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Alejandro Gaviria

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.

Nicoletta Batini and Giovanni Callegari

'Wising Up to the Costs of Aging' looks at how falling fertility and rising life expectancy have combined to threaten the ability of many countries to provide a decent standard of living for the old without imposing a crushing burden on the young. In our lead article, Ronald Lee and Andrew Mason say that while population aging in rich industrial countries as well as in some middle- and lower-income countries will challenge public and private budgets in many ways, a combination of reduced consumption, postponed retirement, increased asset holdings, and greater investment in human capital should make it possible to meet this challenge without catastrophic consequences. Neil Howe and Richard Jackson publish a fascinating ranking of which countries are best and worst prepared to meet the needs of the growing wave of retirees. We also have articles on a broad range of current topics, including Middle East unemployment, the economic repercussions of the earthquake and devastating tsunami in Japan, and banking in offshore financial centers such as the Cayman Islands. Carmen Reinhart and Jacob Kirkegaard look at how governments are finding ways to manipulate markets to hold down the cost of financing huge public debts, and, in Straight Talk, the IMF's Min Zhu talks about the long-term challenges now facing emerging markets. Prakash Loungani speaks to Nobel Prize winner George Akerlof, and we discuss with three other laureates-Michael Spence, Joseph Stiglitz, and Robert Solow-what the global economic crisis has taught us. Back to Basics explains economic models, and Picture This highlights the great variations in the cost of sending money back home.

International Monetary Fund

This Selected Issues paper examines Germany’s growth record in 1992–2001 and analyzes how future performance might be enhanced. The paper focuses on the longer-term strains on the public finances. It reviews Germany’s external competitiveness, which deteriorated substantially in the wake of unification, and concludes that, by the beginning of the current decade, competitiveness had been largely restored. The paper also examines the recent slowdown in credit, which has gone beyond what might be expected on cyclical grounds.

Mr. Benedict J. Clements, Mr. David Coady, Baoping Shang, and Justin Tyson

Latin America: An End to Boom and Bust? covers prospects in that region, which has managed to sustain a decade of prosperity after a history of boom and bust cycles. In our cover story, Nicolás Eyzaguirre, Director of the IMF's Western Hemisphere Department, says Latin America has the potential to become an increasingly important global player. But boosting productivity and competitiveness remain key policy challenges and the fruits of success must be more broadly shared. Other articles on our cover theme look at the prospects for Brazil, inequality in Latin America, and how to raise productivity. Turning from Latin America, we interview former IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus, former IMF MD and now head of a group of luminaries tasked with generating ideas on how to make the global monetary system more stable in the wake of the world financial crisis. This issue of F&D also features articles on financial market cycles, public investment in infrastructure, whether to worry about inflation or deflation, democracy and liberalization, how to manage health care spending, and rising food prices. People in Economics profiles growth guru Robert Solow, winner of the 1987 Nobel Prize in economics. Our regular Back to Basics feature explains financial services. Data Spotlight looks at how access to financial services is growing in developing countries; and Picture This highlights the IMF's new database of public debt since 1880.

International Monetary Fund

This paper discusses Romania’s fourth review under the Stand-By Arrangement and request for modification of performance criteria. The authorities are treating the arrangement as precautionary. Additional funds under the program are provided by the European Union. The economy grew by 2.5 percent in 2011, driven by an exceptional agricultural harvest and strong industrial output growth. Domestic demand strengthened as construction and retail sales started to recover, fuelled by higher real disposable incomes.

International Monetary Fund. European Dept.

Significant progress has been made in macroeconomic stabilization under two successive SBAs but the economic recovery remains fragile. Growth is expected to remain subdued in the near term and to only gradually recover over the medium term, with risks to the outlook mostly on the downside. With strong trade and financial sector linkages, Romania is exposed to the euro area crisis. Fiscal and external reserves provide a buffer and the banking sector remains well-capitalized. At the same time, the political situation has become more unsettling with three governments in 2012, uneasy cohabitation between the President and the governing coalition that has sought to remove him, and parliamentary elections to be held in the fall. The political uncertainty has contributed to accelerated exchange rate depreciation and higher financing costs, and has dented confidence.

International Monetary Fund

Over the past several years, implementation of IMF recommendations has been lacking not so much in intention as in pace and timing owing to political economy considerations and a strong social preference for publicly provided services. The discussions focused on how to foster a durable economic recovery while tackling long-standing threats to fiscal sustainability. The authorities were attentive to the possible adverse short-term effects of underlying fiscal adjustment on growth. The authorities acknowledged that containing health care spending growth would be a key challenge.

International Monetary Fund

The staff report for the 2004 Article IV Consultation on France highlights economic performance and near-term outlook and policies. On structural issues, a health care reform has established the key instruments to gain control over the system’s budget. Ongoing civil service reform and decentralization are providing the opportunity to realize efficiency gains. Pension and health care reforms have improved the long-term fiscal outlook against the background of the impending demographic shock, while ongoing reforms in product markets are likely to boost growth.

Ms. Inci Otker
Abstract What do climate change, global financial crises, pandemics, and fragility and conflict have in common? They are all examples of global risks that can cross geographical and generational boundaries and whose mismanagement can reverse gains in development and jeopardize the well-being of generations. Managing risks such as these becomes a global public good, whose benefits also cross boundaries, providing a rationale for collective action facilitated by the international community. Yet, as many public goods, provision of global public goods suffer from collective action failures that undermine international coordination. This paper discusses the obstacles to addresing these global risks effectively, highlighting their implications for the current juncture. It claims that remaining gaps in information, resources, and capacity hamper accumulation and use of knowledge to triger appropriate action, but diverging national interests remain the key impediment to cooperation and effectiveness of global efforts, even when knowledge on the risks and their consequences are well understood. The paper argues that managing global risks requires a cohesive international community that enables its stakeholders to work collectively around common goals by facilitating sharing of knowledge, devoting resources to capacity building, and protecting the vulnerable. When some countries fail to cooperate, the international community can still forge cooperation, including by realigning incentives and demonstrating benefit from incremental steps toward full cooperation.
Francesca G Caselli, Mr. Francesco Grigoli, Weicheng Lian, and Mr. Damiano Sandri
Using high-frequency proxies for economic activity over a large sample of countries, we show that the economic crisis during the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic was only partly due to government lockdowns. Economic activity also contracted because of voluntary social distancing in response to higher infections. We also show that lockdowns can substantially reduce COVID-19 infections, especially if they are introduced early in a country's epidemic. Despite involving short-term economic costs, lockdowns may thus pave the way to a faster recovery by containing the spread of the virus and reducing voluntary social distancing. Finally, we document that lockdowns entail decreasing marginal economic costs but increasing marginal benefits in reducing infections. This suggests that tight short-lived lockdowns are preferable to mild prolonged measures.