Keeping Asia from Overheating

2017-04-15T14:22:27-04:00May 19, 2011|

Asia’s vigorous pace of growth has seen the region play a leading role in the global recovery. But there are signs that higher commodity prices are spilling over to a more generalized increase in inflation. Expectations of future inflation have picked up. And accommodative macroeconomic policy stances, coupled with limited slack in some economies, have added to inflation pressures. Against this backdrop, the need for policy tightening in Asia has become more pressing than it was six months ago, especially in economies that face generalized inflation pressures. How should policymakers address these challenges?

Subsidies—Love Them or Hate Them, It’s Better to Target Them

2017-04-15T14:24:20-04:00May 10, 2011|

For decades, countries in the Middle East and North Africa have relied heavily on food and fuel price subsidies as a form of social protection. And, understandably, governments have recently raised subsidies in response to hikes in global commodity prices and regional political developments. Like many things, there may be a time and a place for using subsidies. But, they need to be better targeted. And, often, there will be better alternatives. Alternatives that do a better job of protecting the poor. Subsidies enjoyed by all are typically poorly targeted, so they are not the most cost-effective way to provide social protection. They really should be regarded as stop-gap measures. But, better targeting subsidies or replacing them with more effective social safety nets is a complex process, so buy-in from the public is crucial to success.

Latin America: Making the Good Times Better

2017-04-15T14:28:06-04:00February 25, 2011|

Latin America has enjoyed tremendous economic dynamism and a rising quality of life over the past decade. But the region’s transformation is not yet complete. Leaders across the region should capitalize on today’s favorable conditions, transforming their countries to the next level, and ensuring that the benefits of growth are more widely shared. The question is: how best to do that? As I travel through the region next week—visiting Panama, Uruguay, and Brazil—I’m looking forward to hearing the views of government officials, parliamentarians, and university students on the key challenges facing their countries today.

Unleashing Growth Potential in the Middle East

2017-04-15T14:28:11-04:00February 24, 2011|

Recent popular protests in the Middle East and North Africa, although likely to have a negative economic impact in the short run, might actually help to unleash the countries’ long-term growth potential. By providing the impetus for reforms, these events may encourage better governance, greater transparency, and more competition—in other words, tackling many of the constraints that have held back progress in these societies. In a recent (video) interview, I talk more about events in the region, the policy challenges, and what actions might help these countries achieve higher standards of living and employment for all sections of society.

More than 18 Million Jobs Needed!

2017-04-15T14:32:51-04:00October 31, 2010|

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?

The Priority of Growth and Jobs—the IMF’s Dialogue with the Unions

2017-04-15T14:36:33-04:00July 6, 2010|

A couple of weeks ago, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn attended the 2nd World Congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Vancouver. Reflecting on his meetings with the labor movement, he draws three main conclusions: (i) the IMF views its interaction with the labor movement as extremely valuable, and this had influenced our thinking; (ii) the labor movement has a major role to play in supporting continued economic cooperation across the world; and (iii) the IMF and labor movement share a number of important goals—standing against narrow domestic interests, nationalism, and war.

Creating Breathing Room in Low-income Countries

2017-04-15T14:53:44-04:00September 3, 2009|

By Hugh Bredenkamp

In my previous postings this week, I have talked about the “double whammy” that low-income countries have faced over the past 2-3 years—the surge in food and fuel prices and global financial crisis—and how the IMF has stepped up its support to help them cope with these shocks. Without this support, and that of other agencies and rich-country donors, governments would have to slash spending as their tax revenues slumped. This, of course, is the exact opposite of what any government should be doing in a recession—it would add fuel to the fire.

But preserving or even increasing spending when revenues are declining means larger budget deficits, and more borrowing. Doesn’t the IMF always preach tight budgets? The answer is “not always.” Fiscal discipline and carefully-managed borrowing policies are essential for long-term economic health. But when economies are hit by temporary shocks—and the current recession, though severe, will surely be temporary—it makes sense for governments to use policy to limit the short-term damage.

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