Latin America has enjoyed strong growth during the last decade, with annual growth averaging 4½ percent compared with 2¾ in the 1980s and 1990s. What is behind this remarkable economic performance and will this growth be sustainable in the years ahead?
Commodity exporting countries in Latin America have benefited strongly from the commodity price boom that began around 2002. And the accompanying improvements in public and external balance sheets have fed a sense that this time the macroeconomic response to the terms-of-trade boom has been different (and more prudent) than in past episodes. But, has it?
In our recent work, we analyze the history of Latin America’s terms-of-trade booms during 1970–2012 and quantify the associated income windfall (i.e., the extra income arising from improved terms-of-trade). We also document saving patterns during these episodes and assess the extent of the “effort” to save the income windfall.
Our findings suggest that, although the additional income shock associated to the recent terms-of-trade boom is unprecedented in magnitude, the effort to save it has been lower than in past episodes.
The global regulatory landscape governing banks has changed from its pre-crisis status quo.
In addition to the Group of Twenty advanced and emerging economies led global regulatory reforms, like Basel III, the United States and the United Kingdom have decided to directly impose limits on the scope of banks' businesses. The European Union is contemplating a similar move.
We discussed these structural banking reforms a few weeks ago with officials from finance ministries, central banks, and supervisory authorities from around the world during the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings. The design and implementation of these measures will have implications for global financial stability and sustainable growth, so we wanted to bring people together for the first global debate of the issue with G20 and other countries.
What has been the role of foreign banks in financing growth and convergence in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and how is that role changing? This is discussed in the first issue of a new series of analytical work on the region called Regional Economic Issues, which we launched at a joint IMF/Czech National Bank conference two weeks ago in Prague.
By Anoop Singh
Fiscal management has improved in Asia over the past decade. It has become more responsive to economic conditions and thereby helped stabilize growth, especially during the global financial crisis. While these are important achievements, major challenges still lie ahead—as our latest Asia and Pacific Regional Economic Outlook points out.
What are these key challenges? In a nutshell, fiscal policy can, and should do more to make Asia’s growth sustainable and more inclusive.
In the near term, budget consolidation has to proceed as the recovery takes hold to rebuild the fiscal space needed to respond to future output fluctuations.
At the same time several emerging and low income economies need to create room for higher infrastructure and social spending to support long-term growth, reduce income inequality, and fight poverty.
Latin America continues to be one of the fastest growing regions in the world, even though growth slowed down a bit in 2012. Many economies in the region are operating at or near potential, inflation remains generally low, and unemployment is at historically low levels.
In the near term, the region will continue to benefit from easy external financing and relatively high commodity prices. In our May 2013 Regional Economic Outlook, we project that the region will expand by about 3½ percent in 2013. In Brazil—the region’s largest economy—economic activity is strengthening, driven by improving external demand, measures to boost investment, and the impact of earlier policy easing. In the rest of Latin America, output growth is expected to remain near potential.
Guest post by: Joseph E. Stiglitz
Columbia University, New York, and co-host of the Conference on Rethinking Macro Policy II: First Steps and Early Lessons
In analyzing the most recent financial crisis, we can benefit somewhat from the misfortune of recent decades. The approximately 100 crises that have occurred during the last 30 years—as liberalization policies became dominant—have given us a wealth of experience and mountains of data. If we look over a 150 year period, we have an even richer data set.
With a century and half of clear, detailed information on crisis after crisis, the burning question is not How did this happen? but How did we ignore that long history, and think that we had solved the problems with the business cycle? Believing that we had made big economic fluctuations a thing of the past took a remarkable amount of hubris.
Guest post by David Romer
University of California, Berkeley, and co-host of Rethinking Macro II: First Steps and Early Lessons
As I listened to the presentations and discussions, I found myself thinking about the conference from two perspectives. One is intellectual: Are we asking provocative questions? Are interesting ideas being proposed? Are we talking about important issues? By that standard, the conference was very successful: the discussion was extremely stimulating, and I learned a great deal.
The second perspective is practical: Where do we stand in terms of averting another financial and macroeconomic disaster? By that standard, unfortunately, I fear we are not doing nearly as well. As I will describe, my reading of the evidence is that the events of the past few years are not an aberration, but just the most extreme manifestation of a broader pattern. And the relatively modest changes of the type discussed at the conference, and that in some cases policymakers are putting into place, are helpful but unlikely to be enough to prevent future financial shocks from inflicting large economic harms.
Thus, I believe we should be asking whether there are deeper reforms that might have a large effect on the size of the shocks emanating from the financial sector, or on the ability of the economy to withstand those shocks. But there has been relatively little serious consideration of ideas for such reforms, not just at this conference but in the broader academic and policy communities.
Guest post by George A. Akerlof
University of California, Berkeley
Senior Resident Scholar at the IMF, and co-host of the Conference on Rethinking Macro Policy II: First Steps and Early Lessons
I learned a lot from the conference , and I'm very thankful to all the speakers. Do I have an image of the whole thing? I don't know whether my image is going to help anybody at all, but my view is that it's as if a cat has climbed a huge tree. It's up there, and oh my God, we have this cat up there. The cat, of course, is this huge crisis.
And everybody at the conference has been commenting about what we should do about this stupid cat and how do we get it down and what do we do. What I find so wonderful about this conference is all the speakers have their own respective image of the cat, and nobody has the same opinion. But then, occasionally, those opinions mesh. That’s my image of what we have been accomplishing.