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International Monetary Fund. Fiscal Affairs Dept.

Abstract

Chapter 1 argues that fiscal policies are at the forefront of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fiscal measures can save lives, protect the most-affected people and firms from the economic impact of the pandemic, and prevent the health crisis from turning into a deep long-lasting slump. A key priority is to fully accommodate spending on health and emergency services. Global coordination is for a universally low-cost vaccine and to support countries with limited health capacity. Large, temporary and targeted support is urgently needed for affected workers and firms until the emergency abates. As the shutdowns end, broad-based, coordinated fiscal stimulus—where financing conditions permit—will become more effective in fostering the recovery. Chapter 2 argues that fiscal policies are at the forefront of facilitating an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic once the Great Lockdown ends. Policymakers can achieve this objective with IDEAS: Invest for the future—in health systems, infrastructure, low carbon technologies, education, and research; adopt well-planned Discretionary policies that can be deployed quickly; and Enhance Automatic Stabilizers, which are built-in budgetary tax and spending measures that automatically stabilize incomes and consumption. Importantly, improving unemployment benefit systems and social safety nets can protect household incomes from adverse shocks and strengthen resilience against future epidemics. Over the past decade, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have doubled in importance among the world’s largest corporations. They often deliver basic services such as water, electricity, and loans for families and small businesses. At their best, they can help promote higher economic growth and achieve development goals. However, many are a burden to taxpayers and the economy. Chapter 3 discusses what governments can do to get the most out of SOEs. This includes ensuring the firm’s managers have the right incentives and there is effective oversight. It also requires a high degree of transparency of their activities.

Mr. Carlos Sanchez-Munoz, Mr. Paul A Austin, Alicia Hierro, and Ms. Tamara Razin

Abstract

The 2019 Annual Report of the IMF Committee on Balance of Payments Statistics (the Committee) provides an overview of recent trends in global balance of payments and international investment position statistics, summarizes the Committee’s work during 2019, and presents the work program of the Committee in the coming year.

International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
In a favorable global conjuncture, France has benefitted from a broad-based recovery last year, with robust growth and improving labor market trends, which have led to a decline in the fiscal deficit below 3 percent of GDP last year. But structural challenges persist, with still high unemployment, weak competitiveness, and high private and public debt burdens, which are hampering economic performance.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights that the Italian economy is in the third year of a moderate recovery. Supported by exceptionally accommodative monetary policy, fiscal easing, low commodity prices, and the government’s reform efforts, the economy grew by 0.9 percent in 2016 and continued to expand in the first quarter of 2017. Unemployment and nonperforming loans have declined somewhat from their crisis-driven peaks. Growth is projected at about 1.3 percent in 2017 and about 1 percent in 2018–20 as favorable tailwinds become less supportive. Growth could surprise on the upside in the near term, including from a stronger European recovery.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights that the economy of Lithuania has been gathering momentum, following sluggish performance in 2015 and most of 2016. Real GDP expanded by 3.9 percent in the first quarter of 2017 after rising by 2.3 percent in 2016. Strong private consumption, on the back of robust wage growth and low inflation that supported purchasing power, has long been a main driver of growth. Building on recent momentum, economic growth should be strong in 2017, rising to 3.2 percent. Improving external conditions and a turnaround in European funds absorption, as well as high capacity utilization, should spur exports and investment.
Ruud A. de Mooij and Mr. Shafik Hebous
Tax provisions favoring corporate debt over equity finance (“debt bias”) are widely recognized as a risk to financial stability. This paper explores whether and how thin-capitalization rules, which restrict interest deductibility beyond a certain amount, affect corporate debt ratios and mitigate financial stability risk. We find that rules targeted at related party borrowing (the majority of today’s rules) have no significant impact on debt bias—which relates to third-party borrowing. Also, these rules have no effect on broader indicators of firm financial distress. Rules applying to all debt, in contrast, turn out to be effective: the presence of such a rule reduces the debt-asset ratio in an average company by 5 percentage points; and they reduce the probability for a firm to be in financial distress by 5 percent. Debt ratios are found to be more responsive to thin capitalization rules in industries characterized by a high share of tangible assets.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This paper discusses economic development and policies of Belgium. The new government has taken important steps to support job creation and address the cost of aging—notably through wage moderation, pension reform, and a tax shift. But growth prospects remain mediocre, public debt very high, and the labor market severely fragmented. The central task is to achieve a lasting reduction in public debt while nurturing the recovery and social cohesion. The government’s goal of achieving structural fiscal balance by 2018 is laudable but ambitious—with almost two percent of GDP of measures yet to be identified. Tapping Belgium’s full labor market potential requires a comprehensive and inclusive jobs strategy.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This staff report on the Republic of Kosovo’s 2013 Article IV Consultation focuses on economic and financial developments. Kosovo’s economy is excessively dependent on inflows from the diaspora. It is found that while these inflows support incomes, they finance primarily consumption and investments in nontradables, such as real estate or services, and contribute little to the build-up of productive capacity. Goods exports are less than 10 percent of GDP and concentrated in sectors with a low-value added component, notably metals. A coherent strategy is needed to improve competitiveness, foster the development of a tradable sector, and lay the basis for self-sustained growth.