Tolstoy & Billionaires: Overheard at the IMF’s Spring Meetings

By iMFdirect editors

All happy countries are alike; each unhappy country is unhappy in its own way.

This twist on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina echoed through the seminars during the IMF’s Spring Meetings as most countries, while recovering, are struggling with the prospect of lower potential growth and the “new mediocre” becoming a “new reality.”

Our editors fanned out to cover what officials and civil society had to say about how to help countries pave their own path to happiness.

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Socrates & the Pope: Overheard at the IMF’s Spring Meetings

By IMFdirect editors

Socrates’ famous method to develop his students’ intellect was to question them relentlessly in an unending search for contradictions and the truth—or at the very least, a great quote.

The method was alive and well among the moderators, panelists and audiences of the IMF’s Spring Meetings seminars that took place alongside official discussions, where boosting high-quality growth, with a focus on the medium term, was at the top of the agenda.  Our editors fanned out and found a couple of big themes kept coming up.  Here are some of the highlights.

Monetary policy 

Lots of people are talking about what happens when the flood of easy money into emerging markets thanks to low interest rates in advanced economies like the United States slows even more than it has in the past year.

At a seminar on fiscal policy the discussion focused on the challenges facing policymakers as central banks slowly exit from unconventional monetary policy and interest rates begin rising.

A live poll of the audience found 63 percent said the global economy remains weak and unconventional monetary policies should remain in place.

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The Art of Shifting Gear

The fact is, the global outlook underpins any turnaround in Asia and at this point, it could go either way: too early to declare victory over the forces of financial volatility and contagion. The art then is being prepared for either eventuality and policymakers should be ready to shift gears if, and when, circumstances warrant.

Mediocre Growth, High Risks, and The Long Road Ahead

Geopolitical tension affecting the oil market is surely a risk. The main risk remains, however, that of another acute crisis in Europe. The building of the “firewalls”, when it is completed, will represent major progress. By themselves, however, firewalls cannot solve the difficult fiscal, competitiveness, and growth issues that some of these countries face. Bad news on the macroeconomic or the political front still carries the risk of triggering the type of dynamics we saw last fall.

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