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Mr. Armand P Fouejieu, Mr. Alvar Kangur, Samuel Romero Martinez, and Mauricio Soto
In the past few decades, a myriad of reforms in Europe have had a significant impact on the way and extent to which public pensions provide retirement income. This departmental paper takes stock of where European pension systems stand and assesses their key characteristics. We present a novel measure of the balance between lifetime benefits and contributions—the Proportionality Measure—to examine pension systems’ long-term sustainability, fairness, and intergenerational equity
Klaus-Peter Hellwig
I regress real GDP growth rates on the IMF’s growth forecasts and find that IMF forecasts behave similarly to those generated by overfitted models, placing too much weight on observable predictors and underestimating the forces of mean reversion. I identify several such variables that explain forecasts well but are not predictors of actual growth. I show that, at long horizons, IMF forecasts are little better than a forecasting rule that uses no information other than the historical global sample average growth rate (i.e., a constant). Given the large noise component in forecasts, particularly at longer horizons, the paper calls into question the usefulness of judgment-based medium and long-run forecasts for policy analysis, including for debt sustainability assessments, and points to statistical methods to improve forecast accuracy by taking into account the risk of overfitting.
Mr. Andreas Billmeier and Tommaso Nannicini
Studies of the impact of trade openness on growth are based either on cross-country analysis-which lacks transparency-or case studies-which lack statistical rigor. We apply transparent econometric methods drawn from the treatment evaluation literature to make the comparison between treated (i.e., open) and control (i.e., closed) countries explicit while remaining within a unified statistical framework. First, matching estimators highlight the rather far-fetched country comparisons underlying common cross-country results. When appropriately restricting the sample, we confirm a positive and significant effect of openness on growth. Second, we apply synthetic control methods-which account for endogeneity due to unobservable heterogeneity-to countries that liberalized their trade regime and we show that trade liberalization has often had a positive effect on growth.
Mr. Mohsin S. Khan and Mr. Abdelhak S Senhadji

This paper re-examines the issue of the existence of threshold effects in the relationship between inflation and growth, using new econometric techniques that provide appropriate procedures for estimation and inference. The threshold level of inflation above which inflation significantly slows growth is estimated at 1-3 percent for industrial countries and 11-12 percent for developing countries. The negative and significant relationship between inflation and growth, for inflation rates above the threshold level, is quite robust with respect to the estimation method, perturbations in the location of the threshold level, the exclusion of high-inflation observations, data frequency, and alternative specifications.

Mr. Athanasios Vamvakidis
Should a closed economy open its trade to all countries or limit itself to participation in regional trade agreements (RTAs)? Based on time-series evidence for a data set for 1950-92, this paper estimates and compares the growth performance of countries that liberalized broadly and those that joined an RTA. The comparisons show that economies grew faster after broad liberalization, both in the short and long run, but slower after participation in an RTA. Economies also had higher investment shares after broad liberalization, but lower ones after joining an RTA. The policy implications support broad liberalization.
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

This paper examines the policy of protectionism in world trade. It reviews alternatives to trade restrictions, factors influencing trade policies, and implications of protection for developing countries. The paper highlights that the rise in protectionist pressures is worrisome, because the likelihood of chain reactions toward more protectionism generated by individual restrictive actions is greatest in a setting of slow economic growth and highly interdependent economies. The paper also analyzes capital utilization in the manufacturing enterprises.