Bringing Down High Debt

By Vitor Gaspar and Laura Jaramillo

April 18, 2018

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

High debt makes governments’ financing vulnerable to sudden changes in market sentiment (photo: NYSE-LUCAS JACKSON-REUTERS Newscom).

Global debt hit a new record high of $164 trillion in 2016, the equivalent of 225 percent of global GDP. Both private and public debt have surged over the past decade. High debt makes government’s financing vulnerable to sudden changes in market sentiment. It also limits a government’s ability to provide support to the economy in the event of a downturn or a financial crisis.

Countries should use the window of opportunity afforded by the economic upswing to strengthen the state of their fiscal affairs. The April 2018 Fiscal Monitor explores how countries can reduce government deficits and debt in a growth-friendly way.

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Fiscal Rules: Make them Easy to Love and Hard to Cheat

By Xavier Debrun, Luc Eyraud, Andrew Hodge, Victor Lledo, Catherine Pattillo, Abdelhak Senhadji

April 13, 2018

Versions in Español (Spanish), Français (French),  Português  (Portuguese)

The national debt clock in New York City: a fiscal rule, like the debt ceiling, should not be set too low or too high. (photo: Frances M. Roberts/Newscom)

Rules to contain lavish government deficits are most effective if countries design them to be simple, flexible, and enforceable in the face of changing economic circumstances.

In new analysis, we look at fiscal rules in over 90 countries and, based on their experiences, find that the rules put in the place over the last three decades often were too complex, overly rigid, and difficult to enforce. Continue reading “Fiscal Rules: Make them Easy to Love and Hard to Cheat” »

Risky Business: Reading Credit Flows for Crisis Signals

By Claudio Raddatz Kiefer and Jérôme Vandenbussche 

April 10, 2018

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

The odds of a severe economic downturn are higher when a growing portion of credit flows to riskier firms, according to a new IMF study (Photo: Pali 137/ iStock by Getty Images).

Supervisors who monitor the health of the financial system know that a rapid buildup of debt during an economic boom can spell trouble down the road. That is why they keep a close eye on the overall volume of credit in the economy. When companies go on a borrowing spree, supervisors and regulators may decide to put the brakes on credit growth.

Trouble is, measuring credit volume overlooks an important question: how much of that additional money flows to riskier companies – which are more likely to default in times of trouble—compared with more creditworthy firms? The IMF’s latest Global Financial Stability Report seeks to fill that gap by constructing measures of the riskiness of credit allocation, which should help policy makers spot clouds on the economic horizon. Continue reading “Risky Business: Reading Credit Flows for Crisis Signals” »

Managing Debt Vulnerabilities in Low-Income and Developing Countries

By Tao Zhang

March 22, 2018

Versions in Português (Portuguese)  

Congested streets in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In a third of low-income countries, including Bangladesh, government deficits finance investment in much needed infrastructure (photo: Motoya Taguchi/Jiji Press/Newscom).

Government debt in some of the world’s poorest countries is rising to risky levels, a new IMF report shows. The report looks at economic developments and prospects among the world’s low-income countries, which account for a fifth of the world’s population but only four percent of global output. Continue reading “Managing Debt Vulnerabilities in Low-Income and Developing Countries” »

Policy Actions to Sustain Growth and Guard Against Risks

By Christine Lagarde

March 15, 2018

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

Even though the sun still shines on the global economy, there are more clouds on the horizon (iStock by GettyImages).

When the Group of Twenty finance ministers and central bank governors met last October, there was a sense of optimism about the global economic upswing and the opportunities for much-needed reforms.

When they meet again in Buenos Aires next week, their focus will be on the policies needed to protect this upswing against downside risks and bolster growth going forward.

The good news is that the growth momentum has continued to strengthen, involving three- quarters of the world economy.

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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” »

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” »

Countries in the IMF Financial Spotlight in 2018

By IMF Blog

January 31, 2018

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

Financial sector assessments are showing that countries and financial systems are adapting better methods to monitor financial vulnerabilities (photo: Ingram Publishing/Newscom).

The IMF in 2018 will complete ten assessments of countries’ financial systems, to identify risks and propose policies to strengthen their financial stability. Three of this year’s reviews will be for countries with Systemically Important Financial Systems : Belgium, Brazil and Poland. In addition, IMF experts will assess the euro area’s financial stability. Other financial stability assessments will cover Armenia, Jamaica, Namibia, Peru, Romania, and Tanzania.

Continue reading “Countries in the IMF Financial Spotlight in 2018” »

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