Anton Korinek, Prakash Loungani, Jonathan D. Ostry, 08 April 2022

The large capital outflows from China since the onset of the war in Ukraine serve as a reminder of the volatility of capital flows. This column argues that the IMF’s recent acceptance of the occasional need for pre-emptive use of capital controls to increase resilience against volatile capital flows continues the welcome evolution of the international financial institution’s policies. The framework should continue to evolve to provide countries with policy space when capital flows impinge on domestic objectives (e.g. reducing inequality) or generate international spillovers.

Joseph Stiglitz, Kevin P. Gallagher, 07 February 2022

The IMF has imposed significant surcharges on countries that have had to undertake large borrowings and are unable to pay their debts back quickly. This column argues that these surcharges are pro-cyclical financial penalties imposed on countries precisely at a time when they can least afford them. They worsen potential outcomes for both the borrowing country and its investors, with gains accruing to the IMF at the expense of both. This transfer of resources to the IMF affects not just the level of poverty, health, education, and overall wellbeing in the country in crisis, but also its potential growth.

Avinash Persaud, 02 November 2021

To meet the Paris agreement, the world would have to eliminate 53.5 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year for the next 30 years. This column proposes a plan to meet the costs of this in an equitable way. Countries that contribute most to the stock of GHGs could issue an instrument that gives investors in projects anywhere in the world that reduce emissions the right to borrow from them at their overnight interest rates – which are currently near zero – and to roll over this borrowing for as long as the project delivers some minimum rate of reduction in emissions per dollar invested. Luckily, such an instrument already exists in the form of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights.

Shekhar Aiyar, Manasa Patnam, 24 August 2021

Recent research suggests that World Bank aid disbursements are associated with outflows from recipient countries to offshore financial centres, indicating elite capture of aid. This column uses 25 years of data to examine whether the same is true for IMF lending. It finds no evidence that IMF loans are diverted to offshore bank accounts. This could be because IMF lending differs in structural respects – such as conditionality, concessionality, and continuity – from World Bank aid.

Joseph Stiglitz, Hamid Rashid, 03 August 2020

From Latin America’s lost decade in the 1980s to the more recent Greek crisis, there are plenty of painful reminders of what happens when countries cannot service their debts. This column argues that a global debt crisis today would likely push millions of people into unemployment and fuel instability and violence around the world, and proposes a multilateral sovereign debt buyback facility which could be managed by the IMF.

Alicia García-Herrero, Elina Ribakova, 21 May 2020

The spread of COVID-19 and its associated impacts have again brought into focus the dependence of emerging market economies on external financing. This column analyses the factors that put emerging economies at an increased risk of a sudden reduction in dollar liquidity as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on this analysis, it reviews the key tools at the disposal of emerging economies, the Fed, and the IMF to address this problem. It concludes by offering some policy recommendations on the pecking order that could be followed to potentially shield the emerging economies from the dollar shortage problems related to COVID-19.

Justin Sandefur, Arvind Subramanian, 18 May 2020

The IMF is forecasting a substantially more muted impact of the COVID crisis on GDP for developing countries compared to advanced economies. This column argues that the discrepancy cannot be explained by external vulnerabilities, which afflict developing countries more. Nor can it be explained by the domestic shock, because social distancing and lockdowns have been similar across both groups, while fiscal policy responses have been significantly weaker in developing countries. Relative optimism should not guide international policy responses.

Silvia Marchesi, Tania Masi, 04 May 2020

As a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis, which will hit certain countries particularly hard (including those with official creditors), there may be a wave of debt restructuring over the next few years. This column argues that the specific characteristics of sovereign debt re-negotiations are important. In particular, it focuses on the link between sovereign restructurings and ratings, an issue that is of relevance but that has not received enough attention in recent research. 

Sebastian Horn, Carmen Reinhart, Christoph Trebesch, 04 May 2020

COVID-19 is wreaking economic havoc, and its most severe consequences are likely to be felt in the developing world. Recession, depressed commodity prices, collapsing cross-border trade, and a flight to safety in financial markets have set the stage for a replay of the 1930s and 1980s debt crises. This column presents insights from a comprehensive new dataset on China’s overseas lending and shows that developing countries are much more indebted to China than previously known. Any effort to provide meaningful debt relief to the most vulnerable countries must encompass the debts owed to China.

