Do highly indebted countries suffer from a debt overhang? Can debt relief foster their growth rates? To answer these important questions, this article looks at how the debt-growth relation varies with indebtedness levels, as well as with the quality of policies and institutions, in a panel of developing countries. The main findings are that, in countries with good policies and institutions, there is evidence of debt overhang when the net present value of debt rises above 20–25 percent of GDP; however, debt becomes irrelevant above 70–80 percent. In countries with bad policies and institutions, thresholds appear to be lower, but the evidence of debt overhang is weaker and we cannot rule out that debt is always irrelevant. Indeed, in such countries, as well as in countries with high indebtedness levels, investment does not depend on debt levels. The analysis suggests that not all countries are likely to profit from debt relief, and thus that a one-size-fits-all debt relief approach might not be the most appropriate one.
Studies of the impact of trade openness on growth are based either on crosscountry analysis—which lacks transparency—or case studies—which lack statistical rigor. This paper applies a transparent econometric method drawn from the treatment evaluation literature (matching estimators) to make the comparison between treated (that is, open) and control (that is, closed) countries explicit while remaining within a statistical framework. Matching estimators highlight that common cross-country evidence is based on rather far-fetched country comparisons, which stem from the lack of common support of treated and control countries in the covariate space. The paper therefore advocates paying more attention to appropriate sample restriction in crosscountry macro research.
This special issue is devoted to the Global Economy Model (GEM), a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models widely used by the IMF and central banks worldwide to study issues that cannot be adequately addressed with reduced-form econometric models or an earlier generation of macromodels whose dynamic equations were not based on strong choice-theoretic foundations. Douglas Laxton discusses the GEM philosophy and explains how its modelers find solutions to their systems of nonlinear equations. Paolo Pesenti then lays out the structure of model in detail, explaining how the various equations in GEM are derived from individual and firm-level self-interested maximizing behavior and how individual decisions interact with government policy rules. The remaining six papers are specific applications of the GEM structure to a variety of real problems and policy issues.
Vol. 54, No. 2 includes three notable contributions from the Seventh Jacques Polak Annual Research Conference (ARC) hosted by the IMF in November 2006. Its lead paper, by Olivier Blanchard of Harvard University, is the 2006 Mundell-Fleming Lecture (delivered at the ARC), which analyzes current-account deficits in the advanced economies. Other papers in this issue look at the relationship between international financial integration and the real economy. Other papers discuss whether (or not): i) the next capital account crisis can be predicted; ii) accepted definitions of debt crises are adequate; iii) the Doha Round of trade talks (if they are ever successfully completed) will lead to preference erosion; and finally iv) there is room for political opportunism in countries deciding between money-based or exchange-rate-based stabilization programs.
This is the final issue for 2006 (Volume 53), and contains another paper in the occasional Special Data Section that seeks to measure financial development in the Middle East and North Africa by utilizing a new database. The issue also contains a comment from Jacques J. Polak on parity reversion in real exchange rates.
This paper examines contractionary currency crashes in developing countries. It explores the causes of India’s productivity surge around 1980, more than a decade before serious economic reforms were initiated. The paper finds evidence that the trigger may have been an attitudinal shift by the government in the early 1980s that, unlike the reforms of the 1990s, was pro-business rather than pro-market in character, favoring the interests of existing businesses rather than new entrants or consumers. A relatively small shift elicited a large productivity response, because India was far away from its income possibility frontier.
The paper discusses a model in which growth is a negative function of fiscal burden. Moreover, growth discontinuously switches from high to low as the fiscal burden reaches a critical level. The paper provides an overview of key elements of corporate bankruptcy codes and practice around the world that are relevant to the debate on sovereign debt restructuring. It also describes the broad trends in international financial integration for a sample of industrial countries and explains the cross-country and time-series variation in the size of international balance sheets.
This paper presents details of a symposium on forecasting performance I organized under the auspices of the IMF Staff Papers. The assumption that the forecaster's goal is to do as well as possible in predicting the actual outcome is sometimes questionable. ln the context of private sector forecasts, this is because the incentives for forecasters may induce them to herd rather than to reveal their true forecasts. Public sector forecasts may also be distorted, although for different reasons. Forecasts associated with IMF programs, for example, are often the result of negotiations between the IMF staff and the country authorities and are perhaps more accurately viewed as goals, or targets, rather than pure forecasts. The standard theory of time series forecasting involves a variety of components including the choice of an information set, the choice of a cost function, and the evaluation of forecasts in terms of the average costs of the forecast errors. It is generally acknowledged that by including more relevant information in the information set, one should be able to produce better forecasts.