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Timothy C. Irwin and Mr. Carlo Cottarelli

This proposed SDN surveys the various accounting stratagems which governments have used to meet fiscal targets—thereby sidestepping the need for true adjustment—and suggests remedial actions to limit this type of fiscal non-transparency. Types of creative accounting covered includes, for instance, currency swaps to hide a debt build-up (as in Greece in 2001–07), sale and leaseback of government property (for example, in the United States), assumption of long-term pension obligations in exchange for short-term revenue (Argentina, Hungary, and other Eastern European countries), use of public-private partnerships to defer the recognition of investment spending (for instance, Portugal), and reliance on non-cash compensation (such as pension rights) to reduce measured wage bills (in the United States, United Kingdom, etc.) As is evident from the examples given, these fiscal tricks have recently come under increased international scrutiny, highlighting the importance of good fiscal reporting, accounting, and transparency in general, for avoiding unpleasant surprises, ensuring government accountability, and containing fiscal vulnerabilities.

Mr. Thierry Tressel, Mr. Shengzu Wang, Joong Shik Kang, Mr. Jay C Shambaugh, Mr. Jörg Decressin, Petya Koeva Brooks, Mr. Reza Moghadam, and Mr. Olivier J Blanchard

Imbalances within the euro area have been a defining feature of the crisis. This paper provides a critical analysis of the ongoing rebalancing of euro area “deficit economies” (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain) that accumulated large current account deficits and external liability positions in the run-up to the crisis. It shows that relative price adjustments have been proceeding gradually. Real effective exchange rates have depreciated by 10-25 percent, driven largely by reductions in unit labor costs due to labor shedding. While exports have typically rebounded, subdued demand accounts for much of the reduction in current account deficits. Hence, the current account balance of the euro area as a whole has shifted into surplus. Internal rebalancing has come with subdued activity—notably very high unemployment in the deficit economies—and made continued adjustment more difficult. To advance rebalancing further, the paper emphasizes the need for: (1) macroeconomic policies that support demand and bring inflation in line with the ECB’s medium-term price stability objective; (2) continued EMU reforms (banking union) to ensure proper financial intermediation; and (3) structural reforms in product and labor markets to improve productivity and support the reallocation of resources to tradable sectors.

Mr. Lisandro Abrego, Mario de Zamaróczy, Tunc Gursoy, Salifou Issoufou, Garth P. Nicholls, Hector Perez-Saiz, Jose-Nicolas Rosas, and Mr. Zeine Zeidane

Political momentum towards Africa-wide free trade has been intensifying. In March 2018, over 40 countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. Once fully implemented, the AfCFTA is expected to cover all 55 African countries, with a combined GDP of about US$2.2 trillion. This SDN takes stock of recent trade developments in Sub-Saharan Africa and assesses the potential benefits and costs of the AfCFTA, as well as challenges to its successful implementation. In addition to increased trade flows both in existing and new products, the AfCFTA has the potential to generate substantial economic benefits for African countries. These benefits include higher income arising from increased efficiency and productivity from improved resource allocation, higher cross-border investment flows, and technology transfers. Besides lowering import tariffs, to ensure these benefits, African countries will need reduce other trade barriers by making more efficient their customs procedures, reducing their wide infrastructure gaps, and improving their business climates. At the same time, policy measures should be taken to mitigate the differential impact of trade liberalization on certain groups as resources are reallocated in the economy and activities migrate to locations with comparatively lower costs.

Mrs. Mai Farid, Mr. Michael Keen, Mr. Michael G. Papaioannou, Ian W.H. Parry, Ms. Catherine A Pattillo, Anna Ter-Martirosyan, Vitor Gaspar, and Mr. Siddharth Tiwari

This paper discusses the implications of climate change for fiscal, financial, and macroeconomic policies. Most pressing is the use of carbon taxes (or equivalent trading systems) to implement the emissions mitigation pledges submitted by 186 countries for the December 2015 Paris Agreement while providing revenue for lowering other taxes or debt. Carbon pricing in developing countries would effectively mobilize climate finance, and carbon price floor arrangements are a promising way to coordinate policies internationally. Targeted fiscal measures that are tailored to national circumstances and robust across climate scenarios are needed to counter private sector under-investment in climate adaptation. And increased disclosure of carbon footprints, stress testing of asset values, and greater proliferation of hedging instruments, will facilitate low-emission investments and climate risk diversification through financial markets.

Ms. Era Dabla-Norris, Giang Ho, Ms. Kalpana Kochhar, Ms. Annette J Kyobe, Mr. Robert Tchaidze, and Mr. Siddharth Tiwari

Fostering and sustaining robust economic growth is an imperative across advanced, emerging, and low-income countries alike. Countries will need to focus on supply-side reforms to raise their potential output and anchor medium-term growth prospects. This SDN will emphasize the role of structural reforms and supportive policy and institutional frameworks for boosting productivity–a key engine of economic growth–in the wake of the crisis. By examining a broad spectrum of reforms that eliminate impediments to growth, the paper will seek to highlight a differentiated policy agenda across countries.

Mr. Christian Gonzales, Ms. Sonali Jain-Chandra, Ms. Kalpana Kochhar, Ms. Monique Newiak, and Mr. Tlek Zeinullayev
Mr. Jörg Decressin, Mr. Raphael A Espinoza, Mr. Ioannis Halikias, Mr. Michael Kumhof, Mr. Daniel Leigh, Mr. Prakash Loungani, Mr. Paulo A Medas, Susanna Mursula, Mr. Antonio Spilimbergo, and Ms. TengTeng Xu