The Commodity Connection: Rising Commodity Prices and the Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean
Latin America and the Caribbean During the Global Crisis: Better than the Past, Better than Other Regions
By Masood Ahmed
The IMF’s latest regional economic outlook for the Middle East compares the performance of Islamic banks in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with conventional ones during the global financial crisis.
Islamic banks were less affected during the initial phase of the crisis, reflecting a stronger first-round impact on conventional banks through mark-to-market valuations on securities in 2008. But, in 2009, data for the first half of the year indicate somewhat larger declines in profitability for Islamic banks, revealing the second-round effect of the crisis on the real economy, especially real estate.
Going forward, Islamic banks overall are better poised to withstand additional stress, according to the IMF analysis.
Islamic banks have grown substantially in recent years, with their assets currently estimated at close to $850 billion. Overall, the risk profile of Islamic banks is similar to conventional banks in that the risk profile of Shariah-compliant contracts is largely similar to that in conventional contracts, and credit risk is the main risk for both types of banks.
Unlike conventional banks, however, Islamic banks are not permitted to have any direct exposure to financial derivatives or conventional financial institutions’ securities—which were hit most during the global crisis.
By Masood Ahmed Middle East oil exporters are squarely facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression head on. Despite the sharp drop in oil prices last year, the oil exporters rightly decided to maintain spending by drawing upon reserves amassed during the boom years. High public spending and exceptional anticrisis financial measures have not only cushioned oil exporters’ own economies but are also contributing to sustaining global demand. They have also helped the interlinked economies of neighboring oil importers. Facing this boom-bust cycle Between 2004 and 2008, Middle East oil-exporting countries grew by about 6 percent a year and accumulated $1.3 trillion in foreign assets. With the striking drop in oil prices—from a peak of $147 per barrel in mid-2008 to around $30 per barrel at the beginning of 2009—the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been hardest hit. Iraq and Saudi Arabia are expected to see the most pronounced drops in oil GDP growth—8 and 15 percentage points, respectively—this year.
During the precrisis boom years, banks had lent substantial amounts for real estate and equity purchases and made large profits. With the onset of the crisis, asset values fell sharply and the global deleveraging led to a severe tightening of credit conditions, especially in the GCC. Banks’ balance sheets have come under pressure credit growth has slowed sharply—up to 40 percentage points in Qatar.
The Program of Seminars takes place outside the formal framework of the Annual Meetings. But to many people, they were the main reason for making the trip to Istanbul.
The program's October 4 offering included a first-hand perspective of how three emerging market countries—Turkey, Slovakia, and Ukraine—have weathered the crisis. We also got a glimpse of the methodology the IMF is using to become better at sounding the alarm if it sees new vulnerabilities building up in the world economy.
More Europe, not less
The bags are packed, the shuttle buses are waiting, and the conference center here in Istanbul is slowly emptying. More than 15,000 people have come and gone. Now is the time to take stock and figure out how to move forward on the big decisions coming out of Istanbul.
The IMF’s Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, called them exactly that in his final speech at the plenary on October 6: "The Istanbul Decisions." So what are they? The IMF’s policy steering committee, the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), asked the IMF to move forward in four areas:
- Updating the IMF’s mandate in light of the big changes in the global economy witnessed during the past decade
- Reviewing the IMF’s financing role, possibly beefing up its role as a lender of last resort
- Rethinking multilateral surveillance, with the idea of introducing peer review of economic policies
- Giving more voice and representation to dynamic emerging market and developing countries