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International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

This paper highlights that IMF activities in the first three months of 1977 were marked by a number of “firsts.” In addition to approving the largest stand-by arrangement in its history—the SDR 3.36 billion for the United Kingdom—the IMF welcomed its first new member of the year: Guinea-Bissau; held its first gold auction on behalf of the Trust Fund under the new schedule of monthly auctions; made its first loan disbursements as a Trustee of the Trust Fund; and held the first sale of gold for “restitution.”

Globalization is posing major challenges to the southern euro area (SEA-5) countries2—new products of better quality can be an alternative to increase their competitiveness. In this context, the main finding of this chapter is that product quality has not shown a marked improvement over the last decade. This slow progress appears associated with a loss of market share.

International Monetary Fund

In recent years, the IMF has released a growing number of reports and other documents covering economic and financial developments and trends in member countries. Each report, prepared by a staff team after discussions with government officials, is published at the option of the member country.

Benjamin Hilgenstock and Zsoka Koczan
The paper examines the evolution and drivers of labor force participation in European regions, focusing on the effects of trade and technology. As in the United States, rural regions within European countries saw more pronounced declines (or smaller increases) in participation than urban regions. Unlike in the United States, however, trade and technology, captured here using novel measures of initial exposures to routinization and offshoring, did not result in detachment from the workforce in European regions. Instead, regions with high initial exposures to routinization and offshoring experienced so-far larger increases in participation, likely driven by an added second worker effect.
Ms. Jahanara Zaman
This paper examines the extent to which a dynamic international general equilibrium model can account for observed movements in real interest rates and interest rate differentials. Using data for Group of Seven, the study finds that measured real interest rates are countercyclical in a single country and that the contemporaneous cross-correlations between international real interest differentials and output growth spreads are negative. Predictions of the baseline model are, however, inconsistent with the data. Extending the benchmark model to include habit persistence in consumption improves the match between theory and data.
Mr. Andrew J Tiffin
In Italy, price-based competitiveness measures are not always an accurate predictor of trade outcomes. This paper offers a more comprehensive assessment of Italian competitiveness, focusing on the role of innovation and the evolution of Italy’s export market share. Overall, Italy maintains a high-quality export mix, and the adaptability of small-scale specialized firms is still a source of strength. But, small firm size is becoming less of an asset, and even the most innovative sectors are weighed down by the structural barriers that have depressed productivity more broadly. Italy’s future competitiveness will depend on full implementation of a comprehensive structural-reform agenda.
Ms. Dalia S Hakura
While the Heckscher-Ohlin-Vanek (HOV) theorem has been a dominant paradigm in trade theory, the empirical evidence to support it has been weak. This paper develops a modified HOV model that allows technologies to differ across countries. The revised model significantly improves the theory’s accuracy in predicting trade flows in contrast to the traditional model. The paper also illustrates that, since countries have different technologies, measures of factor contents of trade in final goods using direct and domestically produced indirect input requirements are more accurate and yield more consistent predictions than do traditional measures.
Mr. Shekhar Aiyar and Mr. Christian H Ebeke
The age-distribution of Europe’s workforce has shifted towards older workers over the past few decades, a process expected to accelerate in the years ahead.. This paper studies the effect of the aging of the workforce on labor productivity, identifies the main transmission channels, and examines what policies might mitigate the effects of aging. We find that workforce aging reduces growth in labor productivity, mainly through its negative effect on TFP growth. Projected workforce aging could reduce TFP growth by an average of 0.2 percentage points every year over the next two decades. A variety of policies could ameliorate this effect.
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

The September 2007 issue of F&D looks at the growth of cities and the trend toward urbanization. Within the next year, for the first time in history, more than 50 percent of the world's population will be living in urban rather than rural areas. What are the economic implications of this urban revolution? Economists generally agree that urbanization, if handled well, holds great promise for higher growth and a better quality of life. But as the lead article tells us, the flip side is also true: if handled poorly, urbanization could not only impede development but also give rise to slums. Other articles in this series look at poverty as an urban phenomenon in the developing world and the development of megacities and what this means for governance, funding, and the provision of services. Another group of articles discusses the challenge of rebalancing growth in China. 'People in Economics' profiles Harvard economist Robert Barro; 'Country Focus' looks at the challenges facing Mexico, and 'Back to Basics' takes a look at real exchange rates.

Atish Rex Ghosh and Robert Solow

Latin America: An End to Boom and Bust? covers prospects in that region, which has managed to sustain a decade of prosperity after a history of boom and bust cycles. In our cover story, Nicolás Eyzaguirre, Director of the IMF's Western Hemisphere Department, says Latin America has the potential to become an increasingly important global player. But boosting productivity and competitiveness remain key policy challenges and the fruits of success must be more broadly shared. Other articles on our cover theme look at the prospects for Brazil, inequality in Latin America, and how to raise productivity. Turning from Latin America, we interview former IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus, former IMF MD and now head of a group of luminaries tasked with generating ideas on how to make the global monetary system more stable in the wake of the world financial crisis. This issue of F&D also features articles on financial market cycles, public investment in infrastructure, whether to worry about inflation or deflation, democracy and liberalization, how to manage health care spending, and rising food prices. People in Economics profiles growth guru Robert Solow, winner of the 1987 Nobel Prize in economics. Our regular Back to Basics feature explains financial services. Data Spotlight looks at how access to financial services is growing in developing countries; and Picture This highlights the IMF's new database of public debt since 1880.