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. (more…)
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.
Six years after the global financial crisis, Europe continues to be weighed down by high levels of corporate debt and millions of nonperforming loans. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) bear a disproportionately heavy burden. Their nonperforming loan ratios are on average more than double those of their larger corporate cousins. This is worrisome. SMEs are the lifeblood of the European economy, comprising 99 percent of all businesses and employing nearly two of every three workers in Europe. Given the importance of smaller businesses to the economy, addressing their problem loans could lay the foundation for a more robust and sustainable economic recovery.
Inflation has been falling sharply across Europe since 2012 (see Charts 1 and 2). Across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), inflation expectations have also drifted down especially among countries who peg their currencies to the euro (Bulgaria, Croatia, as well as Lithuania, which adopted the euro on January 1, 2015), but also in those that target their inflation rate (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania).
The recent drop in world oil prices has re-ignited the debate about good vs. bad disinflation. For the euro area, risks from low inflation have been discussed in the March 2014 iMFdirect post. Our blog examines the causes and potential consequences of falling inflation from the perspective of EU countries outside the euro zone.
Today we released our update of the World Economic Outlook.
The world economy remains in 3-speed mode. Emerging markets are still growing rapidly. The US recovery is steady. And much of Europe continues to struggle.
There is however a twist to the story. Growth almost everywhere is a bit weaker than we forecast in April, and the downward revision is particularly noticeable in emerging markets. After years of strong growth, the BRICS in particular are beginning to run into speed bumps. This means that the focus of policies will increasingly need to turn to boosting potential output growth or, in the case of China, to achieving more sustainable and balanced growth.
What the Numbers Show
During the years that followed the euro’s introduction, financial integration proceeded rapidly and markets and governments hailed it as a sign of success. The financial symptoms of the crisis in Europe are thankfully receding with a new sense of optimism in markets. But the underlying problems—lack of convergence of productivity and the structural flaws in the architecture of the monetary union—have only been partially addressed.
Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe has been through a lot. In two short decades, the region moved from a communist planned system to a market economy, and living standards have converged towards those in the West. It has also weathered major crises: first the break-up of the old Soviet system in the early 1990s, then the Russian financial crisis in 1998, and finally the recent global economic crisis. How did these countries do it? From the Baltic to the Balkans, the region’s resilience and flexibility are the result of hard work and adaptability. But more than anything, it is the strong institutions built over the last two decades that have enhanced the region’s ability to deal with the momentous challenges of the past, the present—and those to come.
The latest update of the Global Financial Stability Report says financial stability risks have increased, because of escalating funding and market pressures and a weak growth outlook. Now is the moment for strong political leadership, because tough decisions will need to be made to restore confidence and ensure lasting financial stability in both advanced and emerging economies. It is time for action.
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.