Banking Union Before Euro Adoption: Flak Jacket or Straitjacket?

By John Bluedorn, Anna Ilyina and Plamen Iossifov

All European Union members, except Denmark and the United Kingdom, are expected under EU treaties to eventually adopt the euro. Six Central and Eastern EU members – Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania – are yet to do so.

In the meantime, these countries have a decision to make: Should they opt in to the Banking Union before adopting the euro? Such a move may offer greater insurance against shocks, but at a certain cost to policy flexibility.  In a recent study, we explore some of the trade-offs that countries need to weigh.

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Greece: Past Critiques and the Path Forward

IMG_0248By Olivier Blanchard

(Versions in DeutschEspañolFrançaisItalianoελληνικάРусский中文, 日本語عربي, and Português)

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.

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Disinflation in EU Countries outside the Eurozone

By Plamen Iossifov and Jiri Podpiera

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.

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Taming government debt—it can be done, but it ain’t easy

By Helge Berger and  Justin Tyson

Sooner or later, and one way or the other, government debt in advanced economies will have to come down from the record levels reached in the wake of the global economic and euro area crises. Figure 1.Dev in Gross Debt and Structural Balance in Adv Economies There is no magic number for how much sovereign debt an economy can shoulder. And, as bringing down debt by cutting government spending or raising taxes comes at the risk of reducing growth and employment in the short term, there are arguments to not proceed too hastily. But eventually debt will have to be put back on a downward path in many countries. This will help rebuild fiscal buffers and cope with the costs of aging. So, what should governments do?

Our new analysis takes a closer look at the historical record and key trade-offs.  The bottom line: it is possible to reduce debt when growth is low. Ultimately perseverance should pay off.

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Latvia’s Economic Potential: Recovery and Reforms

Latvia’s economy has attracted international attention out of all proportion to its size. Many observers know that Latvia returned to strong economic growth after a severe downturn in 2008 and 2009 and a tough austerity program. In late 2012, Latvia even repaid the IMF in full, several years early. But the international consensus ends there. Critics of Latvia’s economic strategy point to continuing high rates of unemployment and poverty; advocates point to the benefits of frontloading spending cuts and tax increases to lay the foundations for recovery.

Global Economy: Some Bad News and Some Hope

The world economic recovery continues, but it has weakened further. In advanced countries, growth is now too low to make a substantial dent in unemployment. And in major emerging countries, growth that had been strong earlier has also decreased. Relative to the IMF's forecasts last April, our growth forecasts for 2013 have been revised down from 1.8% to 1.5% for advanced countries, and from 5.8% down to 5.6% for emerging and developing countries.The downward revisions are widespread.

Financial Support for Arab Countries in Transition

The IMF’s assistance varies across the region, given that each country faces its own economic challenges, and the instruments to tackle those challenges must be tailored to address those unique circumstances. I am pleased to say that a few days ago, in response to the authorities’ request, the IMF Board approved two loans in support of the economic reform agendas of Arab countries in transition: one for Jordan under a Standby Arrangement in the amount of $2.05 billion, and another for Morocco in the amount of $6.2 billion under our Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL). This follows on our earlier concessional loan to Yemen under the Rapid Credit Facility.

Japan Stands Up

In a display of its resilience, Japan is getting up once again after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of a year ago. But the world’s third largest economy still faces multiple challenges, and in our latest assessment of the country’s economy, the Japanese mission team at the International Monetary Fund has proposed a range of mutually reinforcing policies to strengthen confidence, raise growth and help restore Japan’s economic vitality.

Global Crisis — Top Links from the IMF for Economics and Finance

Top economic and financial links from the IMF for June 2012 on the global economic crisis and beyond.

Lessons from Latvia

Four years later, Latvia has one of the highest growth rates in Europe, the peg has held, and the fiscal and current accounts are close to balance. Preparing for the conference I just attended in Riga in which we tried to draw lessons, and reading the evidence, I could think of seven reasons.

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