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Ms. Stefania Fabrizio
This paper assesses the proposal, publicly debated in recent years in Italy, to reduce public debt by selling public assets, especially nonfinancial tangible assets. The main findings indicate that, although selling public assets has some merit if done to make more productive use of them, practical complications abound. Moreover, such sales might weaken underlying fiscal discipline. Other heavily indebted countries have reduced their debt much more than Italy without heavy recourse to extraordinary sales. In this context, the case of Belgium is of particular interest. Weighing the trade-offs, if properly and transparently done, the sale of public assets can complement, to a limited extent, fiscal consolidation, but should not be considered as an alternative to it.
Mr. Stephen Tokarick
The current round of multilateral trade negotiations-the Doha Round-presents an opportunity for countries to reap the benefits of trade liberalization. Unfortunately, a number of misconceptions about the likely impact of trade reforms has, in part, impeded more rapid progress toward completion of the Round. This paper addresses some of the most egregious of these misconceptions and presents results from IMF research that sheds light on these issues. In particular, this paper argues that: (i) developing countries have much to gain from their own trade liberalization; (ii) preference erosion could be significant for some countries, but it is not a justification for postponing tariff reductions; (iii) tariffs applied against agricultural products in rich countries actually harm developing countries more than subsidies; and (iv) a disproportionate share of agricultural subsidies in rich countries goes to large wealthy farmers.
Mr. Jonathan David Ostry and Mr. Abdul d Abiad
This paper aims to put some constraints on the way primary surpluses are projected when making assessments of public debt sustainability. Projections should be tied either to the country's historical track record in generating surpluses-if the institutional and other factors accounting for this track record are expected to persist-or to some model that links primary surpluses to their fundamental determinants, either on the basis of constant institutions and policies or a credible reform program. History-based or model-based primary surplus projections provide a useful benchmark for judging the realism of fiscal forecasts underlying debt sustainability calculations. Together with information on future growth and interest rates, the primary surplus projections can be used to generate measures of overborrowing, and the magnitude of adjustment needed to return debt to a sustainable level.
Mr. Abdul d Abiad and Jonathan D. Ostry

This paper aims to put some constraints on the way primary surpluses are projected when making assessments of public debt sustainability. Projections should be tied either to the country's historical track record in generating surpluses-if the institutional and other factors accounting for this track record are expected to persist-or to some model that links primary surpluses to their fundamental determinants, either on the basis of constant institutions and policies or a credible reform program. History-based or model-based primary surplus projections provide a useful benchmark for judging the realism of fiscal forecasts underlying debt sustainability calculations. Together with information on future growth and interest rates, the primary surplus projections can be used to generate measures of overborrowing, and the magnitude of adjustment needed to return debt to a sustainable level.

Peter S. Heller

With new initiatives to provide low income countries with external assistance in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), donors and NGOs are seeking to understand whether "fiscal space" can be provided in the context of IMF-supported programs to support these initiatives. This paper defines the concept of fiscal space and its link to fiscal sustainability, describes alternative ways in which fiscal space can be created, and notes how the IMF can support appropriate efforts to create fiscal space. The paper underscores that the issues that arise in creating fiscal space are not novel, but have always confronted governments in judging whether there is scope for additional expenditure.

Mr. Anthony M Annett, Mr. Jörg Decressin, and Mr. Michael Deppler

A rules-based fiscal framework, such as the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), can be an important bulwark against short-sighted policies. Although policies have improved following the SGP’s adoption, shortcomings remain. These, however, are rooted in the policies rather than the rules, where few changes seem necessary. Specifically, the Excessive Deficit Procedure needs a stronger focus on policies rather than outcomes, while staying operationally simple and transparent. Furthermore, reforms are needed to foster time-consistent national policies, budgetary transparency, and ownership of the Pact. Accordingly, parliaments should debate national Stability Programs and national fiscal councils should review these programs for parliaments.

Mr. Harm Zebregs
The share of emerging Asia in world trade has increased sharply over the past 25 years. A large part of this increase is the result of booming intraregional trade. This paper investigates the key factors behind the rapid increase in intraregional trade among economies in emerging Asia and its implications for the dependency of economies in the region on the business cycles in the EU, Japan, and the United States. The rise in intraregional trade is largely driven by rapidly growing intra-industry trade, which is a reflection of greater vertical specialization and the dispersion of production processes across borders. This has led to a sharp rise in trade in intermediate goods among economies in emerging Asia, but the EU, Japan, and the United States remain the main export markets for final goods.