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International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

A year into the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the race between vaccine and virus entered a new phase in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the path to recovery in 2021 is expected to be long and divergent. The outlook will vary significantly across countries, depending on the pandemic’s path, vaccine rollouts, underlying fragilities, exposure to tourism and contact-intensive sectors, and policy space and actions. 2021 will be the year of policies that continue saving lives and livelihoods and promote recovery, while balancing the need for debt sustainability and financial resilience. At the same time, policymakers must not lose sight of the transformational challenges to build forward better and accelerate the creation of more inclusive, resilient, sustainable, and green economies. Regional and international cooperation will be key complements to strong domestic policies.

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.

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.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This 2016 Article IV Consultation highlights that Lebanon’s economic growth remains subdued. Following a sharp drop in 2011, growth edged upward briefly to 2–3 percent, but has now slowed again. The IMF staff estimates that GDP increased by 1 percent in 2015, and a similar growth rate in 2016 is projected. Lebanon’s traditional growth drivers—tourism, real estate, and construction—have received a significant blow and a strong rebound is unlikely based on current trends. In the absence of a turnaround in confidence, or a resolution of the Syrian conflict, growth is unlikely to return to potential (4 percent) soon.
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
This paper discusses findings of the assessment of Lebanon’s financial system. Lebanon has maintained financial stability for the last quarter century during repeated shocks and challenges. Over time, macroeconomic and financial vulnerabilities have accumulated. Although central bank policies have helped to maintain confidence, fiscal adjustment is needed to reduce risks to financial stability. The banking system has thus far proven resilient to domestic shocks and regional turmoil, but the materialization of severe shocks could expose vulnerabilities. Significant progress has been made to further strengthen Lebanon’s financial integrity framework, with some scope for improvement remaining.
International Monetary Fund. Research Dept.
In the June 2016 issue of IMF Research Bulletin, Eugenio Cerutti interviews Lars E.O. Svensson. Lars, a professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, was a Visiting Scholar at the IMF. In the interview, he discusses monetary policy, financial stability, and life at the IMF. The Bulletin also features a listing of recent Working Papers, Staff Discussion Notes, and key IMF publications. The table of contents from the latest issue of IMF Economic Review is also included.
Mr. Ananthakrishnan Prasad, Heba Abdel Monem, and Pilar Garcia Martinez
Several characteristics of the structure of the Arab economies, their economic policy framework, and their banking systems make macroprudential policy a particular relevant tool. For most oil exporters, heavy reliance on the extractive sector for generating fiscal revenues and export earnings translates into increased vulnerabilities to oil price shocks. In the case of oil importers, relatively small external and fiscal buffers make them highly vulnerable to shocks. This paper discusses the experience of Arab countries in implementing macroprudential policies and contains recommendations to strengthen their macroprudential framework.