Five Keys to a Smart Fiscal Policy

By Vitor Gaspar and Luc Eyraud

Versions in عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), and Español (Spanish)

We live in a world of dramatic economic change. Rapid technological innovation has fundamentally reshaped the way we live and work. International trade and finance, migration, and worldwide communications have made countries more interconnected than ever, exposing workers to greater competition from abroad. While these changes have brought tremendous benefits, they have also led to a growing perception of uncertainty and insecurity, particularly in advanced economies.

Today’s conditions require new, more innovative solutions, which the IMF calls smart fiscal policies. By smart policies we mean policies that facilitate change, harness its growth potential, and protect people who are hurt by it. At the same time, excessive borrowing and record levels of public debt have limited the financial resources available to government. So, fiscal policy must do more with less. Fortunately, researchers and policy makers are realizing that the fiscal tool kit is broader and the tools more powerful than they thought. Five guiding principles sketch the contours of these smart fiscal policies, which are described in chapter one of the IMF’s April 2017 Fiscal Monitor. (more…)

Global Financial Stability Improves; Getting the Policy Mix Right to Sustain Gains

By Tobias Adrian

Versions in 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), and Español (Spanish)

The world’s financial system has become safer and more stable since our last assessment six months ago. Economic activity has gained momentum. The outlook has improved and hopes for reflation have risen. Monetary and financial conditions remain highly accommodative. And investor optimism over the new policies under discussion in the United States has boosted asset prices. These are some of the conclusions of the IMF’s latest Global Financial Stability Report

But it’s important for governments in the United States, Europe, China and elsewhere to follow through on investor expectations by adopting the right mix of policies. This means preventing fiscal imbalances, resisting calls for higher trade barriers, and maintaining global cooperation on regulations needed to make the financial system safer. (more…)

Global Economy Gaining Momentum—For Now

By Maurice Obstfeld

Versions in عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

Momentum in the global economy has been building since the middle of last year, allowing us to reaffirm our earlier forecasts of higher global growth this year and next. We project the world economy to grow at a pace of 3.5 percent in 2017, up from 3.1 percent last year, and 3.6 percent in 2018. Acceleration will be broad based across advanced, emerging, and low-income economies, building on gains we have seen in both manufacturing and trade.

Our new projection for 2017 in the April World Economic Outlook is marginally higher than what we expected in our last update. This improvement comes primarily from good economic news for Europe and Asia, as well as our continuing expectation for higher growth this year in the United States.

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Chart of the Week: Seeking Solutions to Growing Inequality

By IMFblog

As finance ministers and central banks gather in Washington this week for the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank, income inequality will be among the topics of discussion.

While global economic integration has brought enormous benefits in the form of rising living standards, it has also contributed to widening inequality within some countries. In advanced economies, the incomes of the top 1 percent have grown three times faster than those of the rest of the population over the past three decades.

Why should this be a concern to policy makers? To put it simply, when the benefits of growth are shared more broadly, growth is stronger, more durable, and more resilient.

In a speech on April 12, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde outlined steps governments can take to help workers who have been affected by labor-market dislocations, including greater emphasis on retraining and vocational training, job search assistance, and relocation support.

The IMF’s Fiscal Monitor, to be released on April 19, also explains how governments can use taxation and spending to ensure that growth is more equitable.

The Hollowing Out of Middle-Skilled Labor Share of Income

By Mai Dao, Mitali Das, Zsoka Koczan, and Weicheng Lian

Version in Français (French) and Español (Spanish)

Imagine how a typical factory today operates in many advanced economies. There are no longer many workers lined up along assembly belts. Instead, there are only a few of them—mostly likely engineers—looking at screens of highly sophisticated equipment that does the assembly once done by humans. With technological advancement constantly driving down the cost of capital, firms are increasingly replacing workers with machines.

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How an Extended Period of Low Growth Could Reshape the Financial Industry

By Gaston Gelos and Jay Surti

Versions in  عربي (Arabic), Français (French), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

What happens if advanced economies remain stuck in a long-lasting funk marked by tepid growth, low interest rates, aging populations and stagnant productivity? Japan offers an example of the impact on banks, and our analysis suggests that there could also be far-reaching consequences for insurance companies, pension funds, and asset-management firms.

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Revisiting the Paradox of Capital: The Reversal of Uphill Flows

By Emine Boz, Luis Cubeddu, and Maurice Obstfeld

Versions in عربي (Arabic),  中文 (Chinese), Français (French),  Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

Basic economic theory tells us that capital should flow from slow-growing rich countries to faster-growing poor ones in search of higher returns. A decade ago, our former Research Department colleagues Eswar Prasad, Raghuram Rajan, and Arvind Subramanian examined why the reverse had been true—capital generally flowed “uphill” from poorer to richer countries. Building on the seminal work of Robert Lucas, they argued that certain characteristics of poorer countries, such as weaker institutions and lower levels of education, may reduce the risk-adjusted returns to investing there.  (more…)

The Whole Can Be Greater Than the Sum of its Parts

By Vitor Gaspar, Maurice Obstfeld and Ratna Sahay

There are policy options to bring new life into anemic economic recoveries and to counteract renewed slowdowns.  Our new paper, along with our co-authors, debunks widespread concerns that little can be done by policymakers facing a vicious cycle of (too) low growth, (too) low inflation, near-zero interest rates, and high debt levels.

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