As with previous crises, the global financial crisis has prompted greater calls for international policy cooperation, but it still remains very much like Nessie, the lovable Loch Ness monster: oft-discussed, seldom seen. To reflect on the obstacles to international policy cooperation, and how to make progress, the IMF recently hosted a panel discussion, Toward a More Cooperative International Monetary System: Perspectives from the Past, Prospects for the Future, with Maurice Obstfeld (CEA; University of Berkley), José Antonio Ocampo (Columbia University), Alexandre Swoboda (The Graduate Institute, Geneva), and Paul Volcker (Former Chairman, Federal Reserve).
Implementation, investment, and inclusiveness: these three policy goals will dominate the G-20 agenda this year, including the first meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Istanbul next week. As Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently put it: “Now is the time to act” – şimdi uygulama zamanı.
There is a lot at stake. Without action, we could see the global economic supertanker continuing to be stuck in the shallow waters of sub-par growth and meager job creation. This is why we need to focus on these three “I’s”:
The last five years have been a reminder of the importance of interconnections and risks in the global economy. They have triggered intense discussions on the optimal way to combine fiscal, monetary, and financial policies to deal with spillovers, and on the need and the scope for coordination of such policies.
The IMF’s 15th Jacques Polak Annual Research Conference, which took place in Washington DC on November 13 and 14, 2014, focused on Cross-Border Spillovers, and took stock of what we know and do not know. The summary below picks and chooses some papers, and does not do justice to the full set of papers presented and discussed at the conference. They can all be downloaded, and videos of each session are available, at www.imf.org/external/np/res/seminars/2014/arc.
By iMFdirect editors
What a week it’s been. Practical and existential questions on how to do good and be good for the sake of the global economy and finance dominated the seminars at the IMF’s Annual Meetings in Washington.
Our editors fanned out to cover what the panelists, moderators, and audiences said in a variety of seminars, and two big themes caught our eye.
Most economists would agree that institutions in general are incredibly important in helping to shape countries’ overall economic and fiscal outcomes. But which institutions really matter, and to what extent, is less clear.
A team of staff at the IMF recently completed a study, along with detailed country evaluations, that explores the G-20 countries’ efforts to strengthen their budget institutions in the wake of the global financial crisis, and evaluates their impact on fiscal policy. We ask whether strong budget institutions helped these countries to cope with the substantial fiscal consolidation needs that arose after the Great Recession. The evidence suggests that these institutions have indeed been important.
Budget institutions matter
In the study we identify 12 institutions (see figure1) that are commonly viewed as important for the effectiveness of fiscal policy. To be clear, the term “institution” is used in a broad sense—it encompasses processes, procedures, systems, legal frameworks, and organizational entities which contribute to the budget process.
By José Viñals
Brisbane and Basel may be 10,000 miles apart, but when it comes to financial regulation the two cities will be standing cheek by jowl.
At the next summit of the Group of Twenty advanced and emerging economies, to be held in Brisbane in November, political leaders will take the pulse of the global financial regulatory reform agenda, launched five years ago. The explicit goal of the Australian G-20 presidency is to finally complete these essential reforms. As Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today in Davos, “Financial regulation is always a work-in-progress, but these reforms now need to be finalized in ways that promote confidence without eliminating risk.”
I strongly support this extra push to create a safer financial system that can better support the needs of the real economy, and better protect taxpayers. For far too long, critics have been able to portray the G-20 reform agenda as a regulatory supertanker stuck in the shallow waters of technical complexity, financial industry pushback, and diverging national views. This image is increasingly off the mark.
Nemat Shafik, who took over as IMF Deputy Managing Director in April, says she has been surprised by the vigor of internal policy debate at the IMF. “From the outside looking in, you have the impression that the IMF is a monolith with a very single-minded view of the world. When you are inside the Fund, what is really striking is how active the internal debate is,” she says. At a time when the global economy is being buffeted by continued uncertainty in Europe, uprisings in the Middle East, and signs of overheating in some emerging market economies, there’s a lot to discuss. And, it addition to global economic problems, the IMF’s work environment has come under increased scrutiny, in particular how women are treated and its professional code of conduct. In an interview, Ms. Shafik discusses some of these issues.
Finance ministers and central bank governors from around the world, gathering at the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington last week. With the recovery solidifying but still fragile, ministers put the spotlight on how to strengthen the IMF’s surveillance—its economic assessment and analysis—to help countries take the action needed to address risks and avoid future crises. As the meetings were wrapping up in Washington DC, the IMF’s First Deputy Managing Director talked about the outcomes of the meetings. While there are concerns about risks in the global economy, there was important progress on a “multilateral cooperative approach on the various challenges we face.” Watch his interview to hear more about what Mr. Lipsky has to say about progress by the G-20 and about the likely changes to the IMF’s multilateral surveillance.
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.