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International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

The economies of the Middle East and Central Asia (ME&CA) proved resilient in 2022, despite a series of global shocks. However, this year—and potentially next—growth is expected to slow in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as tight policies to fight inflation, reduce vulnerabilities, and rebuild buffers start to dent economic activity in many countries, and agreed oil production cuts curb growth in oil exporters. Inflation is projected to remain persistent.2 The outlook for Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) countries depends heavily on external factors, namely the impact of monetary tightening, growth in their main trading partners, the pace of private transfers, and inflows of migrants from Russia. Uncertainty is high, and risks to the baseline are tilted to the downside amid financial stability concerns—particularly in advanced economies amid contagion fears. Policy trade-offs are even more complex, and policymakers will need to calibrate the policy mix carefully to reduce core inflation without triggering financial stress and excessive tightening and continue to provide targeted fiscal support to vulnerable groups while preserving debt sustainability and financial stability. Tight monetary and fiscal policies across the region amid tight global financial conditions call for accelerating structural reforms to bolster potential growth and enhance resilience.

International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

The monetary policy response of Middle East and Central Asian (ME&CA) countries to the 2021–22 surge in inflation has varied widely. The current stance is appropriately tight or neutral for many countries using a policy rate, but it needs further tightening in others. The response to the latest inflation shock has been in line with or, in some cases, even more forceful than during previous inflation episodes. Nevertheless, in several countries monetary policy implementation continues to be undermined by a lack of coordination with fiscal policy or fiscal dominance. Monetary policy transmission in countries with floating or managed exchange rate regimes is stronger than in those with a peg, it operates mainly through the exchange rate channel, and the credit channel is relatively weak. Even countries that have responded appropriately would benefit from strengthening monetary policy frameworks and fostering financial development. Activating additional transmission channels would enhance central bankers’ ability to fight inflation while reducing their economic costs. In addition, greater exchange rate flexibility and the use of macroprudential policies could help strengthen monetary policy effectiveness. In countries where state-owned banks play an important role in financial intermediation, policymakers should also reduce their quasi-monetary and quasi-fiscal activities to improve transmission.

Sharjil M. Haque and Mr. Richard Varghese
We study the impact of the COVID-19 recession on capital structure of publicly listed U.S. firms. Our estimates suggest leverage (Net Debt/Asset) decreased by 5.3 percentage points from the pre-shock mean of 19.6 percent, while debt maturity increased moderately. This de-leveraging effect is stronger for firms exposed to significant rollover risk, while firms whose businesses were most vulnerable to social distancing did not reduce leverage. We rationalize our evidence through a structural model of firm value that shows lower expected growth rate and higher volatility of cash flows following COVID-19 reduced optimal levels of corporate leverage. Model-implied optimal leverage indicates firms which did not de-lever became over-leveraged. We find default probability deteriorates most in large, over-leveraged firms and those that were stressed pre-COVID. Additional stress tests predict value of these firms will be less than one standard deviation away from default if cash flows decline by 20 percent.
Pelin Berkmen, Ms. Kimberly Beaton, Mr. Dmitry Gershenson, Mr. Javier Arze del Granado, Kotaro Ishi, Miss Marie S Kim, Emanuel Kopp, and Mrs. Marina V Rousset
In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), financial technology has been growing rapidly and is on the agenda of many policy makers. Fintech provides opportunities to deepen financial development, competition, innovation, and inclusion in the region but also creates new and only partially understood risks to consumers and the financial system. This paper documents the evolution of fintech in LAC. In particular, the paper focuses on financial development, fintech landscape for domestic and cross border payments and alternative financing, cybersecurity, financial integrity and stability risks, regulatory responses, and considerations for central bank digital currencies.
Juan J. Cortina, Mr. Maria Soledad Martinez Peria, Mr. Sergio L. Schmukler, and Jasmine Xiao
China’s equity markets internationalization process started in the early 2000s but accelerated after 2012, when Chinese firms’ shares listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen gradually became available to international investors. This paper studies the effects of the post-2012 internationalization events by comparing the evolution of equity financing and investment activities for: (i) domestic listed firms relative to firms that already had access to international investors and (ii) domestic listed firms that were directly connected to international markets relative to those that were not. The paper finds large increases in financial and investment activities for domestic listed and for connected firms, with significant aggregate effects. The evidence also suggests the rise in firms’ equity issuances was primarily and initially financed by domestic investors. International investors’ portfolio holdings in Chinese equity markets and ownership in firms increased markedly only once Chinese firms’ locally issued shares became part of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.
International Monetary Fund
This paper examines the emergence of financial stability as a key policy objective. It discusses the underlying trends in the financial system, as well as the role of finance in relation to money, the real economy, and public policy. Financial stability is defined in terms of its ability to help the economic system allocate resources, manage risks, and absorb shocks. Moreover, financial stability is considered a continuum, changeable over time and consistent with multiple combinations of its constituent elements. On the basis of these concepts, a framework is presented that comprises an encompassing analysis and assessment of financial stability, and maps out broad policy implications.
Mr. Garry J. Schinasi
The main objective of this paper is to propose a definition of financial stability that has some practical and operational relevance. Financial stability is defined in terms of its ability to facilitate and enhance economic processes, manage risks, and absorb shocks. Moreover, financial stability is considered a continuum: changeable over time and consistent with multiple combinations of the constituent elements of finance. The paper also discusses several practical implications of the definition that should be considered when using it for policy analysis or developing an analytical framework.
Mr. Yifei Huang and Mr. Raju J Singh
Recent studies on the relationship between financial development and poverty have been inconclusive. Some claim that, by allowing more entrepreneurs to obtain financing, financial development improves the allocation of capital, which has a particularly large impact on the poor. Others argue that it is primarily the rich and politically connected who benefit from improvements in the financial system. This paper looks at a sample of 37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa from 1992 through 2006. Its results suggest that financial deepening could narrow income inequality and reduce poverty, and that stronger property rights reinforce these effects. Interest rate and lending liberalization alone could, however, be detrimental to the poor if not accompanied by institutional reforms, in particular stronger property rights and wider access to creditor information.
Ms. Anna Scherbina
Why do asset price bubbles continue to appear in various markets? This paper provides an overview of recent literature on bubbles, with significant attention given to behavioral models and rational models with frictions. Unlike the standard rational models, the new literature is able to model the common characteristics of historical bubble episodes and offer insights for how bubbles are initiated and sustained, the reasons they burst, and why arbitrage forces do not routinely step in to squash them. The latest U.S. real estate bubble is described in the context of this literature.