The new Latin America can provide some lessons to the advanced countries—such as saving for a rainy day, and making sure that risks in the banking system are under control. Of course, Latin America is not immune to any storms that come out of Europe. No one is. In our interconnected world, there is simply nowhere to hide. And so countries in the region should take all necessary precautions and make all needed preparations.
The informal economy is large and pervasive—and, often, ignored; however, the experience of those who work in the informal sector came under the media spotlight when Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire that fateful day in December last year, sparking the Arab Spring protests.
If housing and labor market woes aren’t bad enough in the United States, they’re hurting Central America and the Caribbean too. It has been five years since the U.S. housing bubble burst and three years since the onset of the global financial crisis. And still, in the world’s largest economy—which in the past quickly and vigorously recovered from downturns—jobs and output are barely growing. In fact, output is just 1.6 percent higher than a year ago, and almost 14 million people remain unemployed. True, some of this lackluster economic performance reflects global factors, particularly the uncertainty surrounding the lingering European crisis, but also temporary factors related to the Japanese earthquake. However, on the domestic front, fragile household balance sheets and stubbornly high unemployment have been major factors impeding growth. This latter development is having negative spillovers on many Central American and Caribbean countries, where remittances and tourism flows from workers in the United States are important for their economies (see our most recent Regional Economic Outlook for Western Hemisphere).
Central Banks, Financial Regulators, and the Quest for Financial Stability: 2011 IMF Annual Research Conference
The global financial crisis gave economists pause for thought about what should be the future of macroeconomic policy. We have devoted much of our thinking to this issue these past three years, including how the many policy instruments work together. The interactions between monetary and macroprudential policies, in particular, remain hotly debated. This topic goes to the core of central banks’ mandates, and their role in achieving macroeconomic and financial stability. While the financial crisis triggered a fundamental rethinking of these issues, much research—both conceptual and empirical—remains to be done. I hope this year’s IMF Annual Research Conference will contribute to expanding the frontier of knowledge on this topic.
One of my all-time favorite movies is “The Third Man” starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten. Perhaps the most striking part of the movie is the shadowy cinematography, set in post-World War II Vienna. Strangely, it springs to mind lately when I have been thinking of China. Many China-watchers looked on in 2009 as the government’s response to the global financial crisis unfolded, causing bank lending to expand by close to 20 percentage points in less than a year. At the same time, a less visible phenomenon was also getting underway. One that, like Orson Welles’ character in the movie, resided firmly in the shadows. Various types of nonbank financial intermediaries were gearing up to provide more credit. Talking to people in China, and looking at what numbers are available, one cannot help but have an uneasy feeling that more credit is now finding its way into the economy outside of the banking system than is actually flowing through the banks. This worries me for four broad reasons.
As a commodity exporting region, Latin America has greatly benefited from the commodity price boom of the past decade. But with talk of a new global recession, what will happen to the region if the boom turns to bust? The IMF’s October 2011 Regional Economic Outlook: Western Hemisphere sheds light on Latin America’s reliance on commodities from a historical perspective. Our study also looks at the effect of a sharp decline in commodity prices on emerging market economies and on the policies that could shield countries from that shock.