Welfare Versus GDP: What Makes People Better Off

By Geoffrey Bannister and Alexandros Mourmouras

March 7, 2018

Oslo, Norway. In rich countries like Norway, that have greater life expectancy, more leisure, and lower inequality, measured well-being is higher than income (photo: iStock by Getty Images).

For years, economists have worked to develop a way of measuring general well-being and comparing it across countries. The main metric has been differences in income or gross domestic product per person. But economists have long known that GDP is an imperfect measure of well-being, counting just the value of goods and services bought and sold in markets.

The challenge is to account for non-market factors such as the value of leisure, health, and home production, such as cleaning, cooking and childcare, as well as the negative byproducts of economic activity, such as pollution and inequality. Continue reading “Welfare Versus GDP: What Makes People Better Off” »

Ending Harassment Helps #TheEconomyToo

By Christine Lagarde, Corinne Deléchat, and Monique Newiak

March 5, 2018

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

Women who live in countries with stronger protection against harassment, including at work, are more likely to open a bank account, borrow and save, and use financial services such as mobile payments (iStock by Getty Images).

This International Women’s Day is bringing new calls to #pressforprogress on gender parity. Giving women and girls the opportunity to succeed is not only the right thing to do—it can also transform societies and economies.

Unlocking this transformative potential means pushing for more equal opportunities: for example, equality in legal rights for men and women, and equality in access to education, health, and finance. Just as important is the fundamental issue of ensuring a safe environment for all, including protection against harassment. Continue reading “Ending Harassment Helps #TheEconomyToo” »

The Struggle to Manage Debt

By Christoph Rosenberg

March 1, 2018

Good economic times offer an opportunity to tackle budget deficits

The global economy has a spring in its step. Growth is picking up, and we at the IMF have been ratcheting up our forecasts. Government coffers are filling and, with more people at work, demand for public social support is receding. The fiscal woes of the past decade seem behind us.

But this sunny perspective ignores debt levels that remain close to historic highs and the inevitable end of the cyclical upswing. Estimates of underlying growth potential have hardly budged, and interest rates—the cost of servicing all this debt—are starting to rise, which will eventually make it harder to refinance bonds and loans. Continue reading “The Struggle to Manage Debt” »

Chart of the Week: China’s Thrift, and What to Do About It

February 26, 2018

By IMFBlog

A pedestrian walks in front of a branch of the Postal Savings Bank of China in Nanjing. China’s saving rate is one of the world’s highest (photo: Imagine China/Newscom).

What makes China’s citizens so thrifty, and why does that matter for China and the rest of the world? The country’s saving rate, at 46 percent of GDP, is among the world’s highest. Households account for about half of savings, with corporations and the government making up the rest.

Saving is good, right? Up to a point. But too much saving by individuals can be bad for society. That’s because the flip side of high savings is low consumption and low household welfare. High savings can also fuel excessive investment, resulting in a buildup of debt in China. And because people in China save so much, they buy fewer imported goods than they sell abroad. That contributes to global imbalances, according to a recent IMF paper, China’s High Savings: Drivers, Prospects, and Policies. The country’s authorities are aware of the issue and are taking steps to address it. Continue reading “Chart of the Week: China’s Thrift, and What to Do About It” »

A Digital-Savvy Indonesia

By Tidiane Kinda and Ting Yan

February 22, 2018

Version in  中文 (Chinese), baˈhasa indoneˈsia (Indonesian)

A salesperson shows a customer the latest smartphones in a showroom in Jakarta, Indonesia: the use of mobile internet services continues to grow rapidly in the country (photo: Beawhiharta/Reuters/ /Newscom).

With the third largest youth population in the world and 130 million active social media users, Indonesia is poised to become the biggest digital economy country in Southeast Asia. To fully embrace the digital opportunity, Indonesia must enhance its infrastructure and increase internet penetration to lift economic growth and productivity.

According to a McKinsey report, digitization could expand Indonesia’s economy by 10 percent of GDP and add 3.7 million jobs by 2025. Continue reading “A Digital-Savvy Indonesia” »

The Euro Area Needs a Fiscal Union

By Helge Berger, Giovanni Dell’Ariccia, and Maurice Obstfeld

February 21, 2018

Version in Français (French) 

Without more tangible elements of a fiscal union, the euro area will remain fundamentally vulnerable to shocks. (photo: iStock by GettyImages) .

The euro area is experiencing a robust recovery, but the architecture supporting Europe’s currency union remains incomplete and leaves the region vulnerable to future financial crises.

While substantial progress has been made to address some architectural issues—conditional lending facilities and key elements of a banking union—we argue in our recent paper that the euro area needs to build elements of a common fiscal policy, including more fiscal risk sharing, to preserve financial and economic integration and stability. Without some degree of fiscal union, the region will continue to face existential risks that policymakers should not ignore. While this is not a new topic, the current favorable economic climate might be the moment to advance the discussion—and the chance to strengthen the euro area. Continue reading “The Euro Area Needs a Fiscal Union” »

Sub-Saharan Africa: Diversifying for Tomorrow

By IMFBlog

February 16, 2018

Photo: iStock by Getty Images/subman

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa need to diversify their economies, and the region’s youth need to be at the heart of it, says Axel Schimmelpfennig.

Schimmelpfennig is head of the IMF team for Uganda, and a coauthor of a study that looks at the potential benefits of a stepped-up diversification agenda in sub-Saharan Africa.

In this podcast, Schimmelpfennig talks about the need for sub-Saharan Africa to increase productivity in areas like agriculture and manufacturing to become more competitive in the export market and allow for increasing wages. Continue reading “Sub-Saharan Africa: Diversifying for Tomorrow” »

Game-Changers and Whistle-Blowers: Taxing Wealth

By James Brumby and Michael Keen

February 13, 2018

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

New Delhi, India: there are now very few effective explicit wealth taxes in either developing or advanced economies (photo: Jens Kalaene/Corbis).

High and rising income inequality is a serious concern in many countries, as highlighted in the IMF’s recent Fiscal Monitor. Wealth, however, is distributed even more unequally than income, as in the picture below. Continue reading “Game-Changers and Whistle-Blowers: Taxing Wealth” »

Chart of the Week: Crime, Joblessness, and Youth in the Caribbean

By IMFBlog

February 12, 2018

Weak growth in the Caribbean reduces economic opportunities for young people, increasing their vulnerability to illegal activities and crime (photo: IMF)

Youth unemployment in the Caribbean—among the highest in the world—and crime are key bottlenecks to growth in the region.

In our Chart of the Week, we show that the 2008 global financial crisis had an especially strong effect on the unemployment rate for those between the ages of 15 and 24, which jumped on average by 5 percentage points between 2007 and 2013—from 21 percent to 26 percent. In some countries (for example, the Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica), youth unemployment rates are nearly three times that of those aged 30 and over. Continue reading “Chart of the Week: Crime, Joblessness, and Youth in the Caribbean” »

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