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Mr. Harald Finger and Ms. Daniela Gressani

The changing political landscape in the Arab world has created opportunities for economic transformation by tackling long-standing economic issues. Nevertheless, three years after the onset of political transition, implementing necessary economic policies has proven to be challenging. This paper lays out key elements of economic policy reform for Arab countries in transition.

International Monetary Fund

Yemen is confronted with a range of difficult economic challenges. The reduction in oil revenues in the past year has affected the Yemeni economy through a set of direct and indirect channels. The loss of oil revenue contributed to a record fiscal deficit of about 10 percent of GDP in 2009, financed in large part by the central bank. The balance of payments was also put under considerable strain. The identified measures are home-grown and designed to have a long-lasting impact on the structure of the budget.

The June issue of the IMF Research Bulletin looks at the role of IMF programs and capacity building in fostering structural reforms and the economics of Arab countries undergoing political transitions. The Q&A analyzes the neutral interest rate through the experiences of several Latin American countries. The Research Bulletin also includes its regular features: a listing of IMF Working Papers and Staff Discussion Notes, information on the forthcoming IMF Economic Review and the Fourteenth Jacques Polack Annual Research Conference, and recommended readings from IMF Publications.
International Monetary Fund
This 2004 Article IV Consultation highlights that economic growth in Yemen slowed in 2004 owing to a sharp contraction in the oil sector. Oil production declined by 5.9 percent, reflecting diminishing recovery from aging large oil fields as well as the absence of significant new discoveries. Some progress has been made in structural reforms. The revised General Sales Tax law submitted to parliament in late 2004 included several improvements designed to protect the integrity and simplicity of this tax.
International Monetary Fund
This paper presents a detailed analysis of the average fiscal policy responses of oil producing countries (OPCs) to the recent oil price cycle. We find that OPCs worsened their non-oil primary balances substantially during 2003-2008 driven by an increase in primary spending. However, this trend was partially reversed when oil prices went down in 2009. We also find evidence that fiscal policy has been procyclical and has hence exacerbated the fluctuations in economic activity. In addition, we estimate that a small reduction in oil prices could lead to very large financing needs in the near future. Finally, we show that long-term fiscal sustainability positions in OPCs have worsened.
Mr. Antonio Spilimbergo

IMF research summary on how globalization affects developing countries (by Prachi Mishra and Petia Topalova); country study on Croatia (by Athanasios Vamvakidis); listing of visiting scholars at the IMF during June 2007-January 2008; listing of contents of Vol. 54, Issue No. 3 of IMF Staff Papers; listing of recent IMF Working Papers; and listing of recent external publications by IMF staff members.

Padamja Khandelwal and Agustin Roitman
Over the past two years, ongoing political transitions in many Arab countries have led to social unrest and an economic downturn. This paper examines comparable historical episodes of political instability to derive implications for the near- and medium-term economic outlook in the Arab countries in transition. In general, past episodes of political instability were characterized by a sharp deterioration in macroeconomic outcomes and a sluggish recovery over the medium term. Recent economic developments in the Arab countries in transition seem to be unfolding along similar lines, although the weak external environment and large fiscal vulnerabilities could result in a prolonged slump.
Ms. Helene Poirson Ward, Mr. Luca A Ricci, and Ms. Catherine A Pattillo
This paper assesses the non linear impact of external debt on growth using a large panel data set of 93 developing countries over 1969–98. Results are generally robust across different econometric methodologies, regression specifications, and different debt indicators. For a country with average indebtedness, doubling the debt ratio would reduce annual per capita growth by between half and a full percentage point. The differential in per capita growth between countries with external indebtedness (in net present value) below 100 percent of exports and above 300 percent of exports seems to be in excess of 2 percent per annum. For countries that are to benefit from debt reduction under the current HIPC initiative, per capita growth might increase by 1 percentage point, unless constrained by other macroeconomic and structural economic distortions. Our findings also suggest that the average impact of debt becomes negative at about 160–170 percent of exports or 35–40 percent of GDP. The marginal impact of debt starts being negative at about half of these values. High debt appears to reduce growth mainly by lowering the efficiency of investment rather than its volume.