Some central banks have maintained overvalued official exchange rates, while unable to ensure that supply of foreign exchange meets legitimate demand for current account transactions at that price. A parallel exchange rate market develops, in such circumstances; and when the spread between the official and parallel rates is both substantial and sustained, price levels in the economy typically reflect the parallel market exchange rate. “Recognizing reality” by allowing economic agents to use a market clearing rate benefits economic activity without necessarily leading to more inflation. But a unified, market-clearing exchange rate will not stabilize without a supportive fiscal and monetary context. A number of country case studies are included; my thanks to Jie Ren for pulling together all the data for the country case studies, and the production of the charts.
Mr. Nicolas R Blancher, Maximiliano Appendino, Aidyn Bibolov, Mr. Armand Fouejieu, Mr. Jiawei Li, Anta Ndoye, Alexandra Panagiotakopoulou, Wei Shi, and Tetyana Sydorenko
The importance of financial inclusion is increasingly recognized by policymakers around the world. Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) financial inclusion, in particular, is at the core of the economic diversification and growth challenges many countries are facing. In the Middle East and Central Asia (MENAP and CCA) regions, SMEs represent an important share of firms, but the regions lag most others in terms of SME access to financing.
Financial technology (fintech) is emerging as an innovative way to achieve financial inclusion and the broader objective of inclusive growth. Thus far, fintech in the MENAP and CCA remains below potential with limited impact on financial inclusion. This paper reviews the fintech landscape in the MENAP and CCA regions, identifies the constraints to the growth of fintech and its contribution to inclusive growth and considers policy options to unlock the potential.
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
This issue of Finance & Development focuses on how technology is driving growth. The issue looks at “transmission channels.” As with drive-through tellers, ever-more-powerful technology allows us to streamline, replacing less efficient practices (the drive-through teller) with more efficient ones (smartphone deposits). Other articles in this issue cover package chronicle technology’s power to transform: Sanjiv Ranjan Das examines big data’s influence on economics and finance; Aditya Narain documents the rise of a new breed of hybrid financial technology—fintech—firms; and Sharmini Coorey touts distance learning for better policymaking. The issue also examines the impact of remittances on monetary policy, de-dollarization in Peru, and the efficacy of public-private partnerships, among other topics. It also presents profile of Nancy Birdsall, the former head of the Center for Global Development, who has dedicated her career to fighting poverty and inequality through compelling research.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
The countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) have recorded significant macroeconomic achievements since independence. These countries have grown more rapidly-—on average by 7 percent over 1996–2011—-than those in many other regions of the world and poverty has declined. Inflation has come down sharply from high rates in the 1990s and interest rates have fallen. Financial sectors have deepened somewhat, as evidenced by higher deposits and lending. Fiscal policies were broadly successful in building buffers prior to the global crisis and those buffers were used effectively by many CCA countries to support growth and protect the most vulnerable as the crisis washed across the region. CCA oil and gas exporters have achieved significant improvements in living standards with the use of their energy wealth.
This study estimates the size of the informal economy, and the relative contribution of each underlying factor, for the Caucasus and Central Asia countries in 2008. Using a Multiple Indicator-Multiple Cause model, we find that a burdensome tax system, rigid labor market, low institutional quality, and excessive regulation in financial and products markets are determinant factors in explaining the size of the informal economy, which ranges from 26 percent of GDP in Kyrgyz Republic to around 35 percent of GDP in Armenia. Furthermore, the results show that higher levels of informality increase the levels of self employment and the percentage of currency held outside the banking system.
Kazakhstani banks continue to suffer from a high and rising stock of nonperforming loans. A centralized approach to asset resolution is warranted, and could be based on a reinvigorated Distressed Asset Fund. A robust and transparent public financial management system should be an integral part of any effective fiscal framework. Deeper and sophisticated domestic financial markets will help decline in dollarization and the associated risks. A sound medium-term fiscal framework, supportive monetary and exchange rate policies, and overall financial sector reform is required.