemployment is phenomenally higher still at some 50 percent. Continue reading

Quo Vadis México?


By Nicolás Eyzaguirre

(Version in Español)

Ahead of my arrival today in Mexico with the IMFs Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, I can’t help but reflect on how things have changed for the better in Mexico over the past decade in the sphere of economic policy. At the same time, I am struck by the importance of the task ahead for Mexico: grasping the opportunities offered by the changing global scene.

Strong frameworks

Debt and inflation before the crisisMexico’s economic institutions have been very substantially strengthened. The balanced budget fiscal rule has supported fiscal discipline and a reduction in public debt. Moreover the structure of this debt has been radically improved—Mexico has created a deep domestic bond market and extended maturities. The introduction of inflation targeting has cemented the credibility of Banxico and fostered a reduction in inflation—that most unequal of taxes on the poorest—to low single digit levels. Meanwhile, the deep commitment to the flexible exchange regime has created an important safety valve for the economy. Continue reading

Raising Competitiveness: Recipe for Tapping into the Middle East’s Growth Potential


By Masood Ahmed

(Version in  عربي )

With the global economy on the mend, countries in the Middle East and North Africa are witnessing a pickup in trade and economic growth. Aided by rising oil prices and production levels and supportive fiscal policies, economic growth for the region as a whole is projected to exceed 4 percent in 2010, almost double what it was in 2009.

In contrast, and unlike many emerging markets elsewhere, the region’s oil-importing countries saw only a mild slowdown in economic growth last year to 4½ percent and are likely to see growth nudge up to around 5 percent this year. However, as our October 2010 Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East points out, that growth rate is well below the average of 6½ percent a year required to create the 18 million jobs needed over the next decade to absorb new labor-market entrants and eliminate chronically high unemployment. Continue reading

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