Many low-income developing countries have joined the group of Eurobond issuers across the globe— in sub-Saharan Africa (for example, Senegal, Zambia, and Ghana), Asia (for example, Mongolia) and elsewhere, raising over US$21 billion cumulatively over the past decade. Tapping these markets provides a new source of funds, but also exposes borrowers to shifts in investor sentiment and rising global interest rates.
The IMF has sharply marked down its forecast for world growth and it now expects a mild recession in the euro area. Naturally, weaker world growth will affect economic activity in Latin America and the Caribbean. Concretely, the Fund expects the world economy to grow by just 3¼ percent in 2012, ¾ percentage points lower than our September forecasts. In contrast, our forecast for the U.S. economy for 2012 is unchanged, as incoming data signal a stronger—but still sluggish—domestic recovery that will offset a weaker global environment. Commodity prices will be affected by ebbing global demand, with oil projected to fall about 5 percent and non-oil commodities about 14 percent.
The IMF has argued for some time that the very high public debt ratios in many advanced economies should be brought down to safer levels through a gradual and steady process. Doing either too little or too much both involve risks: not enough fiscal adjustment could lead to a loss of market confidence and a fiscal crisis, potentially killing growth; but too much adjustment will hurt growth directly. At times over the last couple of years we called on countries to step up the pace of adjustment when we thought they were moving too slowly. Instead, in the current environment, I worry that some might be going too fast.
Not so long after the global financial crisis, the supply of foreign financing has become abundant, and cheap, for many emerging market countries. This sounds like good news for Latin America, and it is—creating opportunities for debt management, saving on interest paid to foreigners, and expanding opportunities for investment. But it also comes with a number of potential risks that need to be managed.
Our new Regional Economic Outlook for the Western Hemisphere takes an in-depth look at the risks arising from what we call “easy external financial conditions.” There we analyze how the more financially integrated economies of Latin America have responded to such conditions in the past, with comparison to countries of other regions. Our comparisons focus especially on a group of advanced economies—Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and Norway—that also are commodity exporters, as well as being inflation targeters with highly flexible exchange rates.