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Francisco Roldán
Sovereign debt crises coincide with deep recessions. I propose a model of sovereign debt that rationalizes large contractions in economic activity via an aggregate-demand amplification mechanism. The mechanism also sheds new light on the response of consumption to sovereign risk, which I document in the context of the Eurozone crisis. By explicitly separating the decisions of households and the government, I examine the interaction between sovereign risk and precautionary savings. When a default is likely, households anticipate its negative consequences and cut consumption for self-insurance reasons. Such shortages in aggregate spending worsen economic conditions through nominal wage rigidities and boost default incentives, restarting the vicious cycle. I calibrate the model to Spain in the 2000s and find that about half of the output contraction is caused by default risk. More generally, sovereign risk exacerbates volatility in consumption over time and across agents, creating large and unequal welfare costs even if default does not materialize.
Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, Veronika Penciakova, and Nick Sander
We estimate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on business failures among small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in seventeen countries using a large representative firm-level database. We use a simple model of firm cost-minimization and measure each firm’s liquidity shortfall during and after COVID-19. Our framework allows for a rich combination of sectoral and aggregate supply, productivity, and demand shocks. We estimate a large increase in the failure rate of SMEs under COVID-19 of nearly 9 percentage points, ab-sent government support. Accommodation & Food Services, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation, Education, and Other Services are among the most affected sectors. The jobs at risk due to COVID-19 related SME business failures represent 3.1 percent of private sector employment. Despite the large impact on business failures and employment, we estimate only moderate effects on the financial sector: the share of Non Performing Loans on bank balance sheets would increase by up to 11 percentage points, representing 0.3 percent of banks’ assets and resulting in a 0.75 percentage point decline in the common equity Tier-1 capital ratio. We evaluate the cost and effectiveness of various policy interventions. The fiscal cost of an intervention that narrowly targets at risk firms can be modest (0.54% of GDP). However, at a similar level of effectiveness, non-targeted subsidies can be substantially more expensive (1.82% of GDP). Our results have important implications for the severity of the COVID-19 recession, the design of policies, and the speed of the recovery.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper investigates impact of promoting labor supply through tax and benefit reform in Finland. A comprehensive reform of the tax-benefit system could support the government’s objective of increasing employment. The equity-efficiency trade-off of the proposed reform scenarios improves social welfare when using Finland-specific preferences. The Finnish tax and benefit system has served the country well, having supported high income levels alongside low inequality. The model is characterized by strong institutions, high taxes and public service provision, a highly skilled labor force and a generous social safety net. The microsimulation analysis shows that, despite strong redistribution and high-income levels, Finland could improve its tax and benefit system. Even for revenue-neutral reforms, economic gains in terms of labor supply and earnings could be substantial. The reform proposals consider Finland’s strong preferences for equity, while seeking to correct potential inconsistencies in how the tax burden is distributed.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2018 Article IV Consultation highlights that Norway is in the midst of a healthy recovery from the oil downturn, supported by positive trends in oil prices and a strengthening labor market. In addition, banks remain profitable and well capitalized. However, household debt continues to increase and house prices have resumed their rise, especially in the Oslo area, after a correction during 2017. Mainland growth is projected to increase from 2 percent in 2017 to 2.5 percent in each 2018 and 2019, underpinned by solid consumption, stronger business investment and an export recovery. Petroleum investment will also pick up. As a result, output will likely start to exceed potential in 2019.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper describes wages and competitiveness in Norway. Norway may have to downwardly revise its expectations for wage growth if it is to avoid a significant loss of competitiveness and manage the transition to a less oil-dependent economy. Norway was able to afford very high wage growth in the past (notwithstanding the noted challenges in several sectors) thanks to good fortune in its terms of trade. Going forward, it would be prudent not to count on being fortunate twice: wage moderation would help build resilience in case of less favorable trends in international prices. It would also help facilitate the needed transition out of oil by supporting sectors that did not benefit from past terms of trade gains. Communication from the government can continue to help in managing public expectations. Fiscal policy plays a key role in promoting competitiveness and containing the spending effect of Dutch Disease. After a prolonged expansion of fiscal policy—partly enabled by large valuation gains of the sovereign wealth fund—it is now appropriate to gradually start tightening fiscal policy. The ongoing up-cycle provides an ideal setting to get started on structural consolidation, which will ultimately be needed to face to address aging pressures.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights that Finland’s economic growth has picked up considerably, broadening to exports and equipment investment, and the current account is back to surplus. The economic recovery is expected to remain strong in the near term, but potential growth is constrained by labor market rigidities and aging. The IMF projects growth of 2.8 percent in 2017 and 2.3 percent in 2018. Better-than-expected fiscal outcomes in 2016 are projected to continue in 2017, but the public finances face long-term challenges from a declining working age population and escalating age-related spending. Avoiding a procyclical fiscal stance would help rebuild buffers over the medium term.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes structural shocks, productivity, and growth in Finland. Finland has gone from being a top-performing advanced economy to a growth laggard since 2007. The rapid decline of the (previously) high productivity information and communications technology sector in recent years has weighed on overall growth and productivity. An analysis of industry-level data indicates that shifts in the sectoral distribution of labor and capital toward lower productivity sectors are also contributing to slower aggregate productivity growth. Firm-level analysis suggests that the aggregate total factor productivity impact of reallocating resources within sectors is limited, although there is more scope to reallocate resources between sectors.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This Selected Issues paper assesses the current strength of the balance sheets of large banks in Belize and takes stock of progress made on the regulatory, supervisory, and crisis management frameworks since the 2011 Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP). The improvement in financial stability indicators was boosted by implementation of key FSAP recommendations. The Central Bank strengthened provisioning and loan classification standards. The new rules force banks to focus more on the borrower’s capacity to repay the loan rather than on the value of collaterals. The regulatory, supervisory, and crisis management frameworks as well as the financial infrastructure could be further strengthened. The supervision department of the Central Bank could be strengthened with examiners specializing in information technologies (IT) with the view of ensuring the integrity of banks’ IT systems. Asset quality reviews and forward-looking stress tests could complement current supervisory practices and improve Central Bank’s assessments of banks’ balance sheets.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2014 Article IV Consultation highlights that in 2013, Estonia’s recovery from the crisis continued but at a slower pace. Real GDP growth was 0.8 percent, with private consumption providing the main support, although net exports made a negative contribution. Inflation declined to about 3½ percent, but stayed above the euro average. Public finances remained strong, with a fiscal deficit of 0.2 percent of GDP and a gross public debt of 10 percent of GDP. Real GDP growth is projected at 2.4 percent in 2014, rising toward expected potential growth of 3 to 3.5 percent in the medium term.
Dmitry Plotnikov
This paper develops and estimates a general equilibrium rational expectations model with search and multiple equilibria where aggregate shocks have a permanent effect on the unemployment rate. If agents' wealth decreases, the unemployment rate increases for a potentially indefinite period. This makes unemployment rate dynamics path dependent as in Blanchard and Summers (1987). I argue that this feature explains the persistence of the unemployment rate in the U.S. after the Great Recession and over the entire postwar period.