This paper discusses appropriate methods for disclosing fiscal risks from exogenous shocks and the realization of explicit or implicit contingent obligations of the government. Expanding on previous guidance prepared prior to the crisis, the note focuses on fiscal risks emerging from recent public interventions in the financial sector. Information on fiscal risks and its public reporting leads to a better understanding of the true state of the public finances. Thus, it helps policymakers design and gets public support for, appropriate responses to the realization of various contingencies. More specifically, in the context of the unfolding global financial crisis, a wide range of public sector interventions have been in support of the financial system. Although these interventions have been necessary, they have generated further fiscal risks. Comprehensive reporting would help governments to define a management strategy of the assets and liabilities that they have taken on their balance sheet and to prepare exit strategies for reducing their presence in the financial sector and eventually withdrawing support.
This paper highlights the state of Public Finances Cross-Country Fiscal Monitor. This edition of the Cross-Country Fiscal Monitor provides an update of global fiscal developments and policy strategies, based on projections from the November 2009 WEO. These projections reflect the assessment of IMF staff of current country policies and initiatives expected during 2009–2014 Underlying fiscal trends in advanced economies are weaker than previously projected, however, lower expected costs of financial sector support in the United States mean that 2009 headline numbers are better. New estimates of needed medium-term fiscal adjustment in advanced economies. Fiscal policy will continue to provide substantial support to aggregate demand in most countries this year, but a tightening is projected to commence next year in G-20 emerging markets. Fiscal policy is projected to begin tightening in emerging G-20 economies next year, reflecting a combination of reduced anti-crisis spending and expected consolidation beyond the withdrawal of crisis-related stimulus in Brazil, Mexico, and Turkey, supported by a pick-up of growth. Higher commodity prices are also expected to contribute to lower overall deficit.
Mr. Carlo Cottarelli, Mr. Paolo Mauro, Lorenzo Forni, and Jan Gottschalk
This note summarizes the main arguments put forward by some market commentators who argue that default is inevitable, and presents a rebuttal for each argument in turn. Their main arguments focus on the size of the adjustment and continued market concerns reflected in government bond spreads. The essence of our reasoning is that the challenge stems mainly from the advanced economies’ large primary deficits. Thus, by lowering the interest bill while triggering the need to move to primary balance or a small primary surplus, default would not significantly reduce the need for major fiscal adjustment. In contrast, the emerging economies that defaulted in recent decades did so primarily as a result of high debt servicing costs, often in the context of major external shocks. We conclude that default would be ineffective and undesirable in today’s advanced economies.
This paper discusses initial performance of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Macroeconomic Convergence Program. The SADC’s regional economic integration agenda includes a macroeconomic convergence program, intended to achieve and maintain macroeconomic stability in the region, thereby contributing to faster economic growth and laying the basis for eventual monetary union. As macroeconomic performance in the SADC region has improved in recent years, most countries are making progress toward, and in many cases exceeding, the convergence criteria. Most SADC member states have recorded solid macroeconomic performance in recent years, in general coming close too, and in many cases surpassing, the convergence targets specified for 2008. A notable exception in this regard is Zimbabwe, which was in the grip of hyperinflation. The macroeconomic targets for later years are ambitious and, in some cases, warrant further evaluation, given that achieving the targets may be neither necessary nor enough to achieve good macroeconomic results.
In response to the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, government budgets and central banks have provided substantial support for aggregate demand and for the financial sector. In the process, fiscal balances have deteriorated, government liabilities and central bank balance sheets have been expanded, and risks of future losses for the public sector have increased.
Mr. Jonathan David Ostry, Mr. Atish R. Ghosh, Mr. Jun I Kim, and Miss Mahvash S Qureshi
In this note, the authors reexamine the issue of debt sustainability in a large group of advanced economies. Their hypothesis is that, when debt is in a moderate range, its dynamics are sustainable in the sense that increases in debt elicit sufficient increases in primary fiscal balances to stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio. At high debt levels, however, the dynamics may turn unstable, and the debt ratio may not converge to a finite level. Such a framework allows the authors to define a “debt limit” that is consistent with a country’s historical track record of adjustment in the sense that, without an extraordinary fiscal effort, any debt increment beyond this limit would cause debt to increase without bound. This debt limit is not an absolute and immutable barrier, however, but rather defines a critical point above which a country’s normal fiscal response to rising debt becomes insufficient to maintain debt sustainability. Nor should this debt limit be interpreted as being in any sense the optimal level of public debt. Indeed, since this limit delineates the point at which fiscal solvency is called into question—and the analysis abstracts entirely from liquidity/rollover risk—prudence dictates that countries will typically want to be well below their debt limit. Given a country’s normal pattern of adjustment, “fiscal space” is then simply the difference between its debt limit and its current level of debt.
Mr. Paolo Mauro, Mr. Mark A Horton, and Mr. Manmohan S. Kumar
This paper presents sharp increase in government debt has complicated the management of preexisting challenges from population aging, especially in advanced economies. The increase in debt ratios projected for these economies is the largest since World War II. The increase in deficits and debt raises complicated tradeoffs. Policymakers will need to balance two competing risks: on the one hand, a too hasty withdrawal of fiscal stimulus would risk nipping a recovery in the bud; on the other hand, with a delayed withdrawal investor concerns about sustainability may increase, leading to higher interest rates on government paper, undermining the recovery and increasing risks of a snowballing of debt. Regardless of the timing of adjustment, its necessary scale will be quite large, particularly for high-debt advanced economies. Preserving investor confidence in government solvency is key to avoiding an increase in interest rates, thereby not only preventing snowballing debt dynamics, but also ensuring that the fiscal stimulus is effective.
This note reflects macroeconomic and fiscal forecasts presented with the April 2009 World Economic Outlook, as well as information on fiscal stimulus and financial and industrial sector support gathered through mid-May. It follows the request by G-20 leaders for the Fund to assess regularly the actions taken by countries to address the global crisis and accelerate the recovery.
Today’s record public debt levels in most advanced economies are not only a direct fall-out from the global crisis. Public debt had ratcheted up over many decades before, when it had been used, in most of the G-7 countries, as the ultimate shock absorber—rising in bad times but not declining much in good times. Alongside, primary spending increased, particularly during 1965–85, reflecting predominantly a surge in health care and pension spending. Looking ahead, advanced economies will face the formidable challenge of reducing debt ratios at a time when ageing-related spending, in particular often underestimated pressures from health care systems, will put additional pressure on public finances. Addressing these fiscal challenges will require growth-friendly structural reforms, a fiscal strategy involving gradual but steady fiscal adjustment, stronger fiscal institutions, expenditure and revenue reforms, and an appropriate degree of burden sharing across all stakeholders.