Inequality: Tools from the Old Masters to Help Today’s Policymakers

By Vitor Gaspar, Paolo Mauro, and Tigran Poghosyan

October 3, 2017

Unemployed day laborers in South Africa: the country has relatively high income, but also high inequality (photo: Rogan Ward/Newscom).

With inequality rising in many countries, policymakers need to choose the best fiscal policies that will help share the benefits of economic growth, and in so doing, make it more inclusive.

The early 20th century English economist Arthur Pigou, among others, saw economic welfare as influenced by both “the size of the national dividend” and “the way in which it is distributed among the members of the community.” Continue reading “Inequality: Tools from the Old Masters to Help Today’s Policymakers” »

The Benefits and Costs of a U.S. Tax Cut

By Sandra Lizarazo, Adrian Peralta-Alva, and Damien Puy

September 1, 2017

Versions in Español (Spanish)

A recent IMF paper looks at the effects of lowering personal income tax rates on income distribution and the U.S. economy (photo: Ingram Publishing/Newscom)

U.S. lawmakers getting ready to rewrite the nation’s tax code have a fundamental question to answer: What are the priorities for tax reform? Do you want faster growth? Less income inequality? A tax cut that doesn’t increase the budget deficit? In a recent working paper, we find that, depending on how a tax cut is targeted, it is possible to make some progress toward the first two objectives. Personal income tax cuts can help support growth and, if well targeted, can also help improve income distribution. However, we find that lowering personal income tax rates does not raise growth enough to offset the revenue loss that is caused by the tax cut itself. Continue reading “The Benefits and Costs of a U.S. Tax Cut” »

Latest Outlook for The Americas: Back on Cruise Control, But Stuck in Low Gear

By Alejandro Werner

July 25, 2017

Versions in Español (Spanish), Português (Portuguese)

Shopping mall in Viña del Mar, Chile: Latin America is expected to recover gradually as most economies continue to face weak domestic demand (photo: Rodrigo Garrido/Newscom)

After disappointing growth over the past few years, economic activity in Latin America remains on track to recover gradually in 2017–18 as recessions in a few countries—notably Argentina and Brazil—are coming to an end. Our latest projections show the region growing by 1 percent in 2017 and 1.9 percent in 2018.

But amid low confidence, domestic demand continues to remain weak across most economies, and is expected to only recover slowly as actual output catches up to potential and internal sources of growth build strength, based on a decline in political and policy uncertainty across some major economies. Some countries in the region will need clear strategies to adjust further following a permanent loss in commodity revenues. Continue reading “Latest Outlook for The Americas: Back on Cruise Control, But Stuck in Low Gear” »

The Compact with Africa—The Contribution of the IMF

By Christine Lagarde

June 12, 2017

Versions in عربي (Arabic),  中文 (Chinese), Deutsch (German), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on a visit to Nigeria in 2016 (photo: IMF staff/Steve Jaffe)

Some of the world’s top policymakers and investors are gathering in Berlin to discuss a new initiative that could help reshape Africa’s economic future.

Millions of citizens could see tangible economic benefits from the recently launched Group of Twenty advanced and emerging economies' initiative, known as the “Compact with Africa.” The goal is to boost private investment by harnessing the expertise and resources of governments, investors, and international organizations.

The Compact is about facilitating projects that can lift productivity and living standards. It is about creating fresh opportunities on a continent where 70 percent of the population is under 35 years of age.

Continue reading “The Compact with Africa—The Contribution of the IMF” »

Lagarde—Lending an Ear to Young Voices

By IMFBlog

June 9, 2017

As Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde travels the world engaging with country officials, civil society, nongovernmental organizations, and media representatives. Lagarde also makes a point to engage with women and youth groups, to listen to their concerns, and to discuss their vision for their countries.

Continue reading “Lagarde—Lending an Ear to Young Voices” »

Chart of the Week: Central and Eastern Europe Close the Gap

By IMFBlog

May 22, 2017

Version in Русский (Russian)

Most of the countries of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe will see their economies humming away at a strong growth rate in 2017. A measure of their success at fully utilizing their economic machine is the output gapthe difference between what the economy is currently producing, and what it can produce when it is at full capacity.

Our Chart of the Week from a recently published report on the Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European region shows how close these economies come to performing at full potential. Continue reading “Chart of the Week: Central and Eastern Europe Close the Gap” »

By | May 22nd, 2017|Economic research, Europe, growth, IMF, inflation, Investment, jobs, labor markets, trade, wages|

Chart of the Week: Budget-friendly, Equitable Growth in France

By IMFBlog

May 15, 2017

Version in Français (French)

One need look no further than the national motto—liberté, égalité, fraternité—to understand that equality is an especially important concept in France. French policies play an important role in combating inequality. This is primarily achieved through a combination of minimum wage policies and an extensive tax and transfer system.

But these traditional equality-enhancing policies may have reached their limits as unemployment has become entrenched and budgets have been severely stretched. So, what are the best policies for a country weighing how to boost growth, lessen inequality, and minimize costs? It is not a zero sum game.

Continue reading “Chart of the Week: Budget-friendly, Equitable Growth in France” »

By | May 15th, 2017|Economic research, Employment, Europe, Government, IMF, Inequality, Public debt, taxation|

A New Twist in the Link Between Inequality and Economic Development

By Francesco Grigoli

May 11, 2017

Version in  عربي (Arabic),  Español (Spanish)

Much has been written about the relationship between inequality and economic development, but theory remains inconclusive. When income is more concentrated in the hands of a few individuals, this can lead to less demand by the general population and lower investment in education and health, impairing long-term growth. At the same time, a certain level of inequality endows the rich with the means to start businesses, and creates incentives to increase productivity and investment, promoting economic activity. But the initial inequality levels also matter to explain why an increase in inequality varies in its impact on economic development across countries.

Continue reading “A New Twist in the Link Between Inequality and Economic Development” »

Productivity, Technology, and Demographics

By IMFBlog

May 5, 2017

Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, says that if technology cannot boost productivity, then we are in real trouble.

In a podcast interview, Varian says thirty years from now, the global labor force will look very different, as working age populations in many countries, especially in advanced economies, start to shrink. While some workers today worry they will lose their jobs because of technology, economists are wondering if it will boost productivity enough to compensate for the shifting demographics—the so-called productivity paradox.

Continue reading “Productivity, Technology, and Demographics” »

Five Keys to a Smart Fiscal Policy

By Vitor Gaspar and Luc Eyraud

Versions in عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

We live in a world of dramatic economic change. Rapid technological innovation has fundamentally reshaped the way we live and work. International trade and finance, migration, and worldwide communications have made countries more interconnected than ever, exposing workers to greater competition from abroad. While these changes have brought tremendous benefits, they have also led to a growing perception of uncertainty and insecurity, particularly in advanced economies.

Today’s conditions require new, more innovative solutions, which the IMF calls smart fiscal policies. By smart policies we mean policies that facilitate change, harness its growth potential, and protect people who are hurt by it. At the same time, excessive borrowing and record levels of public debt have limited the financial resources available to government. So, fiscal policy must do more with less. Fortunately, researchers and policy makers are realizing that the fiscal tool kit is broader and the tools more powerful than they thought. Five guiding principles sketch the contours of these smart fiscal policies, which are described in chapter one of the IMF’s April 2017 Fiscal Monitor. Continue reading “Five Keys to a Smart Fiscal Policy” »

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