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Martin Neil Baily and Diana Farrell

For policymakers around the world, finding ways to promote faster growth is a top priority. But what exactly do economists know and not know about growth? What direction should future research and policymaking take? This issue explores this topic, starting with a major World Bank study and research coming out of Harvard University that urges less reliance on simple formulas and the elusive search for best practices, and greater reliance on deeper economic analysis to identify each country's binding constraint(s) on growth. Other articles highlight IMF research on pinpointing effective levers for growth in developing countries and Africa's experience with growth accelerations. Also in the issue are pieces examining global economic imbalances, rapid credit growth in Eastern and Central Europe, and ways to boost productivity growth in Europe and Japan. In Straight Talk, Raghuram Rajan argues that if we want microfinance to become more than a fad, it has to follow the clear and unsentimental path of adding value and making money. Asian Development Bank's Haruhiko Kuroda sets out his vision for a new financial architecture in Asia. Finally, Picture This takes an in-depth look at global employment trends.

International Monetary Fund

The European Union’s (EU) financial stability framework is being markedly strengthened. This is taking place on the heels of a severe financial crisis owing to weaknesses in the banking system interrelated with sovereign difficulties in the euro area periphery. Important progress has been made in designing an institutional framework to secure microeconomic and macroprudential supervision at the EU level, but this new set-up faces a number of challenges. Developments regarding the financial stability may assist in the continuing evolution of the European financial stability architecture.

International Monetary Fund

This Selected Issues paper on Euro Area Policies underlies global rebalancing of accounts. From a growth-accounting perspective, slower growth in the capital-labor ratio seems to be the main driver behind the deceleration in labor productivity. The increase in bilateral trade was accompanied by a large bilateral EU trade deficit. China’s market share seems to have increased mainly at the expense of other East Asian countries. EU trade with China increased at more than twice the rate of total EU external trade, and China became the EU’s second largest trading partner.

International Monetary Fund
The European Union’s (EU) financial stability framework is being markedly strengthened. This is taking place on the heels of a severe financial crisis owing to weaknesses in the banking system interrelated with sovereign difficulties in the euro area periphery. Important progress has been made in designing an institutional framework to secure microeconomic and macroprudential supervision at the EU level, but this new set-up faces a number of challenges. Developments regarding the financial stability may assist in the continuing evolution of the European financial stability architecture.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper focuses on the fiscal challenge for Belgium in coping with population aging, including the sustainability of prevailing fiscal federalism arrangements across all levels of governments. The analysis demonstrates that the current strategy of upfront consolidation is likely to fall short of achieving sustainability. Further reductions in aging-related spending and growth and productivity-enhancing reforms beyond those assumed under the authorities’ strategy appear to be necessary. The paper also assesses whether the wage bargaining framework, a key labor market institution, is conducive to preserving external competitiveness and raising employment rates.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper addresses the question of what policy changes in France are needed under European Monetary Union (EMU), as regards the role of fiscal policy in stabilizing the economy. The fiscal strategy over the past two and a half decades is reviewed, and, against this background, an assessment is offered concerning the role and scope of fiscal stabilizers in France under EMU. The main conclusions is that over the past two and a half decades, fiscal policy operated in a clear countercyclical way in France, but this reflected essentially the functioning of automatic stabilizers.
International Monetary Fund
This Selected Issues paper analyzes the sources of the persistence of geographical unemployment imbalances and low speed of adjustment to regional labor demand shocks in Spain. The paper argues that, under present labor market arrangements, these imbalances are unlikely to be corrected in the near future. In particular, the current wage bargaining system appears to be excessively centralized and to result in nationally set wages that are too high to reduce unemployment in high-unemployment areas. The paper also analyzes the May 1997 labor market reform.
International Monetary Fund
The Selected Issues paper of the Netherlands provides an overview of the Dutch pension system. It examines the strengths and weaknesses of the existing bargaining model, compares the Dutch wage bargaining in different periods, examines the past macroeconomic performance of the Netherlands, addresses the issues of wage dispersion and differentiation, and discusses future prospects and challenges for the bargaining model. It also estimates the potential growth in the Netherlands, using statistical detrending methods.