The Wealth of Nations: Governments Can Better Manage What They Own and Owe

By Vitor Gaspar, Jason Harris, and Alexander Tieman

October 10, 2018

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A firefighter in Auckland, New Zealand: when governments know what they own they can put their assets to better use and can earn about 3 percent of GDP more in revenues to spend on citizens’ well being (Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Newscom)

What is the state of your personal finances? You probably think first about your debts: your mortgage, your credit card balance, and your student loans. But you probably also think about how much cash is sitting in the bank, the value of your house, and the rest of your nest egg.

Surprisingly, most governments do not approach their finances this way. Continue reading “The Wealth of Nations: Governments Can Better Manage What They Own and Owe” »

Economic Preparedness: The Need for Fiscal Space

By Vikram Haksar, Marialuz Moreno-Badia, Catherine Pattillo and Murtaza Syed

June 27, 2018

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Countries must assess the amount of room in their budgets for increasing spending or cutting taxes (photo: Martin Barraud/iStock by Getty Images)

How much leeway national policymakers have for increasing spending or cutting taxes has been hard to assess. Continue reading “Economic Preparedness: The Need for Fiscal Space” »

Bringing Down High Debt

By Vitor Gaspar and Laura Jaramillo

April 18, 2018

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

High debt makes governments’ financing vulnerable to sudden changes in market sentiment (photo: NYSE-LUCAS JACKSON-REUTERS Newscom).

Global debt hit a new record high of $164 trillion in 2016, the equivalent of 225 percent of global GDP. Both private and public debt have surged over the past decade. High debt makes government’s financing vulnerable to sudden changes in market sentiment. It also limits a government’s ability to provide support to the economy in the event of a downturn or a financial crisis.

Countries should use the window of opportunity afforded by the economic upswing to strengthen the state of their fiscal affairs. The April 2018 Fiscal Monitor explores how countries can reduce government deficits and debt in a growth-friendly way.

Continue reading “Bringing Down High Debt” »

Global Economy: Good News for Now but Trade Tensions a Threat

By Maurice Obstfeld

April 17, 2018

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Container ship in Colombo, Sri Lanka: the recent escalating tensions over trade present a growing risk to the global economy (photo: STRINGER/REUTERS/Newscom).

The world economy continues to show broad-based momentum. Against that positive backdrop, the prospect of a similarly broad-based conflict over trade presents a jarring picture.

Three months ago, we updated our global growth forecast for this year and next substantially, to 3.9 percent in both years. That forecast is being borne out by continuing strong performance in the euro area, Japan, China, and the United States, all of which grew above expectations last year. We also project near-term improvements for several other emerging market and developing economies, including some recovery in commodity exporters. Continuing to power the world economy’s upswing are accelerations in investment and, notably, in trade. Continue reading “Global Economy: Good News for Now but Trade Tensions a Threat” »

Fiscal Rules: Make them Easy to Love and Hard to Cheat

By Xavier Debrun, Luc Eyraud, Andrew Hodge, Victor Lledo, Catherine Pattillo, Abdelhak Senhadji

April 13, 2018

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The national debt clock in New York City: a fiscal rule, like the debt ceiling, should not be set too low or too high. (photo: Frances M. Roberts/Newscom)

Rules to contain lavish government deficits are most effective if countries design them to be simple, flexible, and enforceable in the face of changing economic circumstances.

In new analysis, we look at fiscal rules in over 90 countries and, based on their experiences, find that the rules put in the place over the last three decades often were too complex, overly rigid, and difficult to enforce. Continue reading “Fiscal Rules: Make them Easy to Love and Hard to Cheat” »

The Digital Gamble: New Technology Transforms Fiscal Policy

By Vitor Gaspar and Geneviève Verdier

April 12, 2018

Versions in عربي (Arabic),  中文 (Chinese),  Español (Spanish), 日本語 (Japanese), Português  (Portuguese), Русский (Russian)

Traffic in Singapore: the city uses digital technology for road pricing to manage road congestion congestion (photo: Kua Chee Siong/ SPH/Newscom)..

In Rwanda, digitally-monitored drones deliver blood supplies to hospitals. In Estonia, it takes five minutes to file taxes and 99 percent of government services are available online. Singapore was the first city to implement electronic road pricing to manage congestion. The world is becoming digital, and reliable, timely, and accurate information is available at the push of a button. Governments are following suit, using digital tools for tax and expenditure policy, public financial management, and public service delivery.  Continue reading “The Digital Gamble: New Technology Transforms Fiscal Policy” »

Propping Up the Chinese Economy: Credit versus Fiscal Stimulus

By Sophia Chen and Lev Ratnovski

December 13, 2017

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Construction work Qingyuan , Guangdong, China : Fiscal stimulus is a powerful tool for growth (photo: Imagine China/Newscom).

Credit booms are addictive. Credit supports growth and the perception of wealth. Yet credit booms are risky, and are often followed by financial busts and economic slowdowns. The challenge is taming credit without hurting growth. Continue reading “Propping Up the Chinese Economy: Credit versus Fiscal Stimulus” »

Better thy Neighbor? Cross-border Effects of Fiscal Actions

By Patrick Blagrave, Giang Ho, Ksenia Koloskova, and Esteban Vesperoni

September 27, 2017

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

Domestic fiscal policies, such as public spending, can generate meaningful spillovers to neighboring countries (Photo: Ymgerman/iStock by GettyImages)

In the wake of the global financial crisis, fiscal stimulus was advocated widely to help mitigate the recession. The thinking at the time was that fiscal stimulus would be particularly effective because its impact on activity tends to be larger when demand falls short of supply and central banks keep interest rates low. This, in turn, would lead to larger positive cross-border effects—or spillovers—on other countries.

Continue reading “Better thy Neighbor? Cross-border Effects of Fiscal Actions” »

Emerging Markets Need To Do More To Remain Engines of Global Growth

Min ZhuBy Min Zhu

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We had a big debate on emerging markets’ growth prospects at our Annual Meetings in October 2013. We lowered our 2013 growth forecast for emerging markets and developing economies by a whopping 0.5 percentage points compared to our earlier forecast. Some argued that we were too pessimistic. Others said that we should have stuck with the lower-growth scenario we had devised at the onset of the global financial crisis.

Fast forward to today. Indeed, most recent figures indicate that the engines of global growth—emerging markets and developing economies—have slowed significantly. Their growth rate dropped about 3 percentage points in 2013 from 2010 levels, with more than two thirds of countries seeing a decline— Brazil, China, and India lead the pack. This is important for the global economy, since these economies generate half of today’s global economic activity.

In my more recent travels around the world—five regions on three continents—I received the same questions everywhere: what is happening with the emerging markets? Is the slowdown permanent? Can emerging markets boost their growth? What are the downside risks?

Continue reading “Emerging Markets Need To Do More To Remain Engines of Global Growth” »

Latvia’s Economic Potential: Recovery and Reforms

Latvia’s economy has attracted international attention out of all proportion to its size. Many observers know that Latvia returned to strong economic growth after a severe downturn in 2008 and 2009 and a tough austerity program. In late 2012, Latvia even repaid the IMF in full, several years early. But the international consensus ends there. Critics of Latvia’s economic strategy point to continuing high rates of unemployment and poverty; advocates point to the benefits of frontloading spending cuts and tax increases to lay the foundations for recovery.

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