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Jeremy warford and Zeinab Partow

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.

Stephen Snudden
Structural budget-balance rules with countercyclical elements appear well suited to stabilize the macroeconomic volatility of oil-exporting countries and have been used successfully by other commodity exporters. Using a global DSGE model, the efficient design of such rules is found to depend on the source of oil price fluctuations and the oil exporters’ structural characteristics. The output-inflation tradeoff is of particular concern for oil exporters relative to non-oil exporters due to the pass through of oil prices into headline inflation. Fiscal rules are best when coordinated with inflation targeting monetary policy, but are still desirable for fixed exchange rate regimes.
Mr. James Daniel
Many governments are heavily exposed to oil price risk, especially those dependent on revenue derived from oil production. For these governments, dealing with large price movements is difficult and costly. Traditional approaches, such as stabilization funds, are inherently flawed. Oil risk markets could be a solution. These markets have matured greatly in the last decade, and their range and depth could allow even substantial producers, and consumers, to hedge their oil price risk. Yet governments have held back from using these markets, mainly for fear of the political cost and lack of know how. This suggests that the IMF, together with other development agencies, should consider encouraging governments to explore the scope for hedging their oil price risk.
Ian W.H. Parry and Mr. Jon Strand
Gasoline and diesel fuel are heavily taxed in many developed and some emerging and developing countries. Outside of the United States and Europe, however, there has been little attempt to quantify the external costs of vehicle use, so policymakers lack guidance on whether prevailing tax rates are economically efficient. This paper develops a general approach for estimating motor vehicle externalities, and hence corrective taxes on gasoline and diesel, based on pooling local data with extrapolations from U.S.evidence. The analysis is illustrated for the case of Chile, though it could be applied to other countries.
Mr. Johannes Wiegand
This paper discusses fiscal surveillance criteria for the countries of the Central African Monetary and Economic Union (CEMAC), most of which depend heavily on oil exports. At present, the CEMAC's macroeconomic surveillance exercise sets as fiscal target a floor on the basic budgetary balance. This appears inadequate, for at least two reasons. First, fluctuations in oil prices and, hence, oil receipts obscure the underlying fiscal stance. Second, oil resources are limited, which suggests that some of today's oil receipts should be saved to finance future consumption. The paper develops easy-to-calculate indicators that take both aspects into account. A retrospective analysis based on these alternative indicators reveals that in recent years, the CEMAC's surveillance exercise has tended to accommodate stances of fiscal policy that are at odds with sound management of oil wealth.
Mr. Benedict F. W. Bingham, Mr. James Daniel, and Mr. Giulio Federico
This paper examines the case for government-led smoothing of domestic petroleum prices in the face of volatile international prices. Governments in most developing and transition countries engage in petroleum price smoothing, as the survey of country practice carried out for this paper shows. This paper reviews the potential welfare implications of petroleum price volatility, and assesses different price smoothing rules on the basis of historical oil prices. These simulations reveal the presence of a sharp trade-off between price smoothing and fiscal stability, suggesting that developing and transition country governments should engage in limited price smoothing and, if possible, rely on hedging instruments to do so.
Alexander F. Tieman
This paper describes the current state of the Macedonian electricity sector. It looks at ongoing structural changes, driven by the gradual adoption of the EU acquis on energy, and comes up with estimates for electricity subsidies. It concludes by discussing the longer term outlook and sketching policy options.
Mr. Manmohan S. Kumar and Kent Osband