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International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

Countries of the Middle East and Central Asia region have been hit by two large and reinforcing shocks, resulting in significantly weaker growth projections in 2020. In addition to the devastating toll on human health, the COVID-19 pandemic and the plunge in oil prices are causing economic turmoil in the region, with fragile and conflict affected states particularlyhard-hit given already large humanitarian and refugee challenges and weak health infrastructures. The immediate priority for policies is to save lives with needed health spending, regardless of fiscal space, while preserving engines of growth with targeted support to households and hard-hit sectors. In this context, the IMF has been providing emergency assistance to help countries in the region during these challenging times. Further ahead, economic recoveries should be supported with broad fiscal and monetary measures where policy space is available, and by seeking external assistance where space is limited.

International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This 2019 Article IV Consultation with the Republic of Azerbaijan highlights that the economy is continuing to recover from a banking crisis and recession. Looking ahead, economic growth is expected to reach 2.7 percent in 2019 on strong hydrocarbon production and robust domestic demand, benefitting from new spending measures. Gradual and growth-friendly fiscal consolidation is needed to strengthen intergenerational and precautionary buffers while mitigating the adverse impact on the economy. Consolidation could rely on prioritizing and improving the efficiency of spending, rationalizing tax policy, and improving revenue administration. Reducing administrative burden for businesses, encouraging competition, and strengthening governance and transparency would reduce the cost of doing business, foster entrepreneurship, and attract foreign capital. Prioritizing investment for healthcare and education, improving its efficiency, and better targeting of social protection would help nurture human capital and improve productivity. Addressing governance weaknesses is essential to reduce vulnerabilities to corruption. More integrated policies, along with better data availability, would support decision making and credibility, and attract investment.
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.