This paper analyzes the short-term forecasts for industrial and developing countries produced by the IMF and published twice a year in the World Economic Outlook. For the industrial country group, the forecasts for output growth and inflation are satisfactory and pass most conventional tests in forecasting economic developments, although forecast accuracy has not improved over time, and predicting the turning points of the business cycle remains a weakness. For the developing countries, the task of forecasting movements in economic activity is even more difficult and the conventional measures of forecast accuracy are less satisfactory than for the industrial countries. [JEL: E17, E37, F17, F47]
The concepts of potential output and the output gap are central to the IMF’s analytical work in providing policy recommendations to member governments. This key role has stimulated research at the IMF to develop and refine estimation techniques. This paper summarizes the methodology and results of IMF research on potential output, which has mainly focused on the industrial countries, but more recently has addressed issues related to developing countries and countries in transition. It then discusses the approaches that country desk officers use for operational purposes, and presents estimates of potential output for the major industrial countries. [JEL: E3].
This paper attempts to extend the range of countries covered by the IMF’s multilateral real exchange rate indices based on relative unit labor costs (REER-ULCs) in manufacturing. A data set was assembled that permits calculation of REER-ULCs for 23 newly industrialized, developing, and transition economies in addition to the 21 industrial countries covered by the current system. Although the results are mostly quite encouraging, they should be considered preliminary because of uncertainty about the reliability and comparability of the underlying data. Also, unit labor costs are not available on as timely a basis as consumer price indices (CPIs), especially for nonindustrial economies. Thus, the ULC-based indicators should supplement rather than replace the current CPI-based system. [JEL: F31, G15, N20, N60, O57]
The advanced economies have experienced a secular decline in the share of manufacturing employment—a phenomenon retened to us deindustrializaiion. This paper argues that, contrary to popular perceptions, deindustrialization is not a negative phenomenon, but is the natural consequence of the industrial dynamism in an already developed economy, and that North-South trade has had little tu do with deindustrialization. The paper also discusses the implications of deindustrialization for the growth prospects and the nature of labor market arrangements in the advanced economies. [JEL: 01, 03, F1, F43]
This paper examines the effect of globalization on labor markets in the advanced economies, focusing particularly on the claim that increased economic integration has widened the gap between the wages of more-skilled and less-skilled workers. The broad consensus of research is that globalization, both in terms of increased trade as well as increased capital mobility and foreign direct investment, has had only a modest effect on wages. Instead, changes in technology have led to a pervasive shift in demand for labor that has favored skilled workers to the detriment of less-skilled workers. [JEL: F10, J31]
This paper reviews the controversies regarding linkage of international trade and labor standards. Pressures for international harmonization of labor standards arise in the context of increased trade between countries with large disparities in wages, and also reflect the history of labor standards. A critical distinction is made between standards related to fundamental human rights and those related to employment conditions. The main conclusion is that trade sanctions to enforce labor standards should not be an option, but that international agreements on core labor standards, with voluntary compliance, may, apart from being worthwhile on ethical grounds, defuse calls for protection. [JEL: F13, J30]
Pursuit of price stability may, but need not, exacerbate output fluctuations. This paper discusses the monetary strategy of the European Central Bank, the intermediate targets that this should entail, and implications for accountability, transparency, and reputation. Country-specific shocks will remain but output correlation may not reflect the old pattern of core and peripheral countries. The Stability Pact will force some countries to switch off their automatic stabilizers; others, with fewer fiscal problems, can retain them. Output correlations in EMU may reflect a fiscal core and fiscal periphery. Additional labor market flexibility remains the best solution. [JEL: E5, E6, H5, H6]
The overall price level increased sharply in transition countries once prices were freed. Disinflation has most fre—uently been gradual, with prices continuing to rise rapidly in subseuent years. This paper identifies the well- and lesser-known features of inflationary processes in central and eastern Europe, the Baltic countries, Russia, and other countries of the former Soviet Union based on a sample of 26 countries and observations spanning the first five to seven years of transition. [JEL: E31, P22, R32]