Chart of the Week: Sharing the Fruits of Growth

By IMFBlog

At last week’s Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank, economists and policymakers discussed ways to maintain the momentum of the global economic expansion—while also ensuring that the fruits of growth are shared more widely within their countries. Fiscal policy—government’s ability to tax and spend—has an important role to play.

The effectiveness of fiscal policy in mitigating inequality varies widely by country, as seen in our Chart of the Week. The chart shows the redistribution effect of fiscal policy before and after taxes, as measured by the change in the Gini coefficient. A Gini of zero expresses perfect equality, while a Gini of one expresses maximum inequality. (more…)

Five Keys to a Smart Fiscal Policy

By Vitor Gaspar and Luc Eyraud

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

We live in a world of dramatic economic change. Rapid technological innovation has fundamentally reshaped the way we live and work. International trade and finance, migration, and worldwide communications have made countries more interconnected than ever, exposing workers to greater competition from abroad. While these changes have brought tremendous benefits, they have also led to a growing perception of uncertainty and insecurity, particularly in advanced economies.

Today’s conditions require new, more innovative solutions, which the IMF calls smart fiscal policies. By smart policies we mean policies that facilitate change, harness its growth potential, and protect people who are hurt by it. At the same time, excessive borrowing and record levels of public debt have limited the financial resources available to government. So, fiscal policy must do more with less. Fortunately, researchers and policy makers are realizing that the fiscal tool kit is broader and the tools more powerful than they thought. Five guiding principles sketch the contours of these smart fiscal policies, which are described in chapter one of the IMF’s April 2017 Fiscal Monitor. (more…)

Revisiting the Paradox of Capital: The Reversal of Uphill Flows

By Emine Boz, Luis Cubeddu, and Maurice Obstfeld

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

Basic economic theory tells us that capital should flow from slow-growing rich countries to faster-growing poor ones in search of higher returns. A decade ago, our former Research Department colleagues Eswar Prasad, Raghuram Rajan, and Arvind Subramanian examined why the reverse had been true—capital generally flowed “uphill” from poorer to richer countries. Building on the seminal work of Robert Lucas, they argued that certain characteristics of poorer countries, such as weaker institutions and lower levels of education, may reduce the risk-adjusted returns to investing there.  (more…)

The IMF’s Work on Inequality: Bridging Research and Reality

By Prakash Loungani and Jonathan D. Ostry

Versions in عربي (Arabic),  中文 (Chinese), Français (French), and Español (Spanish)

Over the past three decades, income inequality has gone up in most advanced economies and in many developing ones as well. Why? Much of the research on inequality has focused on advances in technology and liberalization of trade as the main drivers. While technology and trade are global trends that are difficult to resist, IMF studies have shown that the design of government policies matters and can help limit increases in inequality. (more…)

A Shifting U.S. Policy Mix: Global Rewards and Risks

maury-obstfeld-imfBy Maurice Obstfeld

Version inعربي (Arabic),  中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

After a year marked by financial turbulence, political surprises, and unsteady growth in many parts of the world, the Fed’s decision this month to raise interest rates for just the second time in a decade is a healthy symptom that the recovery of the world’s largest economy is on track.

The Fed’s action was hardly a surprise: markets had for weeks placed a high probability on last week’s move. But market developments preceding the Fed decision did surprise many market watchers. (more…)

A "New Normal" for the Oil Market

By Rabah Arezki and Akito Matsumoto

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

While oil prices have stabilized somewhat in recent months, there are good reasons to believe they won’t return to the high levels that preceded their historic collapse two years ago. For one thing, shale oil production has permanently added to supply at lower prices. For another, demand will be curtailed by slower growth in emerging markets and global efforts to cut down on carbon emissions. It all adds up to a “new normal” for oil.

(more…)

The World Economy: Moving Sideways

maury-obstfeld-weo_220x150By Maurice Obstfeld

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

A return to the strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth that Group of Twenty leaders called for at Hangzhou in September still eludes us. Global growth remains weak, even though it shows no noticeable deceleration over the last quarter. The new World Economic Outlook sees a slowdown for the group of advanced economies in 2016 and an offsetting pickup for emerging and developing economies. Taken as a whole, the world economy has moved sideways. Without determined policy action to support economic activity over the short and longer terms, sub-par growth at recent levels risks perpetuating itself—through the negative economic and political forces it is unleashing.

(more…)

Empowering Women, Tackling Income Inequality

By Sonali Jain-Chandra, Kalpana Kochhar, and Monique Newiak

(Versions in عربي中文Français日本語Русский, and Español)

Despite progress, wide gaps between women and men’s economic empowerment and opportunity remain, which policymakers need to tackle urgently. In most countries, more men than women work, and they get paid more for similar work. Also, there are considerable gender gaps in access to education, health and finance in a number of countries. There is mounting evidence that the lack of gender equity imposes large economic costs as it hampers productivity and weighs on growth.

Our new study analyzes the links between these two phenomena—inequality of income and that of gender.  We find that gender inequality is strongly associated with income inequality across time and countries of all income groups.

(more…)

The Slow Recovery Continues

WEO

By Olivier Blanchard

(Versions in Español中文,  日本語Русский )

The recovery continues, but it remains weak, indeed a bit weaker than we forecast in April.

We have revised our forecast for world growth in 2014 from 3.7 percent in April to 3.4 percent today. This headline number makes things look worse than they really are. To a large extent, it reflects something that has already happened, namely the large negative US growth rate in the first quarter. But it is not all due to that. It also reflects a number of small downward revisions, both in advanced and in emerging economies.

The overall story remains largely the same as before:

Advanced economies are still confronted with high levels of public and private debt, which act as brakes on the recovery. These brakes are coming off, but at different rates across countries.

Emerging markets are slowing down from pre-crisis growth rates. They have to address some of their underlying structural problems, and take on structural reforms. At the same time, they have to deal with the implications of monetary policy normalization in the US.

Let me take you on the usual tour of the world.

(more…)

Meeting Rising Pressures to Address Income Inequality—A User’s Guide

By Sanjeev Gupta and Michael Keen

(Version in  EspañolFrançaisРусский中文 and 日本語)

These are difficult times for ministers of finance. Fiscal constraints are tight and raising economic growth a priority. At the same time, income inequality is on the rise, and so is public pressure for governments to do something about it through their tax and spending policies. What’s a minister to do? How can he or she meet these seemingly incompatible demands?

A new IMF paper provides some guidance. Governments, of course, will have their own equity objectives. What the paper aims to do is look at precisely how countries can achieve their distributional goals—whatever they are—at the least possible cost to (and maybe even increasing) economic efficiency. This can help achieve sustainable growth and, in many cases, lead to fiscal savings. An earlier study by IMF researchers found that on average, fiscal redistribution has been associated with higher growth, because it helps reduce inequality.

(more…)

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