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International Monetary Fund

Abstract

This paper examines the World Economic Outlook forecasting record for the principal performance indicators for the major industrial countries and corresponding aggregates and for groups of non-oil developing countries. Several criteria were used in evaluating the forecasts: the computation and evaluation of various summary statistics of forecast accuracy, bias, and efficiency; comparisons with alternative forecasts—naive forecasts and forecasts produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and by national forecasting agencies; the examination of turning-point errors and forecast performance in defined episodes; and, finally, some attempt to explain forecast error in terms of unanticipated developments in policy variables and oil prices. In judging the forecast performance of the World Economic Outlook, a number of points must be kept in mind. Most important, it has to be recognized that the period since the inception of the World Economic Outlook as a regular forecasting exercise has been extraordinarily rich in economic upheavals, which have made the odds against accurate forecasting formidable.

Michael J. Artis

Abstract

This paper analyzes the short-term forecasts for industrial and developing countries produced by the IMF and published twice a year in the World Economic Outlook. For the industrial country group, the forecasts for output growth and inflation are satisfactory and pass most conventional tests in forecasting economic developments, although forecast accuracy has not improved over time, and predicting the turning points of the business cycle remains a weakness. For the developing countries, the task of forecasting movements in economic activity is even more difficult and the conventional measures of forecast accuracy are less satisfactory than for the industrial countries. [JEL: E17, E37, F17, F47]

Artis M. J.

Abstract

Recent developments in the sphere of international economic policy coordination produced an agreement at the May 1986 Tokyo Summit that the major countries should focus on a set of economic indicators as a means of strengthening the degree of cooperation in macroeconomic policymaking already in existence. The Fund was given the formal responsibility for carrying this suggestion forward. In the subsequent development of this idea (see. in particular, Crockett and Goldstein (1987)), emphasis has been given to a taxonomy of indicators of current economic developments, distinguishing those which are signals of policy posture from those which measure intermediate variables, and which in turn are distinguished from those measuring economic performance. Indicators may be used in a number of ways. On a rising scale of increasing international interdependence, they may provide individual countries with a checklist of variables against which to monitor the short-run progress of their economies; they may provide information on the medium-run sustainability of policies; and they may signal in a formal way the need for multilateral discussion of policies.

Paula R. De Masi

Abstract

The concepts of potential output and the output gap are central to the IMF’s analytical work in providing policy recommendations to member governments. This key role has stimulated research at the IMF to develop and refine estimation techniques. This paper summarizes the methodology and results of IMF research on potential output, which has mainly focused on the industrial countries, but more recently has addressed issues related to developing countries and countries in transition. It then discusses the approaches that country desk officers use for operational purposes, and presents estimates of potential output for the major industrial countries. [JEL: E3].

Masson Paul, Mr. Steven A. Symansky, Mr. Richard D Haas, and Mr. Michael P. Dooley

Abstract

MULTIMOD (MULTI-region econometric MODel) has been designed to improve the analysis of the effects of industrial country policies on major macro-economic variables, both in the developed and developing worlds.1 It is a continuation of modeling work undertaken at the Fund in recent years, in particular work on the World Trade Model (Spencer (1984)) and MINIMOD (Haas and Masson (1986)), and it supplements individual country and sectoral models, as well as detailed analysis and monitoring performed by country economists. The focus of the model is on the transmission of policy effects, and in this respect therefore it accords well with the Fund’s surveillance over the policies of major countries. More generally, the model can be used to trace the effects of changes in the external environment on the economies of developed and developing countries. To a limited extent, the model can also be used to evaluate policies that developing countries might choose in order to improve their outcomes, for instance, through shifting demand away from consumption and toward investment. However, their monetary and fiscal policy instruments are not at present explicit in the model. The model has not been designed to make unconditional or “baseline” forecasts, nor will it be used for this purpose. Instead, the model has been designed to develop a judgmental baseline forecast that incorporates the detailed knowledge of country economists, and to examine the effects on that baseline of scenarios that involve changes in policies in major countries and other exogenous changes in the economic environment.

Anthony G. Turner and Stephen S. Golub

Abstract

This paper attempts to extend the range of countries covered by the IMF’s multilateral real exchange rate indices based on relative unit labor costs (REER-ULCs) in manufacturing. A data set was assembled that permits calculation of REER-ULCs for 23 newly industrialized, developing, and transition economies in addition to the 21 industrial countries covered by the current system. Although the results are mostly quite encouraging, they should be considered preliminary because of uncertainty about the reliability and comparability of the underlying data. Also, unit labor costs are not available on as timely a basis as consumer price indices (CPIs), especially for nonindustrial economies. Thus, the ULC-based indicators should supplement rather than replace the current CPI-based system. [JEL: F31, G15, N20, N60, O57]

Robert Rowthorn and Mr. Ramana Ramaswamy

Abstract

The advanced economies have experienced a secular decline in the share of manufacturing employment—a phenomenon retened to us deindustrializaiion. This paper argues that, contrary to popular perceptions, deindustrialization is not a negative phenomenon, but is the natural consequence of the industrial dynamism in an already developed economy, and that North-South trade has had little tu do with deindustrialization. The paper also discusses the implications of deindustrialization for the growth prospects and the nature of labor market arrangements in the advanced economies. [JEL: 01, 03, F1, F43]

Matthew J. Slaughter and Mr. Phillip L Swagel

Abstract

This paper examines the effect of globalization on labor markets in the advanced economies, focusing particularly on the claim that increased economic integration has widened the gap between the wages of more-skilled and less-skilled workers. The broad consensus of research is that globalization, both in terms of increased trade as well as increased capital mobility and foreign direct investment, has had only a modest effect on wages. Instead, changes in technology have led to a pervasive shift in demand for labor that has favored skilled workers to the detriment of less-skilled workers. [JEL: F10, J31]

Golub Stephen S.

Abstract

This paper reviews the controversies regarding linkage of international trade and labor standards. Pressures for international harmonization of labor standards arise in the context of increased trade between countries with large disparities in wages, and also reflect the history of labor standards. A critical distinction is made between standards related to fundamental human rights and those related to employment conditions. The main conclusion is that trade sanctions to enforce labor standards should not be an option, but that international agreements on core labor standards, with voluntary compliance, may, apart from being worthwhile on ethical grounds, defuse calls for protection. [JEL: F13, J30]