It wasn’t all that long ago when virtually all of sub-Saharan Africa’s exports were destined for Europe and North America. But the winds of Africa’s trade have shifted over the past decade. There has been a massive reorientation towards other developing countries, in particular China and India. Like Janus, the Roman god, Africa’s trade is now, as it were, facing both east and west. Our latest Regional Economic Outlook for sub-Saharan Africa looks closely at these developments and its policy implications. In addition to the well-known gains from international trade, Africa’s trade reorientation is also beneficial because it has broadened the region’s export base and linked Africa more strongly to rapidly growing parts of the global economy. These changes will help reduce the volatility of exports and improve prospects for robust economic growth in Africa.
Today, fiscal problems are a key concern of policy makers in many industrial countries, and a reassessment of sovereign risk is a palpable threat to global recovery. At the heart of the issue is the extent to which governments have room for fiscal maneuver—“fiscal space”—before markets force them to tighten policies sharply and, relatedly, the size of adjustments needed to restore or maintain public debt sustainability. Yet, much of the talk about fiscal space—how to measure it and the policy implications—has so far been rather fuzzy. In this blog, Jonathan Ostry discusses a new staff position note that he co-authored with several IMF colleagues, which aims to remedy this by providing an operational definition of the fiscal space concept as well as estimates of fiscal space for 23 advanced economies.