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Homi Kharas, R. Kyle Peters, Mr. Alan A. Tait, Phiroze Medhora, and Dale Weigel

This paper highlights the sources of payments problems in less developed countries. Growth in the industrial countries has a direct impact on the current account of the developing countries through its influence on both the prices and volumes of their exports. An increase in the real effective exchange rate is clearly a fundamental determinant of a deteriorating current account since, other things being equal, it tends to raise domestic demand for imports and to reduce foreign demand for exports.

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

Over the next decade, African countries are expected to be the largest beneficiaries of increased donor aid, which is intended to improve their prospects of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. To help these countries assess the macroeconomic implications of increased aid and respond to the associated policy challenges, the IMF has published a study by its African Department: Macroeconomic Challenges of Scaling Up Aid to Africa: A Checklist for Practitioners.

International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This Selected Issues paper analyzes saving to understand history and identify the drivers in Malaysia. IMF analysis suggests that Malaysia’s current account (CA) surplus is higher than warranted by medium-term fundamentals and desired policies. The changes in the corporate saving rate almost entirely reflect the changes within each group of firms of similar size or age. Leveraging firm-level data for listed firms, the paper focuses on the contribution to the CA surplus of private non-financial corporations. The trend analysis indicates a high dependence of listed firms in Malaysia on internal funds (savings) to finance their investments or, equivalently, a lower dependence on external funds. The results suggest that relaxing firms’ external financing constraints and lifting productivity growth could help encourage investment and reduce excess corporate saving. The regression results show that the transaction cost and precautionary saving motives, as well as their interaction with external financing dependence, could play an important role in explaining corporate net saving.
International Monetary Fund
The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Jonas Dovern, Mr. Ulrich Fritsche, Mr. Prakash Loungani, and Ms. Natalia T. Tamirisa
We study forecasts for real GDP growth using a large panel of individual forecasts from 36 advanced and emerging economies during 1989–2010. We show that the degree of information rigidity in average forecasts is substantially higher than that in individual forecasts. Individual level forecasts are updated quite frequently, a behavior more in line “noisy” information models (Woodford, 2002; Sims, 2003) than with the assumptions of the sticky information model (Mankiw and Reis, 2002). While there are cross-country variations in information rigidity, there is no systematic difference between advanced and emerging economies.
International Monetary Fund
The paper examines how the evolution from a classical centrally planned economy to a more market-oriented system will enhance the linkage between the exchange rate and the domestic price level. However, during the transition--as the economy continues to be predominantly state-owned, the inherited production structure is only gradually modified, capital and labor mobility are still relatively low and financial discipline is less-than-complete--the elasticity of the domestic price level with respect to a change in the exchange rate, or, to a change in world market prices, may still be lower than in an otherwise comparable market economy.
Mr. Andreas Billmeier and Tommaso Nannicini
Studies of the impact of trade openness on growth are based either on cross-country analysis-which lacks transparency-or case studies-which lack statistical rigor. We apply transparent econometric methods drawn from the treatment evaluation literature to make the comparison between treated (i.e., open) and control (i.e., closed) countries explicit while remaining within a unified statistical framework. First, matching estimators highlight the rather far-fetched country comparisons underlying common cross-country results. When appropriately restricting the sample, we confirm a positive and significant effect of openness on growth. Second, we apply synthetic control methods-which account for endogeneity due to unobservable heterogeneity-to countries that liberalized their trade regime and we show that trade liberalization has often had a positive effect on growth.
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. Christian H. Beddies
This paper considers the interaction between the private sector, the monetary authority, and the fiscal authority, and concludes that unrestricted central bank independence may not be an optimal way to collect seigniorage revenues or stabilize supply shocks. Moreover, the paper shows that the implementation of an optimal inflation target results in optimal shares of government finances—seigniorage, taxes, and the spending shortfall—from society’s point of view but still involves suboptimal stabilization. Even if price stability is the sole central bank objective, a positive inflation target has important implications for the government’s finances, as well as for stabilization.
Alexander F. Tieman and Wilko Bolt
This paper presents a theoretical framework for analyzing pricing structures in debit card schemes featuring cardholders, retailers, their respective banks, and a network routing switch. The network routing switch controls the electronic debit card network and is jointly owned by the banks. In setting its prices, it needs to consider getting both consumers and retailers to participate in the market. In this two-sided market for debit cards, we show that the "double-monopolistic" network routing switch may want to supply consumers with cheap debit cards, deriving profits from charging a high retailer fee per transaction. This theoretic result resembles the current practice in the Netherlands where consumers pay no transaction fee, but retailers do. This corner solution carries over when we analyze socially optimal pricing.