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International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This Selected Issues paper explores policies to drive diversification for Saudi Arabia. Diversification is needed to create jobs for Saudis and to mitigate the impact of uncertainty in oil markets. Although the business climate should be improved, and remaining infrastructure gaps addressed, reforms need to go beyond these areas. Diversification in Saudi Arabia that creates jobs for nationals could be held back by the effects of relatively high wages and their impact on cost competitiveness. Creative solutions are needed to address the impact of high government wages and employment on competitiveness. Industrial policy could help overcome the incentives that encourage companies to focus on the nontradable sector, but should be handled carefully, keeping lessons from other countries’ experiences in mind. Export orientation and competition are crucial mechanisms to ensure discipline. Strengthening human capital to raise productivity and provide workers with the skills needed in the private sector will be essential to success.
Mr. Geoffrey J Bannister, Mr. Manuk Ghazanchyan, and Theodore Pierre Bikoi
This paper assesses external trade statistics in Lao PDR by looking at mirror statistics, and with reference to international experience in compilation and dissemination of external trade data. We find that exports could be underreported by 8 to 50 percent, while imports could be underreported by 30 to 70 percent, and the trade deficit could be 20 percent to 280 percent higher. Underreporting is concentrated in trade with major partners, including Thailand (17 percent of total trade), China (10 percent of total trade) and Vietnam (3 percent of total trade). On the export side, underreporting is concentrated in wood and wood products, while for imports it is concentrated in a much wider variety of products, including food, fuel, vehicles, machinery, chemical products, plastics and rubber, and construction materials. Possible sources and implications of these discrepancies are discussed.
Reda Cherif, Fuad Hasanov, and Min Zhu

Abstract

The “Gulf Falcons”—the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council—have high living standards as a result of large income flows from oil. The decline of oil prices between summer 2014 and fall 2015 underscores the urgency for the Gulf Falcons to diversify away from their current heavy reliance on oil exports. This book discusses attempts at diversification in the Middle East and North Africa and the complex choices policymakers face. It brings together the views of academics and policymakers to offer practical advice for future efforts to increase productivity growth.

Ms. Pritha Mitra, Amr Hosny, Gohar Minasyan, Mr. Mark Fischer, and Gohar Abajyan
Raising the Middle East and Central Asia’s long-term growth prospects is critical for meeting the region's pressing need for jobs and higher living standards.
International Monetary Fund. African Dept.
This Selected Issues paper presents an external stability assessment on Niger. Niger’s current account balance deteriorated in 2013, mostly on account of higher food and capital goods imports. The deficit is expected to widen further in 2014–15, mainly driven by large investment in the extractive industry and basic infrastructure. The current account is projected to gradually improve from 2016 as important projects in infrastructure will come to end, the oil and mining sectors come on stream and public and private savings increase. Although aid and foreign direct investments are the main sources of external financing, external borrowing–mainly on concessional terms–has increased significantly.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper for Indonesia reports that following the major cleanup of the banking sector after the crisis, banks’ performance has improved as net interest margins and profitability have increased. Public and external debt ratios have declined and international reserves have risen, reducing domestic and external vulnerabilities. Indonesia stands out as having experienced a slower recovery in investment and exports than other countries hit by the Asian crisis. Recognizing the challenge, the government has adopted a sound medium-term strategy focused on boosting economic growth.
Mr. Philippe Beaugrand
The paper reviews the “stylized facts” on economic growth gathered by Easterly and Levine in their 2001 joint paper and illustrates some of the points made on the basis of data from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook on real growth and per capita GDP since 1970. The data show that the growth performance of many poor countries has been disappointing: most of the “developing” world, especially sub-Saharan Africa, has been getting poorer while the advanced economies have been getting richer. To reverse this trend requires finding ways to raise total factor productivity in poor countries; in turn, this implies letting entrepreneurs innovate—in the Schumpeterian sense—in order to bring about structural changes in the economy. The conclusion highlights several essential steps in creating a favorable environment for innovation and growth.
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
The IMF recently concluded its annual “health checkup” (Article IV consultation with the U.S. authorities) of the U.S. economy amid continuing questions about the strength of the economic recovery. While recent data have been reassuring, IMF staff cautioned that lingering effects from the collapse of the equity price bubble could still dampen activity, so that a durable economic upswing was not a foregone conclusion. In view of the large unfunded liabilities in the public pension and health systems and the recent deterioration in the federal fiscal position, the staff also raised concerns about fiscal sustainability and pointed to the risk that fiscal deficits could crowd out private investment and exacerbate the growing U.S. current account deficit. These issues are discussed in the IMF Staff Report and Selected Issues papers now available on the IMF’s website (http://www.imf.org/external/country/usa/index.htm).
International Monetary Fund
In this study, the following statistical data are presented in detail: income, savings, and net financial balances, production of principal food crops, production of main cash commodities, capacity utilization in the industrial sector, petroleum product price structure, prices of major utilities, oil sector indicators, monetary survey, balance of payments, principal imports and exports, functional classification of government’s expenditure, forestry sector indicators, structure of interest rates, trade and exchange arrangements, government employment and average salaries by sector, economic classification of government expenditure, and so on.