When Is Repaying Public Debt Not Of The Essence?

2017-04-14T01:39:30+00:00June 2, 2015|

By Jonathan D. Ostry and Atish R. Ghosh

Financial bailouts, stimulus spending, and lower revenues during the Great Recession have resulted in some of the highest public debt ratios seen in advanced economies in the past forty years. Recent debates have centered on the pace at which to pay down this debt, with few questions being asked about whether the debt needs to be paid down in the first place.

A radical solution for high debt is to do nothing at all—just live with it. Indeed, from a welfare economics perspective—abstracting from real world problems such as rollover risk—this would be optimal. We explore this issue in our recent work. While there are some countries where clearly debt needs to be brought down, there are others that are in a more comfortable position to fund themselves at exceptionally low interest rates, and that could indeed simply live with their debt (allowing their debt ratio to decline through growth or windfall revenues).

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Once in a Generation

2017-04-14T01:39:33+00:00May 29, 2015|

Jeff Hayden altBy Jeff Hayden

World leaders will come together three times—in July, September, and December—to press for progress in the fight against poverty and to forge partnerships in support of better-quality life around the world.

In July, government officials and representatives from civil society organizations, donor groups, and the private sector will meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to secure the financing needed to lift millions out of extreme poverty.

The global community assembles again in New York in September to review progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire this year, and to adopt new ones—the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—that map out development through 2030.

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Don’t Rule it Out: Simplifying Fiscal Governance in Europe

2017-04-14T01:40:16+00:00May 29, 2015|

By Petya Koeva Brooks and Gerd Schwartz

The 2008 global financial crisis and its aftermath have tested the European Union’s (EU) fiscal governance framework—the rules, regulations, and procedures that influence how budgetary policy is planned, approved, carried out, and monitored. Given the distinctive nature of EU integration, the framework aims to discipline national fiscal policies to prevent adverse spillovers to other countries and distortions to the conduct of the euro area’s common monetary policy.

The build-up of fiscal imbalances, however, revealed gaps in the framework. Public debt in the European Union soared following the crisis in 2008 to an average of around 95 percent in 2014—almost 30 percentage points above its average pre-crisis level (Chart 1).

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Flash Crashes and Swiss Francs: Market Liquidity Takes a Holiday

2017-04-14T01:40:20+00:00May 20, 2015|

GFSR

By José Viñals

Financial market liquidity can be fleeting. The ability to trade in assets of any size, at any time and to find a ready buyer is not a given.  As discussed in some detail last fall in this blog, a number of factors, including the evolving structure of financial markets and some regulations appear to have pushed liquidity into a new realm: markets look susceptible to episodes of high price volatility where liquidity suddenly vanishes.

In our April 2015 Global Financial Stability Report we identify a new aspect to the problem:  asset price correlations have risen sharply in the last five years across all major asset classes (see figure). (more…)

Act Local, Solve Global: The $5.3 Trillion Energy Subsidy Problem

2017-04-14T01:42:54+00:00May 18, 2015|

By Benedict Clements and Vitor Gaspar

(Versions in 中文, Français日本語Русский and Español)

US$5.3 trillion; 6½ percent of global GDP—that is our latest reckoning of the cost of energy subsidies in 2015. These estimates are shocking. The figure likely exceeds government health spending across the world, estimated by the World Health Organization at 6 percent of global GDP, but for the different year of 2013. They correspond to one of the largest negative externality ever estimated. They have global relevance. And that’s not all: earlier work by the IMF also shows that these subsidies have adverse effects on economic efficiency, growth, and inequality.

What are energy subsidies

We define energy subsidies as the difference between what consumers pay for energy and its “true costs,” plus a country’s normal value added or sales  tax rate. These “true costs” of energy consumption include its supply costs and the damage that energy consumption inflicts on people and the environment. These damages, in turn, come from carbon emissions and hence global warming; the health effects of air pollution; and the effects on traffic congestion, traffic accidents, and road damage. Most of these externalities are borne by local populations, with the global warming component of energy subsidies  only a fourth of the total (Chart 1).

