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International Monetary Fund

This Selected Background Issues paper analyzes sectoral wage differentiation and labor cost issues in Belgium. The paper discusses wage dispersion across sectors in Belgium and compares it with the pattern in other European countries. It analyzes the data for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development used in the Central Economic Council assessment of competitiveness, underscoring the role of social security contributions and restrictions on part-time work in the evolution of labor costs per employee. The paper also examines trends in saving and investment, and the pension reform in Belgium.

Mr. Benedict J. Clements, Mr. Sanjeev Gupta, and Baoping Shang

For the latest thinking about the international financial system, monetary policy, economic development, poverty reduction, and other critical issues, subscribe to Finance & Development (F&D). This lively quarterly magazine brings you in-depth analyses of these and other subjects by the IMF’s own staff as well as by prominent international experts. Articles are written for lay readers who want to enrich their understanding of the workings of the global economy and the policies and activities of the IMF.

Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Victor Ginsburgh, Mr. Shlomo Weber, Tim Harford, and Jeff Madrick

'Wising Up to the Costs of Aging' looks at how falling fertility and rising life expectancy have combined to threaten the ability of many countries to provide a decent standard of living for the old without imposing a crushing burden on the young. In our lead article, Ronald Lee and Andrew Mason say that while population aging in rich industrial countries as well as in some middle- and lower-income countries will challenge public and private budgets in many ways, a combination of reduced consumption, postponed retirement, increased asset holdings, and greater investment in human capital should make it possible to meet this challenge without catastrophic consequences. Neil Howe and Richard Jackson publish a fascinating ranking of which countries are best and worst prepared to meet the needs of the growing wave of retirees. We also have articles on a broad range of current topics, including Middle East unemployment, the economic repercussions of the earthquake and devastating tsunami in Japan, and banking in offshore financial centers such as the Cayman Islands. Carmen Reinhart and Jacob Kirkegaard look at how governments are finding ways to manipulate markets to hold down the cost of financing huge public debts, and, in Straight Talk, the IMF's Min Zhu talks about the long-term challenges now facing emerging markets. Prakash Loungani speaks to Nobel Prize winner George Akerlof, and we discuss with three other laureates-Michael Spence, Joseph Stiglitz, and Robert Solow-what the global economic crisis has taught us. Back to Basics explains economic models, and Picture This highlights the great variations in the cost of sending money back home.

Steve Barnett and Mr. Nigel A Chalk

'Restoring Hope: Reinvigorating the Millennium Development Goals' assesses how the world is doing in meeting the MDGs--international development targets that all UN member countries and many international organizations have set for 2015. Our lead article, 'Regaining Momentum,' says that while several of the MDGs are within reach, the global economic crisis has set back progress toward a number of the targets, especially those related to health. Developing countries will need the support of advanced economies in to get back on track. Economist Jagdish Bhagwati calls into question the premise of the MDGs and argues that they should be rethought. Philanthropist Melinda Gates gives us the good news that maternal health has been improving, though we are not yet on track to meet the MDG target on maternal mortality. Picture This takes a look at child mortality rates and finds a more sobering picture. In related stories, economists Arvind Panagariya and Rodney Ramcharan have different views on how important it is to fight inequality. This issue also examines the deterioration of fiscal positions in advanced economies--as a result of both the global financial crisis and the long-run health and pension costs of an aging population. 'How Grim a Fiscal Crisis?' argues that consolidation in advanced economies should focus on spending cuts, given the already high tax burdens in many countries. In 'A Hidden Fiscal Crisis,' economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff examines the serious budget issues in the United States. We also look at the expensive needs of a rapidly aging population in France, and steps China is taking to improve pensions and health care. People in Economics profiles Maria Ramos, the academic-turned-Treasury mandarin who had a central role in stabilizing the budget in South Africa. And the 'Back to Basics' feature discusses unemployment.

LYN SQUIRE

If developing countries face up to the realities of AIDS and act quickly, millions of lives can be saved. The three articles on AIDS in this issue look at the epidemic from an economic perspective and outline priorities for developing countries in preventing the spread of HIV and helping people already infected.

International Monetary Fund

Abstract

The phenomenon of substantial peacetime budget deficits over the past20 years has been traced to the burden of entitlements, a slowdown ineconomic productivity, and demographic and macroeconomic shifts in theindustrial countries. Though smaller and structurally different, deficitsin developing countries have also become worrisome. Most economists agreethat measures to reduce government spending are imperative, particularlythrough restructuring entitlement programs.