For the latest thinking about the international financial system, monetary policy, economic development, poverty reduction, and other critical issues, subscribe to Finance & Development (F&D). This lively quarterly magazine brings you in-depth analyses of these and other subjects by the IMF’s own staff as well as by prominent international experts. Articles are written for lay readers who want to enrich their understanding of the workings of the global economy and the policies and activities of the IMF.
Two years ago, citizens in the Arab world—fired by their ideals and visions of a better life—ignited a social movement that inspired people around the globe. In Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen—the so-called Arab countries in transition—people embraced change, ushering in a new era. This issue of F&D looks at the difficulties of this transition, focusing on long-standing forces that shape the region’s economy and offering options for moving ahead to achieve strong, inclusive growth. • Masood Ahmed, Director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, maps out an agenda for modernizing and diversifying the region’s economies in “Toward Prosperity for All.” • In “Freedom and Bread Go Together,” Marwan Muasher addresses the intersection of economic progress and political change. • Vali Nasr, in a Point of View column, underscores the vital role small and medium-sized enterprises play in a successful democratic transition. Elsewhere in this issue, we look at how surging oil and gas production in the United States could shake up global energy markets; the effect of uncertainty on economic growth; and Mexico’s competitiveness rebound. F&D's People in Economics series profiles Christina Romer, former chair of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers and an architect of the U.S. stimulus package; and the latest installment in our Back to Basics series explains how structural policies help to both stabilize and strengthen economies.
Social capital is an instantiated informal norm that promotes cooperation between individuals. In the economic sphere it reduces transaction costs, and in the political sphere it promotes the kind of associational life that is necessary for the success of limited government and modern democracy. Although social capital often arises from iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma games, it also is a byproduct of religion, tradition, shared historical experience, and other types of cultural norms. Thus whereas awareness of social capital is often critical for understanding development, it is difficult to generate through public policy.
How does economic activity proceed in the absence A. A. of formal legal systems? What alternative rules and institutions evolve? Princeton economics professor Avinash Dixit’s April 7 IMF Institute seminar, “Lawlessness and Economics,” addressed the theory of alternative modes of governance using economic models. He drew on the works of prominent thinkers in new institutional economics and the social sciences, using case studies to show different institutional responses to legal failures.