Emigration Slows Eastern Europe’s Catch Up With the West

By Nadeem Ilahi, Anna Ilyina, and Daria Zakharova

(Versions in: Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, and Slovenian)

The opening up of Eastern Europe to the rest of the world in the early 1990s brought about tremendous benefits. The inflow of capital and innovation has led to better institutions, better economic management, and higher efficiency. On the flip side, it has also led to sizable and persistent outflow of people.

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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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Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern Europe: Safeguarding the Recovery as the Global Liquidity Tide Recedes

By Reza Moghadam, Aasim M. Husain, and Anna Ilyina

(Version in Türk)

Growth is gathering momentum in most of Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern Europe (CESEE) in the wake of the recovery in the euro area. Excluding the largest economies—Russia and Turkey—the IMF’s latest Regional Economic Issues report  projects the region to grow 2.3 percent in 2014, almost twice last year’s pace. This is certainly good news.

Figure 1

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The Trillion Dollar Question: Who Owns Emerging Market Government Debt

By Serkan Arslanalp and Takahiro Tsuda

(Version in EspañolFrançaisPortuguêsРусский中文 and 日本語)

There are a trillion reasons to care about who owns emerging market debt.  That’s how much money global investors have poured into in these government bonds in recent years —$1 trillion.  Who owns it, for how long and why it changes over time can shed light on the risks; a sudden reversal of money flowing out of a country can hurt.  Shifts in the investor base also can have implications for a government’s borrowing costs.

What investors do next is a big question for emerging markets, and our new analysis takes some of the guesswork out of who owns your debt.   The more you know your investors, the better you understand the potential risks and how to deal with them.

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Latvia’s Economic Potential: Recovery and Reforms

david moore

by David Moore

Latvia’s economy has attracted international attention out of all proportion to its size. Many observers know that Latvia returned to strong economic growth after a severe downturn in 2008 and 2009 and a tough austerity program.  In late 2012, Latvia even repaid the IMF in full, several years early.

But the international consensus ends there. Critics of Latvia’s economic strategy point to continuing high rates of unemployment and poverty; advocates point to the benefits of frontloading spending cuts and tax increases to lay the foundations for recovery.

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Convergence, Crisis, and Capacity Building in Emerging Europe

by Nemat Shafik

Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe has been through a lot. In two short decades, the region moved from a communist planned system to a market economy, and living standards have converged towards those in the West.

It has also weathered major crises: first the break-up of the old Soviet system in the early 1990s, then the Russian financial crisis in 1998, and finally the recent global economic crisis. How did these countries do it?

From the Baltic to the Balkans, the region’s resilience and flexibility are the result of hard work and adaptability. But more than anything, it is the strong institutions built over the last two decades that have enhanced the region’s ability to deal with the momentous challenges of the past, the present—and those to come.

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Lessons from Latvia

By Olivier Blanchard

In 2008, Latvia was widely seen as an economic “basket case,” a textbook example of a boom turned to bust.

From 2005 to 2007, average annual growth had exceeded 10%, the current account deficit had increased to more than 20% of GDP.  By early 2008 however, the boom had come to an end, and, by the end of 2008, output was down by 10% from its peak, the fiscal deficit was shooting up, capital was leaving the country, and reserves were rapidly decreasing.

The treatment seemed straightforward: a sharp nominal depreciation, together with a steady fiscal consolidation.  The Latvian government however, wanted to keep its currency peg, partly because of a commitment to eventually enter the euro, partly because of the fear of immediate balance sheet effects of devaluation on domestic loans, 90% of them denominated in euros.  And it believed that credibility required strong frontloading of the fiscal adjustment.

Painful adjustment

Many, including me, believed that keeping the peg was likely to be a recipe for disaster, for a long and painful adjustment at best, or more likely, the eventual abandonment of the peg when failure became obvious.

Nevertheless, given the strong commitment of both Latvia and its European Union partners, the IMF went ahead with a program which kept the peg and included a strongly front-loaded fiscal adjustment.

Four years later, Latvia has one of the highest growth rates in Europe, the peg has held, and the fiscal and current accounts are close to balance.

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