What I learnt about growth policy at the World Bank
Brian Pinto 17 December 2014
Since the Global Crisis, concerns have grown that advanced economies are suffering from secular stagnation. This column discusses the lessons that can be learnt from the economic transition of central and eastern Europe and the emerging-market crises of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Structural reform is particularly costly in the context of a debt overhang and an overvalued exchange rate. However, the crux is not debt restructuring per se, but whether economic governance changes credibly for the better following it.
Growth concerns have gone global. Advanced economies are beset by fears of secular stagnation, the IMF recently cut estimates of potential growth in emerging markets by 1.5 percentage points relative to 2011, and G20 leaders approved 800 new measures at Brisbane 2014 for raising G20 GDP by an incremental 2.1% by 2018.1
Development Institutions and economics
growth, secular stagnation, emerging markets, World Bank, structural reform, Transition economies, financial crisis, global crisis, debt overhang, exchange rates
Causes of the G7 fixed investment doldrums
Kristina Morkunaite, Felix Huefner 27 November 2014
The post-Crisis G7 economies have suffered weak business investment despite record low interest rates and the favourable financial positions of corporates. Some consider this the ‘new normal’ arising from secular, supply-side forces that have contributed to declining potential growth rates. This column argues that structural factors alone are not sufficient to explain the current weakness in investment rates. There is thus room for positive surprise if companies realise the pent-up investment demand.
Investment has been disappointing in recent years
Growth in mature economies has consistently disappointed in the years following the Global Crisis, and forecasts are regularly being revised downwards – just recently again by the IMF. An important part of the sluggish recovery in mature economies has been weak fixed investment. Total investment relative to GDP in the G7 economies stood at 19.3% in 2013 – a decline of 2.6 percentage points relative to 2007.
Global crisis Global economy
global crisis, investment, secular stagnation, monetary policy, interest rates
Regional wage differentials in the public sector
Masayuki Morikawa 23 November 2014
The appropriate level of public sector wages is debated frequently in every country, and the debate has intensified in the wake of the global financial crisis. This column presents evidence that regional wage differentials in Japan are greater in the private sector than in the public sector. In regions where public sector wages are relatively high, skilled individuals may self-select into public sector jobs. At the same time, public sector employers in metropolitan regions such as Tokyo may have difficulty in hiring high quality employees.
After the global financial crisis, some European countries reduced their public sector wages to ensure fiscal sustainability. In Japan, after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the wages of the central government officials were cut for two years to finance the reconstruction expenses. Even in normal times, the appropriate level of public sector wages is debated frequently in every country. Because wages are an important incentive for workers, appropriate wage levels and their structure in the public sector are essential for ensuring the quality and efficiency of public services.
fiscal sustainability, global crisis, Public sector wages, public-sector pay, Public sector, private sector, Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan, Europe, agglomeration, spatial equilibrium, wages, wage premia, regional wage differentials
Recent slowdown in global trade: Cyclical or structural
Emine Boz, Matthieu Bussière, Clément Marsilli 12 November 2014
The past three years have witnessed a slowdown in global trade. This column shows that the slowdown was particularly pronounced in advanced economies, especially the Eurozone. In a panel of 18 OECD economies, most of the slowdown can be explained by cyclical factors. However, structural factors – global value chains and especially protectionism – may have played a role too.
Global trade started to slow down markedly in the course of 2011, after it bounced back from the Great Trade Collapse of 2008–2009.1 In 2012 and 2013 the growth rate of global trade volume reached only 3%, against nearly 7% in the pre-crisis period (2002–2007) and 6.8% in the period 1985–2007 (Figure 1).
Global crisis International trade
great trade collapse, trade slowdown, global crisis, trade, global value chains, protectionism
Policy uncertainty spillovers to emerging markets: Evidence from capital flows
Dennis Reinhardt, Cameron McLoughlin, Ludovic Gauvin 05 November 2014
In the aftermath of the Global Crisis, policymakers and academics alike discussed how uncertainty surrounding macroeconomic policymaking has impacted domestic investment. At the same time, concerns regarding the spillover impact of monetary policy in advanced economies on emerging market economies featured strongly in the international policy debate. This column draws the two debates together, and examines how policy uncertainty in advanced economies has spilled over to emerging markets via portfolio capital flows. It finds remarkable differences in the spillover effects of EU vs. US policy uncertainty.
In the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, advanced economies experienced heightened levels of uncertainty in macroeconomic policymaking. Against this backdrop, policymakers debated the domestic and global spillover implications of advanced-country policy uncertainty (e.g. IMF 2013). At the same time, the potential for monetary policy settings in advanced countries to spill over to emerging market economies (EMEs) via capital flows was hotly contested in both academic and policymaker circles (e.g. Fratzscher et al. 2013).
