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BAYOUMI TAMIM

Trade liberalization in developing countries is frequently opposed on the grounds that, because it is likely to cause a deterioration in the external balance, it may not be a viable policy option for countries facing foreign exchange constraints. Recent literature suggests, however, an ambiguous relationship between tariff changes and the current account. This paper shows that if liberalization involves reducing tariffs on imported intermediate inputs (a reform that has figured prominently in developing countries), then the current account may improve or deteriorate, depending on the level of initial trade distortions and the structure of the economy.[JEL F13, F32, F41]

G. Chris Rodrigo

All for One examines inequality and the many ways it matters. In our overview article, the World Bank's Branko Milanovic explains how income inequality is measured and tells us that it's increased in most countries. The good news, he says, is that global inequality--between countries--could be on the downturn. IMF economists Andrew Berg and Jonathan Ostry find that a more equal society has a greater likelihood of sustaining longer-term growth. Other IMF research on inequality finds that financial sector development not only 'enlarges the pie' by supporting economic growth but divides it more evenly; that higher income inequality in developed countries is associated with higher indebtedness--at home and abroad; and that while fiscal consolidation is necessary in the medium term, slamming on the brakes too quickly can harm jobs and cut wages, exacerbating inequality. Also in this issue, we profile Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for economics. In a tour of the globe, we look at how the African diaspora can help their home countries from afar, try to draw some early lessons from the euro area's debt crisis, investigate how the United States and its neighbor Canada handled public debt--with different results, and find out about the rise of emerging markets as systemically important trading centers. Back to Basics explains the difference between micro- and macroeconomics, and Data Spotlight tells us about a new worldwide survey of foreign direct investment.

Mr. Sam Ouliaris

Africa's Middle-Class Motor finds growing evidence that a recent resurgence in the continent's economic well-being has staying power. In his overview article, Harvard professor Calestous Juma says the emphasis for too long has been on eradicating poverty through aid rather than promoting prosperity through improved infrastructure, education, entrepreneurship, and trade. That is now changing: there is a growing emphasis on policies that produce a middle class. The new African middle class may not have the buying power of a Western middle class but it demands enough goods and services to support stronger economic growth, which, as IMF African Department head Antoinette Sayeh points out, in turn helps the poorest members of society. Oxford University economist Paul Collier discusses a crucial component of Africa's needed infrastructure: railways. It is a continent eminently suited to rail, development of which has been held back more by political than economic reasons. But even as sub-Saharan African thrives, its largest and most important economy, South Africa, has had an anemic performance in recent years. We also profile Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's colorful economic czar. "Picture This" mines current trends to predict what Africa will look like a half century from now and "Data Spotlight" looks at increased regional trade in Africa. Elsewhere, Cornell Professor Eswar Prasad, examines a global role reversal in which emerging, not advanced, economies are displaying resilience in the face of the global economic crisis. The University of Queensland's John Quiggin, who wrote Zombie Economics, examines whether it makes sense in many cases to sell public enterprises. Economists Raghuram Rajan of the University of Chicago and Rodney Ramcharan of the U.S. Federal Reserve find clues to current asset booms and busts in the behavior of U.S. farmland prices a century ago.

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

IMF Acting Managing Director Stanley Fischer announced in a press release dated April 14 that he has named Flemming Larsen, a national of Denmark, as Director of the IMF’s Office in Europe. Larsen, who is currently the Deputy Director of the IMF’s Research Department, succeeds Christian Brachet.

Mr. Istvan P Szekely and Ádám Kóbor
The paper analyzes foreign exchange market volatility in four Central European EU accession countries in 2001-2003. By using a Markov regime-switching model, it identifies two regimes representing high- and low-volatility periods. The estimation results show not only that volatilities are different between the two regimes but also that some of the cross-correlations differ. Notably, cross-correlations increase substantially for two pairs of currencies (the Hungarian forint-Polish zloty and the Czech koruna-Slovak koruna) in the high-volatility period. The paper concludes by discussing the policy implications of these findings.
Peter D. Williams, Mr. Yasser Abdih, and Emanuel Kopp
Following the global financial crisis, significant uncertainty has existed around the U.S. economy’s steady state equilibrium. This paper uses a factor model to provide a new approach to estimating “the stars” (i.e. the neutral interest rate, maximum employment, and the level and growth rate of potential output) that are most consistent with a medium-term equilibrium where inflation converges to the FOMC’s two percent target. It is applicable to any country with an inflation targeting central bank. It also explicitly incorporates estimates of the extensive margin of slack in the labor market, which has proven to be an important factor in describing the post-financial crisis landscape.
Michael Walton, Anusha Nath, and Mr. Ashoka Mody
Some see India’s corporate sector as the fundamental driver of recent and future prosperity. Others see it as a source of excessive market power, personal enrichment, and influence over the State, with an ultimately distorting influence. To inform this debate, this paper analyses the correlates of profitability of firms listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, covering a dynamic period-in terms of firm entry and growth-from the early 1990s to the late 2000s. Overall, the results do not provide support for the systematic exercise of market power via the product market. At least for this period, the story is more consistent with a competitive and dynamic business sector, despite the continued dominance of business houses and public sector firms in terms of sales and assets. Those with opposing views can, with justification, argue that our analysis does not cover influences, such as corporate governance and state-corporate relations, which may paint a less flattering picture of the corporate sector’s role. Those broader themes deserve further attention.
Mr. Noureddine Krichene
Crude oil prices have been on a run-up spree in recent years. Their dynamics were characterized by high volatility, high intensity jumps, and strong upward drift, indicating that oil markets were constantly out-of-equilibrium. An explanation of the oil price process in terms of the underlying fundamentals of oil markets and world economy was provided, viewing pressure on oil prices mainly as a result of rigid crude oil supply and an expanding world demand for crude oil. A change in the oil price process parameters would require a change in the underlying fundamentals. Market expectations, extracted from call and put option prices, anticipated no change, in the short term, in the underlying fundamentals. Markets expected oil prices to remain volatile and jumpy, and with higher probabilities, to rise, rather than fall, above the expected mean.