Infrastructure Investment: Part of Africa’s Solution

Antoinette SayehBy Antoinette M. Sayeh

Tremendous efforts are under way to upgrade sub-Saharan Africa’s infrastructure. But the needs on the ground are still immense as evidenced by the frequent electricity blackouts, poor roads, and insufficient access to clean water in many countries.

Infrastructure is one of the key challenges facing policymakers in the region—I experienced it first hand when I was finance minister of Liberia before coming to the IMF. The benefits are fairly clear: with improved infrastructure, new growth opportunities in the manufacturing and services sector can be generated, barriers to intraregional trade can be reduced, and economies will be better positioned to transition from low to higher productivity activities. Without improved infrastructure, I fear the increase in productivity and greater economic diversification necessary to sustain Africa’s current growth momentum will not materialize.

In this spirit, in the latest Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa economists from the IMF’s African Department looked at progress so far in addressing the infrastructure deficit and discussed policies needed going forward.

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China PMI Batters Global Markets…Are you kidding me?

Steve BarnettSteven Barnett

(Version in  中文)

“Economic Shifts in U.S. and China Batter Markets” continuing “Stocks Slide Globally…Investors Head for Exits” read the front page headline in last week's New York Times. Not sure about the U.S. part, I’ll leave that to others. But, as for China, this seems quite a stretch. Could be the pundits are erring in blaming the market slide on China, or perhaps the markets are misreading news coming out of China.

The purported China trigger was a survey of manufacturers. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell somewhat, crossing the magic threshold from expansion to contraction. PMIs are useful, but let’s not get carried away. China’s PMI is not the best indicator for growth, the decline was rather small, and January and February data (because of the Lunar “Chinese” New Year) are hard to interpret.

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The Ties That Bond Us: What Demand For Government Debt Can Tell Us About the Risks Ahead

It has become apparent in recent years is that advanced economy government bond markets can also experience investor outflows, and associated runs. Our new research shows that advanced economies’ exposure to refinancing risk and changes in government borrowing costs depend mainly on who is holding the bonds— the demand side for government debt. Tracking who owns what, when and for how long can shed some light on potential risks in advanced economies’ government debt markets.

Time Not On Our Side: Tough Decisions Needed to Strengthen Financial Stability

As recognized in our Global Financial Stability Report, actions taken by the European Central Bank have helped remove investors’ worst fears. Now policymakers at both the national and euro area level will need to build on these. The stakes are high. For instance, if pressures continue, total assets of major banks in Europe could shrink by as much as $2.8 trillion, possibly leading to a contraction in credit supply in the "periphery" by 9 percent by the end of 2013.

Global Financial Stability: What’s Still To Be Done?

The quest for lasting financial stability is still fraught with risks. The latest Global Financial Stability Report has two key messages: policy actions have brought gains to global financial stability since our September report; but current policy efforts are not enough to achieve lasting stability, both in Europe and some other advanced economies, in particular the United States and Japan.

2011 In Review: Four Hard Truths

As 2011 draws to a close, the recovery in many advanced economies is at a standstill, with some investors even exploring the implications of a potential breakup of the euro zone, and the real possibility that conditions may be worse than we saw in 2008. Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's Chief Economist, draws four main lessons in his year in review.

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