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Mr. Antonio Spilimbergo and Mr. Krishna Srinivasan


Brazil is at crossroads, emerging slowly from a historic recession that was preceded by a huge economic boom. Reasons for the historic bust following a boom are manifold. Policy mistakes were an important contributory factor, and included the pursuit of countercyclical policies, introduced to deal with the effects of the global financial crisis, beyond the point where they were helpful. More fundamentally, it reflects longstanding structural weaknesses plaguing the economy, that also help explain Brazil’s uninspiring growth performance over the past four decades.

International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
The Germany economy has performed very well in recent years, supported by prudent economic management and past structural reforms. Growth is robust, employment is rising, and the unemployment rate has fallen to levels not seen in decades. Inflation remains low but wage growth is picking up, reflecting the strength of the labor market. Looking beyond these positive cyclical developments, unfavorable demographics will soon weigh on potential growth and put pressure on public finances. Having already accumulated sizable buffers through savings, Germany should now prioritize domestic investment in physical and human capital to prepare for the future. The new government's coalition agreement contains several welcome measures in this direction, but more forceful actions to boost labor supply and increase labor productivity would help stimulate domestic investment and reduce Germany’s large current account surplus.
International Monetary Fund
This 2011 Article IV Consultation reports that the vulnerability of Belgium’s sovereign debt to market pressures makes credible medium-term fiscal consolidation a priority. The 2012 budget includes sizable consolidation measures, and the government is committed to take additional measures as needed with the aim of reaching structural balance by 2015. In light of the weak growth prospects, automatic stabilizers should be allowed to operate freely around the consolidation path. There is a need to strengthen banking supervision and to implement the Basel III and Solvency II regulatory frameworks.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper uses the case of the Slovak Republic to investigate how European Union (EU) countries can make optimal use of EU funds to reduce regional disparities. The findings suggest that high-quality government and a more educated population lead to better absorption of EU funds. There is also evidence that absorption increases when spending is more decentralized. Regions with a sufficient level of human capital and adequate institutions are more likely to spend the allocated funds efficiently and to experience growth as a result. With appropriate administrative and governance capacities, fighting corruption should therefore be the priority to speed absorption and allow for higher-quality projects.
International Monetary Fund
Germany’s economic growth and recovery from the global crisis are explained in this study. Tax, education, and innovation policies are specific measures supported by the authorities. External and financial shocks received by Germany and other outward spillovers are outlined. Germany has a high current account and international assets. From a long-term perspective, rebalancing of public finances to promote growth is desirable. Stress tests are conducted to confirm the capital buffers. Finally, the banking system of Germany reflects significant policy measures and economic recovery.
International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This Selected Issues paper assesses the economic impact of Mexico’s structural reforms. The Mexican authorities have been implementing an ambitious structural reform agenda in a coordinated effort to lift productivity growth. The reforms have targeted a broad range of industries; dissolved state monopolies; and addressed labor market, education, and governance shortcomings. The analysis suggests that external headwinds have masked evidence that the reforms are achieving many of the intended transformations in the targeted sectors. Priority should go to reforms targeting the rule of law and attendant improvements in security and reduction of corruption. These will not only improve the business environment but are key to the success of existing reform efforts.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper analyses the implications of global value chains (GVC) participation for Latvia’s competitiveness and exposure to risks. Using a structural model, it assesses Latvia’s competitiveness through different real effective exchange rate (REER) measures and examines the main factors behind differences in the measures. Based on this analysis, the paper suggests policy options to strengthen Latvia’s competitiveness. The paper also estimates the impact of an appreciation of the GVC related REER measure on value added export growth and real GDP growth, and finds sizable effects, suggesting that a rapid labor market tightening could lead to erosion in competitiveness and reduction in growth. Finally, trade tension induced tariff hikes may have significant cost for Latvia, especially in terms of value added produced in the country. Trade tension induced tariff hikes are likely to have moderate costs for Latvia in terms of value added produced in the country. In this regard, policies aimed at enhancing product sophistication or quality and export market diversification could mitigate Latvia’s exposure to trade shocks in GVCs.
International Monetary Fund. Research Dept.
This paper argues that an important group of labor market policies are complementary in the sense that the effect of each policy is greater when implemented in conjunction with the other policies than in isolation. This may explain why the diverse, piecemeal labor market reforms in many European countries in recent years have had so little success in reducing unemployment. What is required instead is deeper labor market reforms across a broader range of complementary policies and institutions. To be politically feasible, these reforms must be combined with measures to address distributional issues.
Florian Misch and Christian Saborowski
This paper explores the role for specific structural distortions in explaining Mexico’s weak productivity growth through the resource misallocation channel. The paper makes two contributions. First, we validate the approach of measuring misallocation indirectly (Hsieh and Klenow, 2009) by illustrating a close correlation between misallocation and per capita incomes across Mexican states. Second, we exploit the large variation in resource misallocation within industries and across states together with unusually rich data at the firm, local, and industry level to shed light on its determinants. We identify several well-defined distortions that have a statistically and economically meaningful effect on productivity via resource misallocation.
Ms. Gabriela Inchauste, Mr. Mark Gradstein, and Ms. Era Dabla-Norris
In many developing countries, a significant part of economic activity takes place in the informal sector. Earlier work has examined the determinants of the size of the informal sector, focusing separately on factors such as tax and regulation burden, financial market development, and the quality of the legal system. We revisit this issue by using an integrated dataset which contains rich information on all these aspects. Testing the channels affecting the degree of informality, we find evidence that all previously identified factors indeed play a role in driving informality. In particular, and consistent with the suggested theoretical model, we find support for the significance of the quality of the legal system.