International finance Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
capital flows, Capital inflows, emerging markets, policy uncertainty, spillovers, global crisis, monetary policy, macroeconomic policy, risk aversion, home bias
Monetary policy and long-term trends
Charles A.E. Goodhart, Philipp Erfurth 03 November 2014
There has been a long-term downward trend in labour’s share of national income, depressing both demand and inflation, and thus prompting ever more expansionary monetary policies. This column argues that, while understandable in a short-term business cycle context, this has exacerbated longer-term trends, increasing inequality and financial distortions. Perhaps the most fundamental problem has been over-reliance on debt finance. The authors propose policies to raise the share of equity finance in housing markets; such reforms could be extended to other sectors of the economy.
There has been a long-term downward trend in the share and strength of labour in national income, which is depressing both demand and inflation. This has prompted ever more expansionary monetary policies. While understandable, indeed appropriate, within a short-term business cycle context, this has exacerbated longer-term trends, increasing inequality and financial distortions. Perhaps the most fundamental problem has been over-reliance on debt finance (leverage).
Financial markets Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
monetary policy, Inequality, debt, leverage, wages, labour share, globalisation, consumption, propensity to consume, fiscal policy, Ageing, interest rates, investment, asset prices, housing, house prices, exchange rates, global crisis, mortgages, sub-prime crisis, Macroprudential policy, structural reforms, balance sheets, deleveraging, equity, shared-equity mortgages, Help to Buy
Home prices since 1870: No price like home
Katharina Knoll, Moritz Schularick, Thomas Steger 01 November 2014
House price fluctuations take centre stage in recent macroeconomic debates, but little is known about their long-run evolution. This column presents new house price indices for 14 advanced economies since 1870. Real house prices display a pronounced hockey-stick pattern over the past 140 years. They stayed constant from the 19th to the mid-20th century, but rose strongly in the second half of the 20th century. Sharply increasing land prices, not construction costs, were the key driver of this trend.
For economists there is no price like home – at least not since the global financial crisis. Fluctuations in house prices, their impact on the balance sheets of consumers and banks, as well as the deleveraging pressures triggered by house price busts have been a major focus of macroeconomic research in recent years (Mian and Sufi 2014, Jordà et al. 2014, Shiller 2009).
Economic history Financial markets
housing, house prices, global crisis, land prices, transport costs, transport revolution, land-use restrictions, zoning laws, Inequality
A 100-year perspective on sovereign debt composition in 13 advanced economies
S. M. Ali Abbas, Laura Blattner, Mark De Broeck, Asmaa El-Ganainy, Malin Hu 27 October 2014
There has been renewed interest in sovereign debt since the Global Crisis, but relatively little attention has been paid to its composition. Sovereign debt can differ in terms of the currency it is denominated in, its maturity, its marketability, and who holds it – and these characteristics matter for debt sustainability. This column presents evidence from a new dataset on the composition of sovereign debt over the past century in 13 advanced economies.
Why sovereign debt composition matters
Academic, policy, and market interest in sovereign debt has spiked since the 2008 Global Crisis. Researchers have sought to place the post-Crisis synchronised build-up in sovereign debt ratios in advanced economies within a longer-term/historical context, drawing comparisons with debt surges during the Great Depression, debt consolidations in the aftermath of World War II, and more.1
Economic history Financial markets Macroeconomic policy
sovereign debt, global crisis, original sin, debt maturity, currency risk, financial repression, debt sustainability
Macroeconomic policy mix in the transatlantic economy
Moreno Bertoldi, Philip R. Lane, Valérie Rouxel-Laxton, Paolo Pesenti 24 October 2014
The reason for the divergent macroeconomic policies on the two sides of the Atlantic after the Crisis remains a hotly debated subject. The topic was also discussed at the recent “Macroeconomic Policy Mix in the Transatlantic Economy” workshop. This column summarises the main discussions at the workshop. Other covered topics included secular stagnation, the output effects of fiscal consolidation, cross-border banking (as a source and propagator of shocks), and the asset-market effects of unconventional monetary policies.
The reason why the macroeconomic policy mix has been different on the two sides of the Atlantic in recent years remains a hotly debated issue. Was it due to a different reading of the root causes of the Global Crisis and, therefore, of the type of policy response considered most appropriate?
Global crisis Macroeconomic policy
eurozone, US, macroeconomic policy, transatlantic economy, global crisis
Corporate governance of banks: Risk appetite as a pre-commitment mechanism
Patricia Jackson 13 October 2014
Following the Global Crisis the focus has been on how to make banks safer. Capital and liquidity requirements have been tightened, but attention now needs to shift to corporate governance and risk culture. This column argues that in opaque organisations, formal risk-appetite frameworks can provide a pre-commitment mechanism that tightens risk governance, but a focus on the wider risk culture is also important.
Since the Global Crisis the authorities have been focusing on how to make banks safer, with changes to capital and liquidity requirements. Corporate governance of banks and the wider risk culture are also in the frame. Laeven and Ratnovski (2014) look at governance and raise three aspects: better risk management, regulation of pay, and enhanced market discipline. Another lens is to consider the effectiveness of the board and in particular its independence. However, several papers (e.g. Erkens et al. 2012 and Adams 2012) have found that this is negatively related to outcomes in the Crisis.
Financial markets Global crisis
global crisis, banking, capital requirements, liquidity requirements, risk management, corporate governance, Culture