Lagarde—Lending an Ear to Young Voices

By IMFBlog

June 9, 2017

As Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde travels the world engaging with country officials, civil society, nongovernmental organizations, and media representatives. Lagarde also makes a point to engage with women and youth groups, to listen to their concerns, and to discuss their vision for their countries.

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Why Talk of Bank Capital ‘Floors’ Is Raising the Roof

By Tobias Adrian and Aditya Narain

June 8, 2017

The headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, which houses the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters/Newscom)

Calculating how much capital banks should have is often a bone of contention between regulators and banks. While there has been considerable progress on reaching consensus on an international standard, one key issue remains unresolved. This is a proposal to establish a “floor,” or minimum, for the level of capital the largest banks must maintain.

Some financial institutions and national authorities question the need for a “floor,’’ arguing either that differences in business models or other elements of the global regulatory framework—notably limits on the amount of leverage banks may take on—make them redundant. We disagree. The floor reduces the chances that banks can game the system to reduce their capital buffers to levels that aren’t aligned with their risks. It is an essential element of global efforts to create a level playing field for banks operating across countries by strengthening common standards for regulation, supervision and risk management.

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Chart of the Week: Why Energy Prices Matter

By IMFBlog

June 5, 2017

Versions in   عربي (Arabic),  中文 (Chinese), Español (Spanish)

(photo: Imagine China/Newscom)

Wind turbines and solar panels generate electricity at power station, Jiangsu, China. Getting energy prices right will help reduce environmental costs and save lives (photo: Imagine China/Newscom)

World Environment Day is an occasion to consider why it’s so important to get energy prices right. The IMF has long argued that energy prices that reflect environmental costs can help governments achieve their goals not only for improving public health but also for inclusive growth and sound public finances.  

A number of countries such as Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia have recently taken important steps to increase energy prices towards market levels. Some others, such as India and China have made important strides in cost-effective renewable energy sources—and reduced their reliance on fossil fuels. Still, undercharging for fossil fuel energy remains pervasive and substantial and can cause severe health effects from pollution, particularly in densely populated countries. (more…)

Speed Limits for Financial Markets? Not So Fast

By IMFBlog

June 1, 2017

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (photo: Andrew Kelly/Reuters/Newscom)

On the afternoon of May 6, 2010, a financial tsunami hit Wall Street. Stunned traders watched as graphs on their computer screens traced the vertiginous 998-point plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which erased $1 trillion in market value in 36 minutes.

There was little in the way of fundamental news to drive such a dramatic decline, and stocks bounced back later that day. The event, quickly dubbed the “flash crash,” focused attention on the role of high-frequency trading and algorithms in amplifying market volatility.

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Higher Policy Uncertainty Could Be Bad News for Japan’s Economy

by  Elif C. Arbatli, Steven J. Davis, and Arata Ito

May 30, 2017

Version in  中文 (Chinese), 日本語 (Japanese)

Policy uncertainty remains a challenge in Japan, and can harm the country’s economic performance according to a new IMF study. The good news is that credible plans for taxation, spending and structural reforms, as well as greater clarity about monetary policy can reduce uncertainty. (more…)

Chart of the Week: Brexit and The City

By IMFBlog

May 29, 2017

It seems likely that Brexit will alter the relationship that UK-based financial firms have with the European Union—even though negotiations are just beginning.

For an idea of how much is at stake for the United Kingdom’s financial services industry, take a look at our Chart of the Week, drawn from the IMF’s latest Global Financial Stability Report. The chart illustrates the linkages that might be affected by the country’s withdrawal from the EU. One example: of the over-the-counter trading in foreign exchange derivatives in the United Kingdom, Germany and France, the UK share comes to 89 percent. (more…)

How Trade with China Boosts Productivity

By JaeBin Ahn and Romain Duval

May 24, 2017

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

Container port, Qingdao city, China. Trade with China has helped improve living standards in advanced economies through higher productivity (photo: Imagine China/Newscom)

Advocates of protectionist policies in advanced economies blame job losses on growing trade with China, and influential researchers have provided some empirical backing for their claims. Yet the benefits of trade with China are often overlooked. Among them is faster growth in productivity—the key driver of improved living standards. This suggests that rather than erecting new barriers to trade, advanced economies should continue to open up—while doing much more to help those who have lost their jobs to overseas competition. (more…)

Restarting the Growth Engine in Sub-Saharan Africa

By IMFBlog

May 19, 2017

Version in Français (French)

The IMF’s latest economic health check of sub-Saharan Africa shows that growth fell to its lowest level in 20 years.

In this podcast, the IMF African Department’s Celine Allard, who oversaw the report, says that this drop brought a halt to the 5 to 6 percent growth rate that was enjoyed in the last two decades. Some factors contributing to this slowdown are lower commodity prices, the devastation of a severe drought—exacerbating crop infestation and leading to a famine affecting some 20 million people—and political conflicts that affect trade.

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A New Twist in the Link Between Inequality and Economic Development

By Francesco Grigoli

May 11, 2017

Version in  عربي (Arabic),  Español (Spanish)

Much has been written about the relationship between inequality and economic development, but theory remains inconclusive. When income is more concentrated in the hands of a few individuals, this can lead to less demand by the general population and lower investment in education and health, impairing long-term growth. At the same time, a certain level of inequality endows the rich with the means to start businesses, and creates incentives to increase productivity and investment, promoting economic activity. But the initial inequality levels also matter to explain why an increase in inequality varies in its impact on economic development across countries.

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Chart of the Week: The Cost of Asia’s Aging

By IMFBlog

May 1, 2017

Versions in 中文 (Chinese), Bahasa (Indonesia), and 本語 (Japanese) 

When it comes to tackling demographic change in Asia, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for policymakers. In some countries, like Japan, the population is aging rapidly, and the labor force is shrinking. In others, like the Philippines, young people are flooding the job market in search of work.

As our chart shows, the impact of aging could potentially drag down Japan’s average annual GDP growth by 1 percentage point over the next three decades. While in India and the Philippines, which have some of the youngest populations in the region, a growing workforce could potentially increase GDP by that same amount. (more…)

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