2011 In Review: Four Hard Truths

As 2011 draws to a close, the recovery in many advanced economies is at a standstill, with some investors even exploring the implications of a potential breakup of the euro zone, and the real possibility that conditions may be worse than we saw in 2008. Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's Chief Economist, draws four main lessons in his year in review.

Showcasing a More Confident Africa

Africa is on the move. While several other regions of the world have to address slowdown and uncertainty, many countries in Africa have been facing a contrasting challenge: to respond to the growing demand for their bountiful resources and manage rising investment in much-needed infrastructure. But at the same time, growing economic uncertainty in the world is raising concerns across the continent where vulnerability to global shocks remains high.

Making the Most of Bad Situations

Governments in low-income countries are having to deal with a lot of bad news these days. Slow growth in the advanced economies is dampening demand for their exports and affecting inflows of investment, aid, and remittances. Changes in credit conditions elsewhere influence the availability of trade finance. Volatility in commodity prices creates problems for both importers and exporters. Meanwhile, climactic and other natural disasters continue to occur at the local and regional level.

The Arab Spring, One Year On

It is a period when hard choices must be made, when post-revolutionary euphoria must give some way to practical concerns. It also does not help that this is happening at a time of great turmoil in the global economy. But I remain hopeful. The final destination is clear: the Arab Spring is still poised to unleash the potential of the Arab people.

Africa: Changing the Narrative

Enduring poverty and conflict are so stark in Africa that it is sometimes difficult to see what else is happening. In April 2011, a study published by the Columbia Journalism Review titled “Hiding the Real Africa” documented how easily Africa makes news headlines in the West when a major famine, pandemic, or violent crisis breaks. But less attention is given to positive trends and underlying successes. In many cases, despite accelerated economic growth over the past 10 years, the rise of a middle class of consumers, and a more dynamic private sector attracting indigenous entrepreneurs, the narrative about Africa has remained focused on the bad news. That has, fortunately, started to change. This week’s cover story in The Economist, on “Rising Africa”, is testament to that. So too is the just-released December 2011 issue of Finance and Development (F&D) magazine on “Changing Africa: Rise of a Middle Class”, which explores Africa's potential.

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