How Much Finance Is Too Much: Stability, Growth & Emerging Markets

By Ratna Sahay, Martin Čihák, and Papa N’Diaye 

The world still lives in the shadow of the global financial crisis that began in the United States in 2008.  The U.S. experience shone a spotlight on the dangers of financial systems that have grown exponentially and beyond traditional banks. It triggered a rethinking of the extent and speed of the expansion of a country’s financial sector, and raised questions about which policies promote a safe financial system.

In our new study, we emphasize that the most commonly used indicator—bank credit—is not sufficient to measure the size and scope of a country’s financial development. We create a comprehensive index for over 170 countries to answer several policy questions from the perspective of emerging markets.

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Middle East and North Africa Face Historic Crossroads

If there is one fact I think sums up the problems of the Middle East and North Africa, it is that the non-oil exports of the whole region, are $365 billion, about the same as the exports of Belgium, a country of 11 million people, compared with the 400 million people who make up the Arab world. This is a crucial indicator of the nature and size of the structural adjustment problem the Arab countries in transition face.

Financial Support for Arab Countries in Transition

The IMF’s assistance varies across the region, given that each country faces its own economic challenges, and the instruments to tackle those challenges must be tailored to address those unique circumstances. I am pleased to say that a few days ago, in response to the authorities’ request, the IMF Board approved two loans in support of the economic reform agendas of Arab countries in transition: one for Jordan under a Standby Arrangement in the amount of $2.05 billion, and another for Morocco in the amount of $6.2 billion under our Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL). This follows on our earlier concessional loan to Yemen under the Rapid Credit Facility.

Without Better Data, Middle East Policymakers Risk Getting Lost

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region suffers significant shortcoming in data, which are particularly problematic at a time economic transition. There are important data gaps, poor data quality and in many cases, internationally agreed standards of statistical methodologies, compilation periodicity and timeliness, and data dissemination practices are not followed.

Making Sure Middle East Growth Is Inclusive

We know that social exclusion and unemployment, especially among young people, are very painful and that the challenges ahead are formidable. We should not let the hopes and aspirations of the people who took to the street go unfulfilled. We must strive to ensure that the people of the Arab countries in transition have the opportunity for a fairer and more prosperous future.

Avoiding a Lost Generation

Young people were innocent bystanders in the global financial crisis, but they may well end up paying the heaviest price for the policy mistakes that have led us to where we are today. Young people will have to pay the taxes to service the debts accumulated in recent years.

Lively Debate on the Dead Sea Shores

One of my biggest (and heartening) takeaways was that there were more young people bubbling with ideas and entrepreneurial spirit (ready to take risk) than ever before at this regional forum—which reflects a growing recognition of their current role in the Arab Spring and the role they will have to play in the future as drivers of economic change.

More than 18 Million Jobs Needed!

For the six oil-importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa region—Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia—high unemployment is a chronic problem. Averaging above 10 percent for the past two decades, unemployment rates here are among the highest in the world. And, youth unemployment is even more alarming at over 20 percent. Given the enormous economic and social costs of unemployment, the region can no longer afford the status quo. These countries need to create about 18? million full-time jobs over the next decade to provide employment for young people looking for their first job and to bring down unemployment. But, why is unemployment chronically high? And what needs to be done to fix it?

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