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Jorge Ivan Canales-Kriljenko, Brahima Coulibaly, and Herman Kamil

Prize or Penalty: When Sports Help Economies Score" looks at why countries vie to host the world's most costly sporting events. And, in a series of articles on "After the Crisis," we discuss why some countries were hit harder than others; how were shocks transmitted round the world, and whether protectionist pressures might intensify in 2010. As usual, we take on a number of hot topics, including housing prices, bankers' bonuses, Ponzi schemes, and inflation targeting. In "Picture This" we see that the number of hungry is on the rise, topping 1 billion. Our regular "People in Economics" column profiles Daron Acemoglu, the Turkish-born intellectual who won the American Economic Association's award in 2005 for the most influential U.S. economist under the age of 40. "Back to Basics" explains inflation; and "Data Spotlight" looks at how dollarization is declining in Latin America. Also includes articles by Nick Stern on climate change and Simon Johnson on bonuses and the "doomsday cycle

International Monetary Fund

This Selected Issues paper analyzes economic performance of Ecuador under dollarization. The paper reviews the principal trade-offs normally associated with official dollarization, and their specific relevance to Ecuador. It discusses Ecuador’s performance under the dollarization regime, highlighting the country’s main achievements and challenges in the macroeconomic and structural areas. The paper draws some conclusions and discusses what dollarization implies for Ecuador’s reform agenda in the future. The paper also assesses sustainability of Ecuador’s fiscal policy and explores criteria that could guide the setting of fiscal policy in the future.

Mr. Jorge I Canales Kriljenko, Padamja Khandelwal, and Mr. Alexander Lehmann
We assess the current barriers to trade in financial services in the six Central American countries seeking a free trade agreement with the United States (the CAFTA) and examine the relative merits of regional and multilateral liberalization. Even though there are few formal barriers, deficiencies in regulatory and competition standards and in the judicial systems still restrict the participation of foreign institutions in the financial systems in the region. A greater presence of such institutions could support other objectives of trade and investment liberalization, though it would require several adjustments in prudential supervision at national levels and greater cooperation between members of the CAFTA.
Mr. Shaun K. Roache
The economies of Central America share a close relationship with the United States, with considerable comovement of GDP growth over a long period of time. Trade, the financial sector, and remittance flows are all potential channels through which the U.S. cycle could affect the region. But just how dependent is growth in the region on the U.S.? Using the common cycles method of Vahid and Engle (1993), this paper suggests that the business cycle is dominated by the U.S.; region-specific growth drivers tend to be long-lasting shocks, rather than temporary fluctuations. The most cyclically sensitive countries include Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Honduras.
Ms. Corinne C Delechat, Ms. Camila Henao Arbelaez, Ms. Priscilla S Muthoora, and Svetlana Vtyurina
Banks’ liquidity holdings are comfortably above legal or prudential requirements in most Central American countries. While good for financial stability, high systemic liquidity may nonetheless hinder monetary policy transmission and financial markets development. Using a panel of about 100 commercial banks from the region, we find that the demand for precautionary liquidity buffers is associated with measures of bank size, profitability, capitalization, and financial development. Deposit dollarization is also associated with higher liquidity, reinforcing the monetary policy and market development challenges in highly dollarized economies. Improvements in supervision and measures to promote dedollarization, including developing local currency capital markets, would help enhance financial systems’ efficiency and promote intermediation in the region.
Torsten Wezel
This paper investigates the efficiency of domestic and foreign banks in the Central American region during 2002-07. Using two main empirical approaches, Data Envelopment Analysis and Stochastic Frontier Analysis, the paper finds that foreign banks are not necessarily more efficient than their domestic counterparts. If anything, the regional banks that were acquired by global banks in a wave of acquisitions during 2005-07 can keep up with the local institutions. The efficiency of these acquired banks, however, is shown to have dropped during the acquisition year, recovering only slightly thereafter. Finally, it is important to account for the environment in which banks operate, as country-, sector- and firm-specific characteristics are found to have a considerable influence on bank efficiency.