International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
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Climate Change: Stimulating a Green Recovery” looks at the global problem of climate change. With the world apparently on an economic recovery path, policymakers are looking at ways to limit the impact of climate change through broad international action. One of the challenges is to balance actions to mitigate climate change with measures to stimulate growth and prosperity. This issue of F&D also examines a variety of issues raised by the crisis—including the future of macroeconomics, explored by William White, former chief economist at the Bank for International Settlements, and the longer-term impact of the crisis on the United States, the world’s largest economy. Our “People in Economics” profile spotlights Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Laureate who “can’t get any respect at home.” We also look at the need for rebalancing growth in Asia, which is leading the world out of recession, and we interview five influential Asians on the region’s fragile rebound. We turn our “Straight Talk” column over to Barbara Stocking of Oxfam, who makes a forceful case for stepping up help to the most vulnerable around the world. “Data Spotlight” looks at trends in inflation, which has fallen into negative territory in some countries during the crisis, and in “Point-Counterpoint,” two experts discuss the pros and cons of remittances—funds repatriated by migrant workers to family and friends back home. “Back to Basics” gives a primer on international trade.
The economic and financial crisis is affecting the fiscal accounts of virtually every country. Public sector support for the financial system, fiscal stimulus and the automatic stabilizers, as well as the revenue decline from the downturn in commodity and asset prices, are leading to sharp increases in deficits and debt stocks around the world. Expansionary fiscal policy continues to be necessary in the short term to stimulate economic recovery. But it is now essential that governments reassess the state of their public finances in light of the global crisis and adopt strategies that will ensure medium- and long-term fiscal sustainability. Many of the advanced economies most affected by the crisis are also those where age-related spending will increase markedly in the coming years, adding particular urgency to the need to identify medium-term consolidation strategies. This new paper, which focuses mainly on advanced and emerging market economies, employs projections based on the April 2009 World Economic Outlook to quantify the fiscal implications of the crisis for a cross-section of countries. The authors assess the post-shock fiscal balances and debt outlook, and suggest ways for governments to clarify their strategies for maintaining fiscal solvency.
Fiscal risks remain significant in both advanced and emerging market and developing economies. Fiscal policy continues to play an essential role in building confidence and, where appropriate, sustaining aggregate demand. According to this issue of the Fiscal Monitor, strengthening fiscal frameworks—particularly to manage public finance risks and ensure debt sustainability—must be part of the fiscal policy response. Countries should seize the moment created by lower oil prices to start the process of energy taxation and energy subsidy reform. Finally, fiscal policy can contribute substantially to macroeconomic stability, through the workings of automatic stabilizers. By doing so, fiscal policy can also unlock significant growth dividends.
The global economy remains fragile at this time. While the recovery in advanced economies is softening, many emerging market and developing economies have experienced a significant economic slowdown, and some large countries show signs of distress. Global risk aversion has risen, and commodity prices have continued to fall since the April 2015 Fiscal Monitor. The weaker outlook and concerns about the ability of policymakers to provide an adequate and swift policy response have amplified downward risks and clouded global prospects. According to this issue of the Fiscal Monitor, the challenging environment calls for a comprehensive policy response to boost growth and reduce vulnerabilities. In particular, it is critical to identify policies that could lift productivity growth by promoting innovation. Fiscal policy can play an important role in stimulating innovation through its effects on research and development, entrepreneurship, and technology transfer.
With increasing fiscal challenges in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, multilateral surveillance of fiscal developments, a key part of the IMF's surveillance responsibilities, has gained further importance. In response, the Fiscal Monitor was launched in 2009 to survey and analyze the latest public finance developments, update fiscal implications of the crisis and medium-term fiscal projections, and assess policies to put public finances on a sustainable footing. The Fiscal Monitor is prepared twice a year by the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department. The Monitor's projections are based on the same database used for the October 2010 World Economic Outlook (WEO) and Global Financial Stability Report.
Despite progress in addressing key fiscal weaknesses in many countries, significant policy challenges remain in advanced, emerging, and low-income economies, and must be faced in an environment where downside risks to growth have increased. Many advanced economies face very large adjustment needs to reduce risks related to high debt ratios. The appropriate pace of adjustment in the short run will depend, for each country, on the intensity of the market pressure it confronts, the magnitude of the risks to growth it faces, and the credibility of its medium-term program. The euro area needs to sustain fiscal consolidation, minimize its growth fallout, and address concerns about the adequacy of crisis resolution mechanisms. In Japan and the United States, sufficiently detailed and ambitious plans to reduce deficits and debts are needed to prevent credibility from weakening. Meanwhile, many emerging economies need to make faster progress in strengthening fiscal fundamentals before cyclical factors or spillovers from advanced economies turn against them. Low-income countries also need to rebuild fiscal buffers, while addressing spending needs.
The financial and economic crisis is affecting the fiscal accounts of virtually all IMF members through several channels. First, many countries have supported the financial sector directly, primarily through “below-the-line” operations affecting governments’ assets and liabilities, as well as operations giving rise to contingent liabilities. Second, the growth deceleration, coupled with asset and commodity price declines, is affecting revenues (and, in some cases, spending). Third, discretionary stimulus has been used to support aggregate demand. Moreover, the losses suffered by funded pension schemes may involve contingent liabilities for the state. For many countries, these developments come in the context of a projected long-term deterioration in fiscal balances reflecting demographic changes. Indeed, in these countries, fiscal policy before the crisis was expected to focus on prepositioning the fiscal accounts to make room for increased aging-related spending. The opposite has happened.
Government support to the financial sector can take various forms, with different implications for gross and net debt. Operations undertaken directly by the government typically entail an upfront rise in gross government debt, though not necessarily a change in net worth and the deficit, given the related acquisition of assets. Over time, the fiscal impact will critically depend on the realization value of the acquired assets (i.e., recoveries from their sale). Other operations—those undertaken by the central bank or guarantees—have less immediate implications for the fiscal accounts, but may also have important costs over the medium term. For all, a transparent treatment in the fiscal accounts is necessary (see Box 2.1 and Appendix I).