Mali – At the Dawn of a New Year

MD's Updated HeadshotBy Christine Lagarde

(Version in Français)

My second stop on this trip to Africa, after Kenya, was Mali—a country that is facing an extraordinarily difficult transition: from restoring political stability to securing economic stability—from crisis to recovery.

Having gone through massive turmoil in 2012, Mali is emerging successfully, thanks to the perseverance and fortitude of its people. Parliamentary and presidential elections have been held, and the newly elected government has put forth a new economic program aimed at increasing growth and reducing poverty.

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U.S. Fiscal Policy: A Tough Balancing Act

Deniz IganBy Deniz Igan

(Version in Español)

Much has changed on the fiscal front since we started worrying about U.S. fiscal sustainability. The federal government budget deficit has fallen sharply in recent years―from almost 12 percent of GDP in 2009 to less than 7 percent in 2012. And recent budget reports show that the deficit is shrinking faster than expected only a few months ago, to a projected 4½ percent of GDP for the current fiscal year, which ends September 30. Plus, health care cost growth has slowed down dramatically since the Great Recession, alleviating the pressure on public health care programs at least temporarily.

Does this mean we can stop worrying? Not quite. Recent developments certainly mean that things are better than we thought just a few years ago and the fiscal adjustment needed to restore sustainability is smaller. But if the choice and timing of policy measures is not right, the deficit reduction may turn out to be too much in the short run—stunting the economic recovery—and not enough in the long run.

So, in our recent annual check-up of the U.S. economy, our advice is to slow the pace of fiscal adjustment this year—which would help sustain growth and job creation—but to speed up putting in place a medium-term road map to restore long-run fiscal sustainability.

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U.S. Fiscal Policy: Avoiding Self-Inflicted Wounds

In late 2012 or early 2013 the U.S. federal government will again reach a statutory borrowing limit and will not be able to issue additional debt. Why is this a problem? First, because the federal government is spending considerably more than it collects in taxes; and second, because spending and tax collections are not synchronized. As a result, if the ceiling is not raised in time, the government would need to cut spending drastically, curtailing important government functions, with detrimental effects on output and employment. And just the mere possibility that the government might have to delay a payment on a bond could unsettle financial markets.

World Faces Weak Economic Recovery

The global recovery continues, but the recovery is weak; indeed a bit weaker than we forecast in April, says IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard. In the Euro zone, growth is close to zero, reflecting positive but low growth in the core countries, and negative growth in most periphery countries. In the United States, growth is positive, but too low to make a serious dent to unemployment. Growth has also slowed in major emerging economies, from China to India and Brazil.

Fiscal Adjustment: Too Much of a Good Thing?

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.

The Next Phase of Asia’s Economic Growth

As the economic recovery has matured across much of Asia, the region has continued to be a driving force in the strengthening global recovery. Yet, recent tragic events—around the globe, and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan—are an all too poignant reminder of the fragility of our economic circumstances and, indeed, life. Much of this weighs on my mind as I am here in Hong Kong to launch our April 2011 Regional Economic Outlook: Asia and Pacific. While the outlook is by no means gloomy, policies will need to tackle new downside risks that have emerged and how to manage the next phase of Asia’s growth.

By | April 28th, 2011|Asia, Economic outlook, Emerging Markets, International Monetary Fund|Comments Off on The Next Phase of Asia’s Economic Growth

Global Recovery Strengthens, Tensions Heighten

The world economic recovery is gaining strength, but it remains unbalanced. Earlier fears of a double dip recession—which we did not share—have not materialized. And, although rising commodity prices conjure the specter of 1970s-style stagflation, they appear unlikely to derail the recovery. However, the unbalanced recovery confronts policy makers with difficult choices. In most advanced economies, output is still far below potential. Low growth implies that unemployment will remain high for many years to come. And the problems in Europe’s periphery are particularly acute. On the other end of the spectrum, emerging market countries must avoid overheating in the face of closing output gaps and higher capital flows. The need for careful design of macroeconomic policies at the national level, and coordination at the global level, may be as important today as they were at the peak of the crisis two years ago.

A Balanced Debate About Reforming Macroeconomics

The most remarkable aspect of the recent conference at the IMF was the broad consensus that the macroeconomic models that had been relied upon in the past and had informed major aspects of monetary and macro-policy had failed. They failed to predict the crisis and they provided limited guidance on how the economy should respond. There was also remarkable consensus about many elements of policy in responding to the crisis, and there were even large areas of policy consensus for the longer run. In short, the conference made an important contribution in invigorating a balanced debate about reforming macroeconomics.

All Eyes on Paris and the G-20

As G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors gather in Paris this weekend, their meeting—the first ministerial level meeting of France’s G-20 presidency—comes at a critical juncture, critical for the global economy, with tensions and risks emerging that require strong policy responses, and critical for ensuring actions on international policy cooperation and reform. So, with all eyes turning to Paris, here is some recommended reading for G-20 watchers.

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