Roads or Schools: A Critical Tradeoff

By Manoj Atolia, Bin Grace Li, Ricardo Marto, and Giovanni Melina

November 9, 2017 

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Low-income countries tend to spend less on schools than on roads as a share of GDP (photo: iStock by Getty Images).

Roads or schools? It’s a question akin to the “guns or butter” choice that governments around the world confronted in the 20th century: How to spend a nation’s finite resources to produce the maximum benefit for its people.

In our recent IMF Working Paper, we find that low-income countries tend to spend less on schools than on roads as a share of GDP—even though investment in education may be a more pressing need in their societies. 

Continue reading “Roads or Schools: A Critical Tradeoff” »

Catch-Up Prospects in Emerging Economies: A Glass One Quarter Empty

By IMFBlog

November 6, 2017

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A closer look at per capita incomes by country paints a different and more nuanced picture (photo: Pavel1964/iStock).

Per capita incomes in emerging market and developing economies are expected to grow by about 2 percentage points faster per year than advanced economies between 2017 and 2022. The implication is that the gap in income levels between the two groups of countries is narrowing. However, a closer look at per capita incomes by country paints a different and more nuanced picture.  Continue reading “Catch-Up Prospects in Emerging Economies: A Glass One Quarter Empty” »

Understanding the Global Financial Cycle

By Maurice Obstfeld and Mahvash S. Qureshi

October 27, 2017

The boom and bust in cross-border capital flows around the global financial crisis, and in its aftermath, have rekindled debates on the existence and implications of a “global financial cycle.”

The traditional open-economy (“Mundell-Fleming”) model postulates that countries face a “trilemma”: a trade-off among the objectives of exchange rate stability, free capital mobility, and independent monetary policy. If a country chooses exchange rate stability and free capital mobility, it must give up monetary policy autonomy. Conversely, an independent monetary policy in the presence of free capital flows is possible through exchange rate flexibility. Continue reading “Understanding the Global Financial Cycle” »

Time to Act Now: It’s All About the Right Policy Mix

By IMFBlog

October 19, 2017

"The road ahead is not an easy one,’’ the IMF’s Executive Directors wrote after the IMF’s first ever Annual meeting in 1946.’’ We do not underestimate the difficulties facing us.’’

More than 70 years later, we’ve encountered many a storm across continents from the Latin American sovereign debt crisis to the Savings and Loans crisis to the Asian crisis. And then there was the global financial crisis of 2008. Continue reading “Time to Act Now: It’s All About the Right Policy Mix” »

Financial Stability Improves, But Rising Vulnerabilities Could Put Growth at Risk

By Tobias Adrian

October 11, 2017

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

The headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany: To avoid causing market turbulence, central banks will have to clearly communicate their plans to gradually unwind crisis-era policies (photo: Caro/Sven Hoffman/Newscom).

It seems like a paradox. The world’s financial system is getting stronger, thanks to healthy economic growth, buoyant markets, and low interest rates. Yet despite these favorable conditions, dangers in the form of rising financial vulnerabilities are starting to loom. That is why policymakers should act now to keep those vulnerabilities in check. Continue reading “Financial Stability Improves, But Rising Vulnerabilities Could Put Growth at Risk” »

Global Economic Upswing Creates a Window of Opportunity

By Maurice Obstfeld

October 10, 2017

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

 

The global recovery is continuing, and at a faster pace. The picture is very different from early last year, when the world economy faced faltering growth and financial market turbulence. We see an accelerating cyclical upswing boosting Europe, China, Japan, and the United States, as well as emerging Asia.

The latest World Economic Outlook has therefore upgraded its global growth projections to 3.6 percent for this year and 3.7 percent for next—in both cases 0.1 percentage point above our previous forecasts, and well above 2016’s global growth rate of 3.2 percent, which was the lowest since the global financial crisis. Continue reading “Global Economic Upswing Creates a Window of Opportunity” »

Inequality: Tools from the Old Masters to Help Today’s Policymakers

By Vitor Gaspar, Paolo Mauro, and Tigran Poghosyan

October 3, 2017

Unemployed day laborers in South Africa: the country has relatively high income, but also high inequality (photo: Rogan Ward/Newscom).

With inequality rising in many countries, policymakers need to choose the best fiscal policies that will help share the benefits of economic growth, and in so doing, make it more inclusive.

The early 20th century English economist Arthur Pigou, among others, saw economic welfare as influenced by both “the size of the national dividend” and “the way in which it is distributed among the members of the community.” Continue reading “Inequality: Tools from the Old Masters to Help Today’s Policymakers” »

How Policy Makers Can Better Predict a Downturn – and Prepare

By Claudio Raddatz and Jay Surti

October 3, 2017

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

A trading floor in Singapore. Financial conditions provide valuable clues to the economic outlook and can improve the accuracy of forecasts (photo: Caro/Oberhaeuser/Newscom).

The global financial crisis showed that periods of robust growth and seeming calm in financial markets can be followed by a sudden surge in market volatility and an unexpected economic downdraft. That’s why it is so important for policy makers to keep a close watch on so-called financial conditions. These can include everything from bond yields and oil prices to foreign exchange rates and levels of domestic debt. Continue reading “How Policy Makers Can Better Predict a Downturn – and Prepare” »

The Disconnect Between Unemployment and Wages

By Gee Hee Hong, Zsoka Koczan, Weicheng Lian, Malhar Nabar

September 27, 2017

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

Demand for workers is rising, but pay is hardly catching up (photo: Shironosov/iStock).

Over the past three years, labor markets in many advanced economies have shown increasing signs of healing from the Great Recession of 2008-09. Yet, despite falling unemployment rates, wage growth has been subdued–raising a vexing question: Why isn’t a higher demand for workers driving up pay?

Our research in the October 2017 World Economic Outlook sheds light on the sources of subdued nominal wage growth in advanced economies since the Great Recession.  Understanding the drivers of the disconnect between unemployment and wages is important not only for macroeconomic policy, but also for prospects of reducing income inequality and enhancing workers’ security. Continue reading “The Disconnect Between Unemployment and Wages” »

Chart of the Week: High Hurdles for Trade in Services

By IMFBlog

September 25, 2017

A shop window in Stockholm, Sweden: 62 % of jobs in the country are in the services sector (photo: Bob Strong/Reuters/Newscom).

The service sector accounts for some two-thirds of economic activity, and roughly the same share of jobs around the world. And yet the barriers to trade in services—from banking to online consultations with doctors or engineers—remain high.

Continue reading “Chart of the Week: High Hurdles for Trade in Services” »

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