Tobias Krahnke, 14 April 2020

Fears of a next wave of emerging market debt crises recently sparked a renewed debate about the adequacy of IMF resources and its toolkit. This column argues that the issue is not whether the IMF has sufficient resources for large-scale financial assistance to all of its members in need, but that such assistance would ultimately be counterproductive and could, in fact, exacerbate the risk of liquidity crises morphing into solvency crises. One of the reasons is that large-scale IMF financial assistance coupled with the IMF’s preferred creditor status can lead to a crowding-out of private investors by increasing their expected loss in the event of default. This underlines the need for all elements of the international monetary and financial system to assume their full responsibility, including the private sector.

Eduardo Levy Yeyati, 31 March 2020

Dollar shortages and the real consequences of the COVID pandemic may lead to the next wave of emerging market debt crises. This column argues that Fed swaps mitigate this shortage only for a few selected countries, and traditional international financial institutions’ products are ill-designed to assist an emerging market facing a sudden stop. As a broker between central banks and emerging economies, the IMF has a unique opportunity to complete the international financial architecture and fill the lender of last resort role that has long eluded it.

Laurence Boone, Marco Buti, 18 October 2019

After years of solid growth, worldwide economic activity has slowed down sharply in 2019 while global trade has stalled. At October’s annual meeting of the IMF, policymakers have the difficult task of addressing the immediate policy challenges to support economic growth while also preparing our economies for the future. This column argues that while monetary policy is widely recognised as facing increasing constraints, fiscal policy and structural reforms need to play a stronger role. In particular, fiscal policy could become more supportive, notably in the euro area. Undertaking the right type of public investment now – in infrastructure, education or to mitigate climate change – would both stimulate our economies and contribute to making them stronger and more sustainable. 

Tito Cordella, Andrew Powell, 02 September 2019

Countries almost always repay loans from the IMF and the World Bank before others, even though this preferred treatment rarely appears in legal contracts. This column presents a framework to investigate this puzzle. It argues that the ability to restrict lending allows international financial institutions to lend at the risk-free rate and creates incentives for repayment. IMF and World Bank loans are thus complementary to commercial lending.

Cinzia Alcidi, Daniel Gros, 23 May 2019

The relationship between high public debt and low interest rates is once again at the forefront of debate. This column shows that countries with high debt levels pay a risk premium. This creates the potential for self-reinforcing loops of high debt and high risk premia, which can become explosive. 

Beatrice Scheubel, Livio Stracca, Cédric Tille, 26 April 2019

More than ten years on from the start of the Global Crisis, policymakers are discussing the effectiveness of the global financial safety net – the combination of reserves, central bank swap lines, regional financial arrangements, and the IMF. This column evaluates the effectiveness of the use of IMF support and foreign reserves in globally driven crises. It finds that actual use of IMF support helps during currency crises – the type of crisis for which the support was originally designed. Use of reserves is of limited effectiveness and only during sudden stops. 

José Antonio Ocampo, 09 April 2019

The IMF will turn 75 this year. Updating and reforming of some aspects of its core functions should be considered to reflect the current global monetary context. This column analyses the IMF’s global reserve system, identifying three issues and suggesting two alternatives. Ultimately, greater use of the Fund’s Special Drawing Rights would mitigate several problems in the current system.

Adrian Alter, Gaston Gelos, Heedon Kang, Machiko Narita, Erlend Nier, 03 April 2019

The IMF’s new iMaPP database integrates five major existing databases to build a comprehensive picture of macroprudential policies in use globally. This column shows how this rich dataset provides novel insights into the non-linear effects of changes in loan-to-value limits as one example of how better data can help policymakers to use macroprudential tools more precisely and effectively.

Giancarlo Corsetti, Aitor Erce, Timothy Uy, 13 February 2019

During the euro area crisis, management of official loan maturities emerged as a critical item in the discussion on which instruments and strategies are most effective at ensuring debt sustainability. Using a theoretical model calibrated to Portugal and cross-country data, this column shows that lengthening loan maturities and managing debt repayment flows has substantial effects on sustainability. It also unveils a key policy trade-off in official lending between increasing the amount of safe debt (immune from rollover risk) and strengthening the incentive to default in response to negative shocks to fundamentals.

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