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…)

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.

Services Exports Open a New Path to Prosperity

By Prakash Loungani, Chris Papageorgiou, and Ke Wang

Versions in 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), and Русский (Russian)

Services, which already account for 50 percent of world income and 70 percent of employment, are also becoming an important part of international trade. Services exports—accounting for nearly one fourth of total exports—have come to play a central role in the global economy, thanks in large part to advances in technology. (more…)

Chart of the Week: Slowing Productivity: Why It Matters and What To Do

By IMFBlog

Output per worker and total factor productivity have slowed sharply over the past decade in most advanced economies and many emerging and developing countries.

Even before the global financial crisis, productivity growth showed signs of slowing in many advanced economies. But in the aftermath of the crisis, there was a further, abrupt deceleration. (more…)

Union of Labor and Growth

By IMFBlog

John Evans is Head of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which represents some 65 million organized workers worldwide. In this podcast, he says that the labor market works much like any other market, driven by supply and demand, and the latter is very dependent on how well the economy is doing.  (more…)

Public Spending on Health Care under IMF-Supported Programs

By Sanjeev Gupta and Baoping Shang

Government policies matter when it comes to public health. And when a country’s economy is suffering a severe economic crisis, the decisions become even more critical.  Over the past few decades, protecting social programs and spending on health has been a cornerstone of the IMF’s support for countries.

(more…)

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…)

What to Do about Growth

camilla-andersen-may2015By Camilla Lund Andersen

Deep unease about rising inequality and stagnating living standards in advanced economies was at the heart of the 2016 political upheaval. Globalization and trade have been blamed, but entrenched slow growth—what economists call secular stagnation—may be the real culprit. Parents who took for granted that their children would enjoy a brighter future had their dreams dashed by the global financial crisis of 2008. Nine years later, rising populism and a return to nationalist, inward-looking policies threaten to unravel the postwar economic order.  (more…)

The IMF’s Work on Inequality: Bridging Research and Reality

By Prakash Loungani and Jonathan D. Ostry

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

Over the past three decades, income inequality has gone up in most advanced economies and in many developing ones as well. Why? Much of the research on inequality has focused on advances in technology and liberalization of trade as the main drivers. While technology and trade are global trends that are difficult to resist, IMF studies have shown that the design of government policies matters and can help limit increases in inequality. (more…)

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