An Argument for Paying Down Public Debt


By Vitor Gaspar and Julio Escolano

What should governments do about high public debt-to-GDP ratios?  This question is getting much-deserved attention. Let’s abstract from macroeconomic (business cycle) considerations and look at the issue purely from an optimal tax smoothing perspective—that is, weighing the cost and benefits of raising taxes to pay down debt. By doing so we decidedly do not engage in the current debate about the contribution that fiscal policy may make to demand management. Continue reading

The Euro Area Workforce is Aging, Costing Growth


By Shekhar Aiyar, Christian Ebeke, and Xiaobo Shao

Versions in Français (French), and Español (Spanish)

In parallel to the aging of the general population, the workforce in the euro area is also growing older. This could cause productivity growth to decline in the years ahead, raising another policy challenge for governments already dealing with legacies from the crisis such as high unemployment and debt.  Continue reading

A Spanner in the Works: An Update to the World Economic Outlook


21970901656_57e69fe1e3_zBy Maurice Obstfeld

Versions in عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), and Español (Spanish)

The United Kingdom’s June 23 vote to leave the European Union adds downward pressure to the world economy at a time when growth has been slow amid an array of remaining downside risks. The first half of 2016 revealed some promising signs—for example, stronger than expected growth in the euro area and Japan, as well as a partial recovery in commodity prices that helped several emerging and developing economies. As of June 22, we were therefore prepared to upgrade our 2016-17 global growth projections slightly. But Brexit has thrown a spanner in the works.

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How Much Finance Is Too Much: Stability, Growth & Emerging Markets


By Ratna Sahay, Martin Čihák, and Papa N’Diaye 

The world still lives in the shadow of the global financial crisis that began in the United States in 2008.  The U.S. experience shone a spotlight on the dangers of financial systems that have grown exponentially and beyond traditional banks. It triggered a rethinking of the extent and speed of the expansion of a country’s financial sector, and raised questions about which policies promote a safe financial system.

In our new study, we emphasize that the most commonly used indicator—bank credit—is not sufficient to measure the size and scope of a country’s financial development. We create a comprehensive index for over 170 countries to answer several policy questions from the perspective of emerging markets.

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The Promise of Islamic Finance: Further Inclusion with Stability


By Mohamed Norat, Marco Pinon and Zeine Zeidane

(Versions in عربي)

Since the global financial crisis, policymakers have sought to press the “reset” button to strengthen financial intermediation that is performed by conventional banks and non-bank financial institutions. The aim has been to address the fault lines that helped trigger one of the most devastating financial crises in a century, and to enable a more inclusive, stable financial system that promotes stability as well as economic development and growth.

Islamic finance offers several features that are consistent with these objectives. Islamic finance refers to financial services that conform with Islamic jurisprudence, or Shari’ah, which bans interest, speculation, gambling and short-sales; requires fair treatment; and institutes sanctity of contracts. And these principles hold the promise of supporting financial stability, since a key tenet of Islamic finance is that lenders should share in both the risks and rewards of the projects and loans they finance. 

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Portfolio Investment in Emerging Markets: More Than Just Ebb and Flow


Evan PapageorgioBy Evan Papageorgiou

When the U.S. Federal Reserve first mentioned in 2013 the prospect of a cutback in its bond buying program, markets had a “taper tantrum.” Many emerging markets saw large increases in volatility, even though outflows from their domestic markets were small and short-lived. Now the Fed has ended its bond buying and is looking ahead to rate hikes, and portfolio flows continue to arrive at the shores of emerging market economies. So everything’s fine, right? Not quite.

In our latest Global Financial Stability Report, we show that the large concentration of advanced economy capital invested in emerging markets acts as a conduit of shocks from the former to the latter.

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Legacies, Clouds and Uncertainties


WEOBy Olivier Blanchard

(Versions in Françaisespañol, 中文Русский日本語)

The recovery continues, but it is weak and uneven.

You have now seen the basic numbers from our latest projections in the October 2014 World Economic Outlook released today.  We forecast world growth to be 3.3% in 2014, down 0.1% from our July forecast, and 3.8% in 2015, down 0.2% from our July forecast.

This number hides however very different evolutions.  Some countries have recovered or nearly recovered.  But others are still struggling.

Looking around the world, economies are subject to two main forces.  One from the past:  Countries have to deal with the legacies of the financial crisis, ranging from debt overhangs to high unemployment.  One from the future, or more accurately, the anticipated future:   Potential growth rates are being revised down, and these worse prospects are in turn affecting confidence, demand, and growth today.

Because these two forces play in different countries to different degrees, economic evolutions are becoming more differentiated.  With this in mind, let me take you on the usual quick tour of the world:

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