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  • Macroeconomics: Consumption; Saving; Wealth x
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SHAHID JAVED BURKI and SEBASTIAN EDWARDS

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.

International Monetary Fund. Research Dept.
This paper describes steps taken by the Venezuelan Government to meet the balance of payments crisis which developed from 1958 to 1960. In addition to balance of payments considerations, several factors associated with the development policies of the Government were considered in establishing the exchange rate. Petroleum exports have long played a dominant role in the balance of payments of Venezuela, accounting for more than 90 per cent of export earnings. The results achieved reflected the characteristics of Venezuela, particularly the balance of payments advantages and the strong tax base in an economy dominated by the petroleum industry. Nevertheless, the experience of the Venezuelan authorities provides a case study of the complexities and difficulties of exchange control devices and multiple exchange rates. It also illustrates the successful operation of monetary, fiscal, and exchange policies in overcoming balance of payments difficulties. In addition, examination of this experience casts some light on the economic effects of measures taken to control the balance of payments.
Mr. George C. Anayotos
This paper assesses the impact of information asymmetries on developing country financing and considers alternative techniques to reduce the adverse implications of such asymmetries. Following an introduction, Section II examines in general terms the role of information in financial markets and analyzes the incentive and risk sharing properties of alternative financial contracts. Information asymmetries which are present in domestic finance are more prevalent in international finance, in particular in developing country financing. Section III reviews measures aiming to resolve information asymmetries. Borrowing and creditor country regulations and policies, as well as innovative contractual agreements help to resolve a range of issues related to information asymmetries. However, despite their contribution, residual problems remain unresolved. The international financial institutions, and in particular the Fund, have an important role to play in alleviating information asymmetries.
Mr. Joshua Charap, Mr. Arthur Ribeiro da Silva, and Mr. Pedro C Rodriguez
The economic and environmental implications of energy subsidies have received renewed attention from policymakers and economists in recent years. Nevertheless there remains significant uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the impact of energy subsidies on energy consumption. In this paper we analyze a panel of cross-country data to explore the responsiveness of energy consumption to changes in energy prices and the implications of our findings for the debate on energy subsidy reform. Our findings indicate a long-term price elasticity of energy demand between -0.3 and -0.5, which suggests that countries can reap significant long-term benefits from the reform of energy subsidies. Our findings also indicate that short-term gains from subsidy reform are likely to be much smaller, which suggests the need for either a gradual approach to subsidy reform or for more generous safety nets in the short term.
Mr. Alun H. Thomas, Mr. Jun I Kim, and Aqib Aslam
This paper introduces a methodology for assessing external balance in countries with large stocks of non-renewable resources based on oil stock data, and applies it to selected oil producing countries. The methodology uses a stock approach (instead of the more traditional flow approach) to estimate the equilibrium non-oil current account consistent with optimal consumption smoothing. One of the benefits of the stock approach is that geological data for oil reserves can be used to estimate oil wealth; however, the methodology makes the estimated non-oil current account norm very sensitive to oil price projections. Based on an oil price about US$70 per barrel prevailing in the summer of 2007, the baseline estimates indicate that the non-oil current accounts for most of the countries in the sample are broadly in equilibrium. By the same token, using oil price projections as of the summer of 2008 implies large disparities between the equilibrium non-oil current account position and the medium term forecast for all countries in the sample except for Malaysia.
Mr. Francesco Grigoli, Alexander Herman, and Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel
This paper analyzes saving patterns and determinants in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), including key policy variables and regimes. The review of previous empirical studies on LAC saving reveals contradictions and omissions. This paper presents empirical results of an extensive search of determinants of private and public saving rates, adding previously neglected variables (including different measures of key external prices and macroeconomic policy regimes), in linear form and in interactions with other saving determinants. It analyzes statistical differences in saving determinants between LAC and the rest of the world in a nested econometric framework, and discusses differences across three country subgroups within LAC. The results highlight commonalities and differences in saving behavior between LAC and other world regions, as well as within LAC, identifying the role of key policy variables and regimes.