Beyond Growth: the Importance of Inclusion

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?

More Diversity will Help the IMF at Work

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.

By | June 1st, 2011|Africa, Europe, G-20, IMF, International Monetary Fund, LICs, Low-income countries|

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.

By | December 3rd, 2010|Economic Crisis, LICs, Low-income countries, Public debt|

Making up for Lost Time: Getting Back on Track to the Millennium Development Goals

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.

By | September 20th, 2010|Africa, Economic Crisis, growth, IMF, International Monetary Fund, LICs, Low-income countries|

IMF—Delivering on Promises to Africa

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.

Supporting an Upswing in Africa Through Good Economic Policies

By Antoinette Sayeh

Ensuring that sub-Saharan Africa emerges strongly from global recession will require both a sustained recovery in the global economy and sound domestic policies. The good news is that domestic policies are already supporting economic activity.

Many countries entered the crisis in much better shape than in the past. The region’s fiscal position was on average in balance in 2008, compared with big deficits in past cycles. Debt levels were also much lower than in the early 1990s, supported of course by recent debt relief initiatives. Inflation had been brought under control across most of the region. And, reflecting sounder and more open policies, countries had accumulated much larger buffers of foreign reserves—the median ratio of reserves to GDP was 14 percent last year, compared to about 5 percent in the early 1970s.

Nigerian market: many African economies are in better shape than during previous crises (photo: Reuters)

Nigerian market: many African economies are in better shape than during previous crises (photo: Reuters)

This favorable starting point gave many countries in the region a fair amount of breathing space. They were able to respond to the crisis by allowing fiscal deficits to rise and interest rates to fall, reaping the rewards of previous good policies.  Countries with flexible exchange rates also let them adjust to the changing external environment. Such policy responses helped economies absorb some of the impact of the external shocks. Not all countries were able to take this route, however. Faced with large macroeconomic imbalances that pre-dated the global slowdown, a few countries had to tighten their fiscal or monetary policy stance.

Continue reading “Supporting an Upswing in Africa Through Good Economic Policies” »

By | September 9th, 2009|Africa, Economic Crisis, Financial Crisis, growth, LICs, Low-income countries, recession|

Sharing in the Global Upturn—Better Prospects for Africa

By Antoinette Sayeh

The shape of the global recovery is on everybody’s mind. But how will it affect sub-Saharan Africa? A key lesson from the past is that global cycles matter for Africa.

For sure, there have been definite idiosyncrasies in sub-Saharan African cycles–as will be discussed more fully in the forthcoming October issue of our Regional Economic Outlook—but the global dimension remains paramount.

Previous global cycles—and I’m talking here about the regular fluctuations in global economic growth that bottomed out in 1975, 1982, and 1991—followed some clear patterns. Typically, the end of an unsustainably high period of global growth coincided with the emergence of production bottlenecks and a burst of inflation triggered by accelerating commodity prices (particularly oil), prompting a tightening of monetary policy. The subsequent downturns were relatively short and growth rates typically bounced back fairly
quickly to previous levels.

By and large, Africa followed this pattern too. But the timing and the strength of the recovery were a bit different. Growth rates stayed high during the first year of the global slowdown, and they tended to bottom out later. The rebound was slower, lagging global growth by a year or two. Critically, when growth did recover, it was generally hesitant and low.

chart

What can the past tell us about the present? It is clear that the initial shock to sub-Saharan Africa has been greater than in the past. This reflects both the magnitude of the global crisis and the deeper integration between the region and the world, both in trade and in financial markets.

Continue reading “Sharing in the Global Upturn—Better Prospects for Africa” »

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