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International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

Countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (MENAP) region and those in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with swift and stringent measures to mitigate its spread and impact but continue to face an uncertain and difficult environment. Oil exporters were particularly hard hit by a “double-whammy” of the economic impact of lockdowns and the resulting sharp decline in oil demand and prices. Containing the health crisis, cushioning income losses, and expanding social spending remain immediate priorities. However, governments must also begin to lay the groundwork for recovery and rebuilding stronger, including by addressing legacies from the crisis and strengthening inclusion.

Mr. Sami Ben Naceur, Mr. Ralph Chami, and Mohamed Trabelsi
This paper explores the relationship between remittances and financial inclusion for a sample of 187 countries over the period 2004-2015, using cross-country as well as dynamic panel GMM regressions. At low levels of remittances-to-GDP, these flows act as a substitute to formal financial channels, thereby reducing financial inclusion. In contrast, when remittance-to-GDP ratio is high, above 13% on average, they tend to complement formal access and usage channels, thus enhancing financial inclusion. This “U shaped” relationship highlights the role of remittance flows in financing household consumption at low levels, while raising formal household bank savings and allowing for more intermediation, at high levels of remittance-to-GDP.
Mishel Ghassibe, Maximiliano Appendino, and Samir Elsadek Mahmoudi
This paper offers empirical evidence that greater financial inclusion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can promote higher economic growth and employment, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia regions. First, we show that countries with higher SME financial inclusion exhibit more effective monetary policy transmission and tax collection. Second, we find substantial employment and labor productivity growth gains at the firm level from access to credit, gains that are higher for SMEs. We also obtain evidence of a substantial positive impact on SME employment and labor productivity growth from improved credit bureau coverage and insolvency regimes. Finally, cross-country aggregate evidence confirms the employment and growth gains from SME financial inclusion, which appear larger in the Middle East and Central Asia than in other regions.
Ms. Froukelien Wendt, Peter Katz, and Alice Zanza
The key objective of this note is to support authorities in their decision making about the optimal organization of central securities depositories (CSDs) in their country. For the purpose of this note, a CSD is defined as an entity that provides securities accounts, a securities settlement system, and central safekeeping services to market participants, which can be banks and other financial institutions. Authorities in developing markets, in particular central banks, may grapple with two questions: (1) whether to pursue a single CSD to increase market efficiencies and benefit from economies of scale and scope and (2) whether to partake in the governance of the CSD as owner or operator. This note presents seven considerations for authorities to take into account when answering these questions and determining the best model for their country.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

As in other regions in the world, countries in MENAP and CCA regions are exposed to tightening in global financing conditions and ongoing global trade tensions. The former has already begun to impact several emerging market economies in MENAP and could have more severe implications should financial market sentiment suddenly deteriorate. Escalating global trade tensions will have a limited direct and immediate impact on these regions but could impart significant strains over time through negative effects on trading partners and through market confidence effects.