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Lynge Nielsen
The paper analyzes how the UNDP, the World Bank, and the IMF classify countries based on their level of development. These systems are found lacking in clarity with regard to their underlying rationale. The paper argues that a country classification system based on a transparent, data-driven methodology is preferable to one based on judgment or ad hoc rules. Such an alternative methodology is developed and used to construct classification systems using a variety of proxies for development attainment.
Patrick A. Imam and Mr. Kangni R Kpodar
The rapid growth of Islamic banking has attracted much attention lately in the economic literature. At the same time, a mature body of the literature has shown that financial development is broadly conducive to economic growth, which raises the question as to whether a similar conclusion holds for Islamic banking. Against this backdrop, this paper investigates the relationship between Islamic banking development and economic growth in a sample of low and middle income countries, using data over the period 1990-2010. The results show that, notwithstanding its relatively small size compared to the economy and the overall size of the financial system, Islamic banking is positively associated with economic growth even after controlling for various determinants, including the level of financial depth. The results are robust across across different specifications, sample composition and time periods.
Patrick A. Imam and Mr. Kangni R Kpodar
This paper investigates the determinants of the pattern of Islamic bank diffusion around the world using country-level data for 1992 - 2006. The analysis illustrates that income per capita, share of Muslims in the population and status as an oil producer are linked to the development of Islamic banking, as are economic integration with Middle Eastern countries and proximity to Islamic financial centers. Interest rates have a negative impact on Islamic banking, reflecting the implicit benchmark for Islamic banks. The quality of institutions does not matter, probably because the often higher hurdle set by Shariah law trumps the quality of local institutions in most countries. The 9/11 attacks were not important to the diffusion of Islamic banking; but they coincided with rising oil prices, which are a significant factor in the diffusion of Islamic banking. Islamic banks also appear to be complements to, rather than substitutes for, conventional banks.
Mr. Kangni R Kpodar, Mr. Maelan Le Goff, and Mr. Raju J Singh
This paper contributes to the literature by looking at the possible relevance of the structure of the financial system—whether financial intermediation is performed through banks or markets—for macroeconomic volatility, against the backdrop of increased policy attention on strengthening growth resilience. With low-income countries (LICs) being the most vulnerable to large and frequent terms of trade shocks, the paper focuses on a sample of 38 LICs over the period 1978-2012 and finds that banking sector development acts as a shock-absorber in poor countries, dampening the transmission of terms of trade shocks to growth volatility. Expanding the sample to 121 developing countries confirms this result, although this role of shock-absorber fades away as economies grow richer. Stock market development, by contrast, appears neither to be a shock-absorber nor a shock-amplifier for most economies. These findings are consistent across a range of econometric estimators, including fixed effect, system GMM and local projection estimates.
International Monetary Fund. Research Dept.

The IMF Research Bulletin provides updates on recent research activities and publications of the staff of the IMF.