The Case for Reforming the Price of Water


David Lipton2012By David Lipton

Versions in عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

One of the first things most students of economics learn is the diamond and water paradox. How can it be that water is free even though life cannot exist without it, while diamonds are expensive although no one dies for lack of diamonds?

The answer is that water can be free if its supply is abundant relative to demand. Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear that worldwide, the demand for water outpaces supply. This imbalance is the clearest sign that water is underpriced. Yet, many governments are reluctant to price water like other goods.

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Managing the revenue from natural resources—what’s a Finance Minister to do?


By Sanjeev Gupta and Enrique Flores

(Versions in Español)

The Finance Minister answers her mobile. On the line is the Minister of Energy, who informs her that the country has struck oil and that he expects revenues from its sale to start flowing into the budget in the coming four years. While excited by the prospects of higher revenues—indeed the average resource-rich country gets more than 15 percent of GDP in resource revenues—she starts to ponder how to use these revenues for her country’s development. She is aware that only in rare cases have natural resources served as a catalyst for development; too often they have led to economic instability, corruption, and conflict or what has been termed as “the resource curse.”

SDN on Resource Wealth.Chart1

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The Evolving Role of the Banking Systems in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe


moghadamBy Reza Moghadam

What has been the role of foreign banks in financing growth and convergence in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and how is that role changing? This is discussed in the first issue of a new series of analytical work on the region called Regional Economic Issues, which we launched at a joint IMF/Czech National Bank conference two weeks ago in Prague.

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An Open and Diverse Economy To Benefit All Algerians


Christine LagardeBy Christine Lagarde

(Version in عربي)

I was in Algiers last week, my first time as the Managing Director of the IMF. It was a good visit: we reaffirmed the special partnership between Algeria and the IMF, and I was able to gain a deeper insight into Algeria’s aspirations—and also its challenges in reaching a hopeful future.

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India’s Slowdown May Have a Silver Lining


By Roberto Guimarães and Laura Papi

The extent of the recent slowdown in India’s growth rate has surprised most India watchers even in the face of ongoing international financial market volatility, high and volatile oil prices, and the uneven global recovery.

GDP growth fell throughout 2011, from a high of 7.8 percent at the beginning of the year to 6.1 percent in the quarter ending in December. The slowdown in the economy has affected the industrial sector particularly hard and has extended to 2012 as shown by the 3.5 percent contraction (y/y) in March industrial production. For 2012/13, we at the IMF project that GDP growth is likely to be about 7 percent.

While India has been affected by the worldwide slowdown, many observers have started to question the inner strength of the Indian growth story.

By international standards 7 percent growth is still very robust, but it sometimes feels like underachievement for a country that was growing at more than 9 percent just a few years ago.

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Why the Arab World Needs an Economic Spring


By Nemat Shafik

(Version in عربي)

What strikes you on a trip to the Middle East is that everyone is talking politics—all of the time. That had been the case in countries like Lebanon where it is a national pastime, but it is a new phenomenon in countries across North Africa and the Gulf.

Constitutions are being rewritten, political parties and youth groups are vibrant, and everyone has an opinion on current events. The older generation seems worried by the uncertainty associated with change. The young generation continues to be energized.

Need for an economic rethink

But, what I noticed during a week of travel through the region is that almost no one is talking economics, and that is a worry. Because while 2011 was a year of major transitions in the political domain, almost every economic indicator in the non-oil countries went in the wrong direction. Growth halved, unemployment rose, reserves came under pressure and deficits ballooned as governments responded to social pressures by increasing spending on wages and generalized subsidies.

New governments across the region are keen to respond to the demand for jobs and justice that brought them to power but are quickly faced with the hard reality of limited resources and powerful vested interests.

So, just as the “Arab Spring” opened a debate about politics in the Middle East, we now need an “Economic Spring” on how to rethink the region’s economic future.

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Making Sure Middle East Growth Is Inclusive


By Nemat Shafik

(Version in عربي)

The uprisings that spread across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 taught us that even rapid economic growth cannot be maintained unless it is inclusive, creates enough jobs for the growing labor force, and is accompanied by policies that protect the most vulnerable. And the absence of transparent and fair rules of the game will inevitably undermine the development process.

Hopes after the revolutions are high and so are people’s expectations. Hence, there is a need to pay more attention to socioeconomic issues in making policy decisions. In my speech today at the Arab Economic Forum in Beirut, I argued that we need an “Economic Spring” to complement what has become known as the “Arab Spring.”

Gloomy picture needs attention

At over 25 percent, the youth unemployment rate in the region’s oil-importing countries exceeds that of any other region in the world—a rate that reaches up to 30 percent in Tunisia and 32 percent in Morocco. Ironically, education in the region is not a guarantee against unemployment. In fact, unemployment tends to increase with schooling, exceeding 15 percent for those with tertiary education in Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia.

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