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.
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.
The framework guiding the IMF’s communications—established by the Executive Board in 2007—has enabled the institution to respond flexibly to the changing global context. The framework is based on four guiding principles: (i) deepening understanding and support for the Fund’s role and policies; (ii) better integrating communications into the IMF’s daily operations; (iii) raising the impact of new communications materials and technologies; and (iv) rebalancing outreach efforts to take account of different audiences. In addition, greater emphasis has been placed on strengthening internal communications to help ensure institutional coherence in the Fund’s outreach activities.
Continued efforts are needed to strengthen communications going forward. Several issues deserve particular attention. First, taking further steps to ensure clarity and consistency in communication in a world where demand for Fund services continues to rise. Second, doing more to assess the impact of IMF communications and thus better inform efforts going forward. Third, engaging strategically and prudently with new media—including social media.
Cornelia Hammer, Ms. Diane C Kostroch, and Mr. Gabriel Quiros-Romero
Big data are part of a paradigm shift that is significantly transforming statistical agencies, processes, and data analysis. While administrative and satellite data are already well established, the statistical community is now experimenting with structured and unstructured human-sourced, process-mediated, and machine-generated big data. The proposed SDN sets out a typology of big data for statistics and highlights that opportunities to exploit big data for official statistics will vary across countries and statistical domains. To illustrate the former, examples from a diverse set of countries are presented. To provide a balanced assessment on big data, the proposed SDN also discusses the key challenges that come with proprietary data from the private sector with regard to accessibility, representativeness, and sustainability. It concludes by discussing the implications for the statistical community going forward.