Governments in low-income countries are having to deal with a lot of bad news these days. Slow growth in the advanced economies is dampening demand for their exports and affecting inflows of investment, aid, and remittances. Changes in credit conditions elsewhere influence the availability of trade finance. Volatility in commodity prices creates problems for both importers and exporters. Meanwhile, climactic and other natural disasters continue to occur at the local and regional level.
War-torn Iraq, quake-ravaged Haiti, conflict-devastated Sierra Leone. So many countries around the world face the legacy of terrible hardships that have left them scarred and fragile. Some have questioned whether the IMF has a meaningful role to play in these countries, but they couldn’t be more wrong. A recent review found that the IMF has played an important positive role in fragile states. This doesn’t mean we always got it right. We can do better. There is plenty of scope to adapt how we engage in these countries; to be more flexible and deepen cooperation with other development partners. In this post, Dominique Desruelle discusses a few ideas that we’ll be exploring—and discussing with stakeholders—in the months ahead, including at a high-level public seminar in Washington later this month.
As iMFdirect looks back at two years since our blog on global economics was launched in August 2009, we've compiled a list of the posts that have drawn the most attention.
Economists care about growth. Governments care about what it can achieve: more jobs and more income for more people. An increasing number of African countries have been growing robustly for more than a decade. But while growth is a necessary condition for poverty reduction and employment creation, is it also sufficient?
Nemat Shafik, who took over as IMF Deputy Managing Director in April, says she has been surprised by the vigor of internal policy debate at the IMF. “From the outside looking in, you have the impression that the IMF is a monolith with a very single-minded view of the world. When you are inside the Fund, what is really striking is how active the internal debate is,” she says. At a time when the global economy is being buffeted by continued uncertainty in Europe, uprisings in the Middle East, and signs of overheating in some emerging market economies, there’s a lot to discuss. And, it addition to global economic problems, the IMF’s work environment has come under increased scrutiny, in particular how women are treated and its professional code of conduct. In an interview, Ms. Shafik discusses some of these issues.
Bridges to Growth, Not Roads to Nowhere: Scaling Up Infrastructure Investment in Low-Income Countries
For low-income countries, the absence of reliable infrastructure—roads, railways, ports, but also power supply—has become an increasingly binding constraint on growth. And we know that investment in infrastructure can raise productivity, boost growth, and help reduce poverty. But as straightforward as it sounds, getting investment decisions right is no easy feat. The current fragile outlook for many advanced economies also means they’re less likely to be a big source of growth or financing for the foreseeable future. The key issue now is for low-income countries to unlock new sources of growth and investment financing. At the same time, the more robust recoveries of dynamic emerging market economies and their new status as development partners brings fresh perspectives.
With only five years to go until the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, the global financial crisis struck a blow to the poverty reduction agenda. All is not lost, however. Reducing poverty on a massive scale is do-able—the number of people living in extreme poverty fell by a staggering 400 million from 1990 to 2005. The question is, how do we regain the momentum? It won’t be easy and, as a global problem, it will require a shared effort between the developing countries themselves, the advanced economies, and the international organizations.
The emergence of successive waves of new growth drivers not only benefits Asia, through the creation of trade and investment linkages and greater Asian integration, the formation of North-South economic linkages means wider benefits accrue.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, there is a fresh energy in Sub-Saharan Africa--and a broad consensus on the road ahead. Above all, there is the strong sense that Africa's destiny will be driven by Africans, not by others.
At a conference in Tanzania a year ago, the IMF committed to improving its policies and operational approaches in Africa and pledged to ensure Africa’s concerns would be taken into account during the meetings of the Group of Twenty (G-20) industrialized and emerging market countries and be an advocate for Africa. Now, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on a visit Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia--his third trip to the region in the past 12 months--presents the scorecard of how the IMF has delivered on its promises to the continent.