Of the three main pillars of the IMF’s work, technical assistance has been a sort of middle child; it doesn’t get the attention of the oldest and youngest children, yet in many ways is the glue that holds the family together. The other two pillars are well known: we lend money to countries in times of need and crisis, and conduct annual check-ups of their economies and financial systems, known as surveillance. As countries around the world cope with the global economic crisis, the IMF’s technical assistance is a vital part of the work that we do to help countries prevent, prepare for and resolve crises. A new strategy for technical assistance is under discussion at the IMF and there are five key areas we need to focus on: adapting to countries’ evolving needs, more cooperation with donors, new ways to deliver technical assistance, the importance of training, and a focus on results.
Recent large equity sell-offs across Asia and safe haven flows into Japan illustrate perfectly the region’s vulnerabilities to further global shocks. While the region’s fundamentals—built up over the past decade—remain relatively strong, economic uncertainties in Europe and the United States pose large downside risks. The world economy has entered a dangerous new phase and, as the IMF’s Managing Director stated recently, “what makes the situation all the more urgent is that it has implications for every country.” Our Regional Economic Outlook for Asia and the Pacific emphasizes these risks, and stresses the need for policymakers to remain vigilant and nimble in this extraordinarily uncertain climate. The view from here in Tokyo—looking out at the region—may be more serene than the view from other advanced country capitals, but there are storm clouds on the horizon.
As the European crisis lingers and advanced economies stall, the next six to eighteen months will be challenging for Latin America. Increased global uncertainties may create headwinds for the region—greater stress in the global economy and markets—tailwinds, if the advanced countries’ problems are tackled and economies spring back to life, or volatile gusts—weak growth and continued uncertainty—like we are seeing now. But it’s not easy to forecast the future of Latin America in these uncertain times, as we discuss in our just-published Regional Economic Outlook for Western Hemisphere. (Here I focus on Latin America, but our report covers the whole region, including North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.)