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” »

Understanding and Managing Financial Interdependence

By Maurice Obstfeld

November 8, 2017

(photo: AlexLMX and David Hunt/iStock)

The 18th Annual Jacques Polak Annual Research Conference last week opened with Managing Director Christine Lagarde noting the ebb and flow of capital movements into emerging market and developing economies since the turn of the millennium. She asked three questions at the heart of the discussion, and to which speakers returned consistently during the conference: Continue reading “Understanding and Managing Financial Interdependence” »

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” »

More Action Needed to Resolve Problem Loans in the Caribbean

By Kimberly Beaton and Inci Otker

October 31, 2017

The global financial crisis has left high levels of problem loans in the Caribbean (image: William Potter/iStock by Getty Images).

The global financial crisis and subsequent economic recession saddled banks in the Caribbean with high levels of problem loans. The share of nonperforming loans to total loans more than tripled in many Caribbean countries from 2007 to 2016, and they have been slow to come down. Problem loans (loans that are 90 days or more past due) are bad news for banks and the economy. Continue reading “More Action Needed to Resolve Problem Loans in the Caribbean” »

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” »

Cyber Defense Must Be Global

By Emanuel Kopp, Lincoln Kaffenberger, and Christopher Wilson

October 26, 2017

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Cyber risk has no geographical borders, and the threat is global, so the role of international institutions is crucial (solarseven/iStock by Getty Images).

Cyberattacks on financial institutions are becoming more common and considerably more sophisticated. High-profile cases like the Equifax breach, which compromised the confidentiality of 143 million Americans’ credit information, and the theft of US$81 million from Bangladesh Bank, are just two examples of recent cyber breaches in the financial industry.

Today, cyber risk is a permanent threat to financial institutions and the proper functioning of the highly interconnected financial system. Banks of all sizes experience cyberattacks every day. Breaches of individual firms can cause adverse knock-on effects for other financial and nonfinancial firms and give rise to systemic risk, a new dimension of cyber risk that is little understood. Continue reading “Cyber Defense Must Be Global” »

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” »

Inequality: Fiscal Policy Can Make the Difference

By Vitor Gaspar and Mercedes Garcia-Escribano

 October 11, 2017

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Wealth and poverty side-by-side in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: inequality is rising within countries around the world (photo: Jean-Marc David/SIPA/Newscom). 

Income inequality among people around the world has been declining in recent decades. This is due to countries like China and India’s incomes catching-up to advanced economies. But the news is not all good. Inequality within countries has increased, particularly in advanced economies. Since the global economic recovery has gained pace and is now widespread, policymakers have a window of opportunity to respond with reforms that tackle inequality, and our new Fiscal Monitor shows how the right mix of fiscal policies can make the difference.

Continue reading “Inequality: Fiscal Policy Can Make the Difference” »

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

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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” »

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