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IMF Research Perspective (formerly published as IMF Research Bulletin) is a new, redesigned online newsletter covering updates on IMF research. In the inaugural issue of the newsletter, Hites Ahir interviews Valeria Cerra; and they discuss the economic environment 10 years after the global financial crisis. Research Summaries cover the rise of populism; economic reform; labor and technology; big data; and the relationship between happiness and productivity. Sweta C. Saxena was the guest editor for this inaugural issue.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper focuses on fiscal policy and financial linkages across banks in Qatar. The paper presents main stylized facts on the evolution of revenues and expenditures and the relationship with oil prices. It analyzes the evolution of the fiscal policy stance in the run-up to and after the global financial crisis. The paper also assesses the current fiscal stance in the context of the authorities’ own objective of fully financing the budget from 2020 onward from its nonhydrocarbon revenues.
Ms. Natasha X Che
This paper presents a set of collaborative filtering algorithms that produce product recommendations to diversify and optimize a country's export structure in support of sustainable long-term growth. The recommendation system is able to accurately predict the historical trends in export content and structure for high-growth countries, such as China, India, Poland, and Chile, over 20-year spans. As a contemporary case study, the system is applied to Paraguay, to create recommendations for the country's export diversification strategy.
Mr. S. Nuri Erbas and Chera L. Sayers
Knightian uncertainty (ambiguity) implies presence of uninsurable risks. Institutional quality may be a good indicator of Knightian uncertainty. This paper correlates non-life insurance penetration in 70 countries with income level, financial sector depth, country risk, a measure of cost of insurance, and the World Bank governance indexes. We find that institutional quality-transparency-uncertainty nexus is the dominant determinant of insurability across countries, surpassing the explanatory power of income level. Institutional quality, as it reflects on the level of uncertainty, is the deeper determinant of insurability. Insurability is lower when governance is weaker.
Katharina Bergant, Miss Anke Weber, and Andrea Medici
Using micro-data from household expenditure surveys, we document the evolution of consumption poverty in the United States over the last four decades. Employing a price index that appears appropriate for low income households, we show that poverty has not declined materially since the 1980s and even increased for the young. We then analyze which social and economic factors help explain the extent of poverty in the U.S. using probit, tobit, and machine learning techniques. Our results are threefold. First, we identify the poor as more likely to be minorities, without a college education, never married, and living in the Midwest. Second, the importance of some factors, such as race and ethnicity, for determining poverty has declined over the last decades but they remain significant. Third, we find that social and economic factors can only partially capture the likelihood of being poor, pointing to the possibility that random factors (“bad luck”) could play a significant role.
Mr. R. G Gelos, Mr. Guido M Sandleris, and Ms. Ratna Sahay
What determines the ability of governments from developing countries to access international credit markets? We examine this question using detailed data on sovereign bond issuances and public syndicated bank loans since 1982. We find that traditional measures of a country’s links with the rest of the world (such as trade openness) and traditional liquidity and macroeconomic indicators do not help much in explaining market access. However, a country’s vulnerability to shocks and the perceived quality of its policies and institutions appear to be important determinants of its government’s ability to tap the markets. We are unable to detect strong punishment of defaulting countries by credit markets.
Ms. Marialuz Moreno Badia, Paulo Medas, Pranav Gupta, and Yuan Xiang
With public debt soaring across the world, a growing concern is whether current debt levels are a harbinger of fiscal crises, thereby restricting the policy space in a downturn. The empirical evidence to date is however inconclusive, and the true cost of debt may be overstated if interest rates remain low. To shed light into this debate, this paper re-examines the importance of public debt as a leading indicator of fiscal crises using machine learning techniques to account for complex interactions previously ignored in the literature. We find that public debt is the most important predictor of crises, showing strong non-linearities. Moreover, beyond certain debt levels, the likelihood of crises increases sharply regardless of the interest-growth differential. Our analysis also reveals that the interactions of public debt with inflation and external imbalances can be as important as debt levels. These results, while not necessarily implying causality, show governments should be wary of high public debt even when borrowing costs seem low.
Mr. Anton Korinek, Mr. Martin Schindler, and Joseph Stiglitz
Advances in artificial intelligence and automation have the potential to be labor-saving and to increase inequality and poverty around the globe. They also give rise to winner-takes-all dynamics that advantage highly skilled individuals and countries that are at the forefront of technological progress. We analyze the economic forces behind these developments and delineate domestic economic policies to mitigate the adverse effects while leveraging the potential gains from technological advances. We also propose reforms to the global system of governance that make the benefits of advances in artificial intelligence more inclusive.
Raj Chetty

Chris Wellisz profiles Raj Chetty, who is reshaping the study of social mobility with big data