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Global Energy Subsidies Are Big—About US$5 Trillion Big

2017-04-14T01:42:51+00:00May 18, 2015|

By Sanjeev Gupta and Michael Keen

(Versions in 中文, Français, 日本語Русский and Español)

In their blog, Ben Clements and Vitor Gaspar make the points that global energy subsidies are still very substantial, that there is a strong need for reform in many countries, and that now is a great time to do it. This blog sets out what we mean by “energy subsidies,” provides details on their estimation, and explains how they continue to be high despite the recent drop in international energy prices (Chart 1).

Slide1

Our latest update of global energy subsidies shows that “pre-tax” subsidies—which occur when people and businesses pay less than it costs to supply the energy—are smaller than a few years back. But “post-tax” subsidies—which add to pre-tax subsidies an amount that reflects the environmental, health and other damage that energy use causes and the benefit from favorable VAT or sales tax treatment—remain extremely high, and indeed are now well above our previous estimates.

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Securitization: Restore Credit Flow to Revive Europe’s Small Businesses

2017-04-14T01:42:40+00:00May 7, 2015|

By Shekhar Aiyar, Bergljot Barkbu, and Andreas (Andy) Jobst

If financing is the lifeblood of European small businesses, then the effect of the financial crisis was similar to a cardiac arrest. The flow of affordable credit from banks was choked off and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were hit hardest. Today, with bank lending still recovering from that shock, smart policy actions could open up securitization as a source of financing to help small businesses start up, flourish and grow.

SMEs are vital to the European economy. They account for 99 out of every 100 businesses, two in every three employees, and 58 cents of each euro of value added of the business sector in Europe. Improving access to finance would therefore not only revive small businesses, but also support a strong and lasting recovery for Europe as a whole.

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European Life Insurers: Unsustainable Business Model

2017-04-14T01:42:35+00:00May 5, 2015|

By Reinout De Bock, Andrea Maechler, and Nobuyasu Sugimoto

(Versions in Français and deutsch)

Low interest rates in the euro area pose substantial challenges to the life insurance industry. Insurers—particularly in Germany and Sweden—offer their clients long-term policies, sometimes more than 30 years, without holding assets of a correspondingly long duration. Moreover, many policies contain generous return guarantees, which are unsustainable in today’s low interest rate environment.

In 2014, stress tests showed European life insurers are vulnerable to a “Japanese-like” scenario.

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How Much Finance Is Too Much: Stability, Growth & Emerging Markets

2017-04-14T01:42:27+00:00May 4, 2015|

By Ratna Sahay, Martin Čihák, and Papa N’Diaye 

The world still lives in the shadow of the global financial crisis that began in the United States in 2008.  The U.S. experience shone a spotlight on the dangers of financial systems that have grown exponentially and beyond traditional banks. It triggered a rethinking of the extent and speed of the expansion of a country’s financial sector, and raised questions about which policies promote a safe financial system.

In our new study, we emphasize that the most commonly used indicator—bank credit—is not sufficient to measure the size and scope of a country’s financial development. We create a comprehensive index for over 170 countries to answer several policy questions from the perspective of emerging markets.

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Multi-Track Monetary Policies in Advanced Economies: What This Means for Asia

2017-04-14T01:42:06+00:00April 27, 2015|

By James Daniel and Rachel van Elkan

Since mid-2014, diversity and divergence—applying to countries’ economic situations, policies and performance—have dominated global economic discussions. Differing economic performance in major advanced countries has led to divergent monetary policies.

Both the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank have started significant expansions of their balance sheets, while the U.S. Federal Reserve has ended its bond-buying program and is expected to start raising rates. This has had many effects, in particular, contributing to a sharp depreciation of the Yen and the Euro against the U.S. dollar (see chart 1).

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