This blog is part of a series providing regional analysis on the effects of the coronavirus.
The growing presence of COVID‑19 in sub-Saharan Africa threatens the same human costs as elsewhere in the world. The economic costs could be just as devastating. […]
August 1, 2018
Contrary to popular belief, countries in sub-Saharan Africa are more closely tied than ever, thanks to rising trade with one another and remittances—the money people send home when working in another country. […]
April 13, 2018
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. […]
June 15, 2017
Monetary and fiscal policies interact in complex ways. Yet modern institutional arrangements typically feature a strict separation of responsibilities. For example, the central bank targets inflation and smooths business cycle fluctuations, while the fiscal authority agrees to respect its budget constraint and to support financial stability by maintaining the safe asset status of its debt. This gives governments the freedom to pursue a multiplicity of economic and social objectives (in IMF parlance, inclusive growth).
Debt is central to the functioning of a modern economy. Firms can use it to finance investments in future productivity. Households can use it to finance lumpy purchases, such as big consumer durables, or a home. Sometimes, however, firms’ investments do not pan out or a household’s main earner loses his or her job. Countries’ legal systems generally recognize that in these cases, debtors and creditors alike—along with society at large—may be better off if there is an orderly procedure for reorganizing debts. […]
Greece is once again in the headlines as discussions for the second review of its European Stability Mechanism (ESM) program are gaining pace. Unfortunately, the discussions have also spurred some misinformation about the role and the views of the IMF. Above all, the IMF is being criticized for demanding more fiscal austerity, in particular for making this a condition for urgently needed debt relief. This is not true, and clarifications are in order. […]
Having successfully pulled Greece from the brink last summer and subsequently stabilized the economy, the government of Alexis Tsipras is now discussing with its European partners and the IMF a comprehensive multi-year program that can secure a lasting recovery and make debt sustainable. While discussions continue, there have been some misperceptions about the International Monetary Fund’s views and role in the process. I thought it would be useful to clarify issues.
All eyes are on Greece, as the parties involved continue to strive for a lasting deal, spurring vigorous debate and some sharp criticisms, including of the IMF.
In this context, I thought some reflections on the main critiques could help clarify some key points of contention as well as shine a light on a possible way forward.
The main critiques, as I see them, fall under the following four categories:
- The 2010 program only served to raise debt and demanded excessive fiscal adjustment.
- The financing to Greece was used to repay foreign banks.
- Growth-killing structural reforms, together with fiscal austerity, have led to an economic depression.
- Creditors have learned nothing and keep repeating the same mistakes.