International Policy Coordination: The Loch Ness Monster

By Olivier Blanchard, Jonathan D. Ostry, and Atish R. Ghosh

International policy coordination is like the Loch Ness monster: much discussed but rarely seen. Going back over the decades, and even further in history to the period between the Great Wars, coordination efforts have been episodic.

Coordination seems to occur spontaneously in turbulent periods, when the world faces the prospect of some calamitous outcome and the key players are seeking to avoid cascading negative spillovers. In quieter times, coordination is rarer—though not unheard of; the Louvre and Plaza accords are examples.

Today, policy coordination has resurfaced as a hot topic: while the worst of the global financial crisis is behind us, no one would claim that a return to “Great Moderation” is in the cards, and policymakers around the globe appear worried about policy transmissions across many dimensions.

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Global Challenges, Global Solutions

The April 2011 IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings are upon us here in Washington DC. With global challenges that require global solutions—the theme of the meetings—IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn reminds us that this is “not the time for complacency.” Here’s a snapshot of what you need to know to get you through the meetings….

Global Recovery Strengthens, Tensions Heighten

The world economic recovery is gaining strength, but it remains unbalanced. Earlier fears of a double dip recession—which we did not share—have not materialized. And, although rising commodity prices conjure the specter of 1970s-style stagflation, they appear unlikely to derail the recovery. However, the unbalanced recovery confronts policy makers with difficult choices. In most advanced economies, output is still far below potential. Low growth implies that unemployment will remain high for many years to come. And the problems in Europe’s periphery are particularly acute. On the other end of the spectrum, emerging market countries must avoid overheating in the face of closing output gaps and higher capital flows. The need for careful design of macroeconomic policies at the national level, and coordination at the global level, may be as important today as they were at the peak of the crisis two years ago.

All Eyes on Paris and the G-20

As G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors gather in Paris this weekend, their meeting—the first ministerial level meeting of France’s G-20 presidency—comes at a critical juncture, critical for the global economy, with tensions and risks emerging that require strong policy responses, and critical for ensuring actions on international policy cooperation and reform. So, with all eyes turning to Paris, here is some recommended reading for G-20 watchers.

A Stronger Financial Architecture for Tomorrow’s World

The international monetary system is a topic that encompasses a wide range of issues—reserve currencies, exchange rates, capital flows, and the global financial safety net, to name a few. Some are of the view that the current system works well enough. I take a less sanguine view. Certainly the world did not end with the crisis that began in 2008 and a recovery is under way. But, it is not the recovery we wanted—it is uneven, unemployment is not really going down, there are widening inequalities, and global imbalances are back. Reform of the international monetary system may be wide-ranging and complex. But concrete reforms are needed to achieve the kind of well-balanced and sustainable recovery that the world needs, and to help prevent the next crisis.

Weekend in Washington: Cooperating Our Way Out of Crisis

This past weekend in Washington DC, as the economic leaders of 187 countries gathered for the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank, the mood was tense. The world’s finance ministers and central bank governors were concerned because the global recovery is fragile. And, on top of the risks to the outlook, there is concern that the strong international cooperation that was shown during the crisis is in danger of receding. So, after the meetings, was the atmosphere less tense? Yes...and no. The world made some progress over the weekend. But we shouldn’t be too self-congratulatory. We are not yet out of the woods. The IMF’s analysis indicates that improved economic policy coordination, over the next five years, could increase global growth by 2.5 percent, create or save 30 million jobs, and lift 33 million more out of poverty. With such high potential returns, can we really afford each to go our own way?

The Two Rebalancing Acts

Achieving a “strong, balanced, and sustained world recovery”—to quote from the goal set in Pittsburgh by the G-20—was never going to be easy. It requires much more than just going back to business as usual. It requires two fundamental and complex economic rebalancing acts: internal and external rebalancing. These two rebalancing acts are taking place too slowly. As the latest World Economic Outlook reveals, the result is a recovery which is neither strong, nor balanced, and runs the risk of not being sustained.

A Problem Shared Is a Problem Halved: The G-20’s “Mutual Assessment Process”

The Group of Twenty industrialized and emerging market economies (G-20) has broken new ground over the past year or two. It has embraced the type of collaborative approach to policy design and review that is well suited to today’s interdependent world, where policies in one country can often have far-reaching effects on others. In this spirit, the backbone of the G-20’s “Framework for Strong, Sustainable, and Balanced Growth” is a multilateral process that includes a ‘mutual assessment’ of their progress toward meeting shared objectives. But, what exactly will this G-20 Mutual Assessment Process—or “MAP”—imply in terms of prospective actions? And what have we learned so far?

Turning up the Volume—Asia’s Voice and Leadership in Global Policymaking

Asia’s voice is getting louder and the IMF—and, indeed, the world—is listening. Blogging from the IMF and government of Korea-sponsored “Asia 21” conference in Daejeon, Korea, IMF Deputy Managing Director Naoyuki Shinohara reflects on the rise of Asia’s voice and leadership in global economic policymaking. The caliber of conference participants and the quality of dialogue speak volumes about the range and depth of expertise and experience in the region. The world needs Asian leadership, not only to sustain global growth, but also to develop policy mechanisms to contend with tomorrow’s economic challenges.

Asia and the IMF: A Closer Engagement

The Korean government and the IMF will jointly host a high-level international conference in Daejeon, Korea in just a few days time. In this blog, Anoop Singh outlines how the conference will be an important part of broader efforts by the Fund to enhance its strategic dialogue and partnership with Asia.

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