The IMF blog has helped stimulate considerable debate about economic policy in the current crisis, on events in Europe and around the world, on fiscal adjustment, on regulating the financial sector, and the future of macroeconomics, as economists learn lessons from the Great Recession. As readers struggled to understand the implications of the crisis, our most popular post by far was IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard's Four Hard Truths, a look back at 2011 and the economic lessons for the future.
Last week I travelled to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to participate in a conference on managing capital flows. Organized jointly by the Brazilian authorities and the IMF, the conference brought together experts from both the demand and supply sides of the issue, including many with a wealth of hands-on experience. The discussion was rich and informative. Clearly we still have a lot to learn about the optimal approach to managing capital flows, about the right policy tools, and the right combination of tools. To start with two general, but important observations.
Sluggish credit growth in the post-crisis period was hardly a unique development, as indicated in our latest Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia region. But while there are clearer signs of recovery in some countries, credit to the private sector is still barely growing in the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, notwithstanding policy efforts to revive it. It might seem easy to ring the alarm bells. But there are a number of reasons why we are not as concerned about the slowdown in credit growth—among them that the adjustment reflects a much needed correction from very high—perhaps unsustainable—rates of credit growth witnessed during the boom years.
The devastating impact of the global financial crisis created a consensus that pre-crisis financial regulation didn’t take the “big picture” of the system as a whole sufficiently into account and, as a result, supervisors in many markets “missed the forest for the trees.” In other words, they did not take into account the macro-prudential aspects of regulation, which has now become the focus of many authorities. Macro-prudential policies were the focus of discussions in Shanghai earlier this week, where The Peoples’ Bank of China hosted conference titled Macro-Prudential Policies: Asian Perspectives, that brought together central bankers and senior financial officials around the world. At the conference, there was wide agreement that the first step in designing macro-prudential policies ought to be a convergence of views regarding the objectives of such policies.