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International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.

Abstract

Recent developments in the Western Hemisphere—that is, the United States/Canada and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)—have been dominated by the impact of two distinct global shocks: the COVID-19 pandemic and then the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A third shock—the tightening of financial conditions—is now shaping the outlook. After contracting sharply in 2020, most of the Western Hemisphere’ economies recovered strongly in 2021 and early 2022, helped by the global recovery, the normalization of service sectors, and booming commodity prices. However, inflation pressures built up with pandemic-related disruptions, expansionary policies, rebounding demand, and the impact of the war in Ukraine on energy and food prices. The swift response of LAC’s monetary authorities to rising inflation—well ahead of other economies—helped contain price pressures and keep long-term inflation expectations anchored, but inflation remains high. Amid global monetary and financial tightening, and the ensuing slowdown in global growth and softening of commodity prices, activity is expected to decelerate throughout the Western Hemisphere in late 2022 and 2023, while inflation pressures are expected to recede gradually. Downside risks dominate the outlook and stem from tighter financial conditions, a more pronounced global slowdown, and entrenched inflation. For LAC, a sharp fall in commodity prices and social unrest are important risks. With inflation yet to abate and most economies still operating at or near potential, monetary policy should avoid easing prematurely and must stay the course. Clear communication of policy intentions will be key to reducing uncertainty and keeping inflation expectations anchored. Fiscal support deployed to mitigate the impact of inflation on the most vulnerable should be accompanied by compensating measures, where fiscal space does not exist, but also support monetary authorities’ efforts to tame inflation. Given rising financing costs, strengthening fiscal frameworks and advancing with inclusive fiscal consolidation—that protects key social objectives—will be essential to credibly putting public debt on a firm downward path while ensuring social stability. Boosting LAC’s medium-term growth requires raising productivity and good-quality public and private investment. Supply-side policies should focus on strengthening human capital, simplifying and modernizing labor regulations, and lifting barriers to firm entry and exit.

International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

The war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia are exacerbating the divergence in recovery prospects for the Middle East and Central Asia (ME&CA). Despite better-than-expected upside momentum in 2021, the economic environment in 2022 is defined by extraordinary headwinds and uncertainties, particularly for commodity importers, with higher and more volatile commodity prices, rising inflationary pressures, faster-than-expected monetary policy normalization in advanced economies, and a lingering pandemic. Prospects for oil exporters in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have improved, while countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) region face a particularly challenging outlook given their linkages to Russia and Ukraine. Downside risks dominate the outlook and include a prolonged war and further sanctions on Russia, tighter-than-expected global financial conditions, possible deanchoring of inflation expectations, a sharper slowdown in China, and new pandemic outbreaks. Policymaking has become increasingly complex, with dwindling macro policy space to deal with these extraordinary shocks, amid high debt and inflation. Given divergent outlooks, policies will need to be calibrated carefully to country circumstances to manage uncertainties, maintain macroeconomic stability, and support the recovery while protecting the most vulnerable and ensuring food and energy security. Structural reforms have become even more urgent to prevent scarring from the pandemic and the war, and ensure a private sector-led and inclusive recovery, including by embracing digitalization and investing in a greener future.

International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

A year into the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the race between vaccine and virus entered a new phase in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the path to recovery in 2021 is expected to be long and divergent. The outlook will vary significantly across countries, depending on the pandemic’s path, vaccine rollouts, underlying fragilities, exposure to tourism and contact-intensive sectors, and policy space and actions. 2021 will be the year of policies that continue saving lives and livelihoods and promote recovery, while balancing the need for debt sustainability and financial resilience. At the same time, policymakers must not lose sight of the transformational challenges to build forward better and accelerate the creation of more inclusive, resilient, sustainable, and green economies. Regional and international cooperation will be key complements to strong domestic policies.