Middle East and Central Asia > Armenia, Republic of

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Victoria Babajanyan, Daniel Baksa, Mr. Martin Fukac, Eduard Hakobyan, Arshaluys Harutyunyan, Narek Karapetyan, Babken Pashinyan, Garik Petrosyan, and Luis-Felipe Zanna
This paper presents an overview of the Ararat Fiscal Strategy Model (AFSM), which is a structural, New-Keynesian, DSGE, small open economy model with a rich fiscal block that includes several expenditure and revenue instruments, and types of debt. The AFSM is now a formal part of the Ministry of Finance analytical toolkit to do macroeconomic fiscal policy scenario analysis, which feeds into policy discussions, budget planning, and the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework. The model was applied to assses the macroeconomic impact of the “first wave” of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Armenian economy, including the mitigating effects of policy responses. AFSM simulations revealed a potential severe impact in 2020, with declines in GDP and consumption of 12.9 and 11.7 percent, respectively, and a cumulative loss of GDP of 38 percent for the period 2020-2023. They also highlighted a significant fiscal outlook deterioration that would increase public debt-to-GDP ratios by 18.8 percentage points over 2020-23. The package of counter-cyclical fiscal measures of 3.6 percent of GDP, however, was estimated to cushion the 2020 GDP decline by almost 2 percentage points, as well as protect jobs. A second AFSM application related to the 2018 public investment under-execution showed the importance of improving the efficiency of public investment to have positive macroeconomic and fiscal effects.
Iulia Ruxandra Teodoru
Limited access to finance and its high cost have contributed to relatively low levels of private investment and subpar growth in the Kyrgyz Republic. Interest rate spreads have moderated in recent years, but remain high from both a regional and global perspective. At the same time, collateral requirements applied by banks are onerous and also constrain the quantity of credit supplied. This paper identifies a range of factors that could lower spreads in the Kyrgyz Republic: more competition, higher capital, lower credit risk, larger loan size, lower deposit rates and external funding costs, as well as a stronger legal framework. Lower operating costs appear critical to reduce relatively higher spreads for small and medium-sized banks. At the same time, a stronger legal framework and greater transparency on borrowers’ creditworthiness would help reduce the high collateral requirements. Reforms in all these areas would support greater financial inclusion in the aftermath of the pandemic, and could thus be a key source of sustainable and inclusive growth in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Mishel Ghassibe, Maximiliano Appendino, and Samir Elsadek Mahmoudi
This paper offers empirical evidence that greater financial inclusion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can promote higher economic growth and employment, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia regions. First, we show that countries with higher SME financial inclusion exhibit more effective monetary policy transmission and tax collection. Second, we find substantial employment and labor productivity growth gains at the firm level from access to credit, gains that are higher for SMEs. We also obtain evidence of a substantial positive impact on SME employment and labor productivity growth from improved credit bureau coverage and insolvency regimes. Finally, cross-country aggregate evidence confirms the employment and growth gains from SME financial inclusion, which appear larger in the Middle East and Central Asia than in other regions.
Ms. Li Liu, Mr. Ben Lockwood, Miguel Almunia, and Eddy H.F. Tam
Using administrative tax records for UK businesses, we document both bunching in annual turnover below the VAT registration threshold and persistent voluntary registration by almost half of the firms below the threshold. We develop a conceptual framework that can simultaneously explain these two apparently conflicting facts. The framework also predicts that higher intermediate input shares, lower product-market competition and a lower share of business to consumer (B2C) sales lead to voluntary registration. The predictions are exactly the opposite for bunching. We test the theory using linked VAT and corporation tax records from 2004-2014, finding empirical support for these predictions.
Ms. Era Dabla-Norris, Florian Misch, Mr. Duncan Cleary, and Munawer Khwaja
Tax compliance costs tend to be disproportionately higher for small and young businesses. This paper examines how the quality of tax administration affects firm performance for a large sample of firms in emerging market and developing economies. We construct a novel, internationally comparable, and multidimensional index of tax administration quality (the TAQI) using information from the Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool. We show that better tax administration attenuates the productivity gap of small and young firms relative to larger and older firms, a result that is robust to controlling for other aspects of tax policy and of economic governance, alternative definitions of small and young firms, and measures of the quality of tax administration. From a policy perspective, we provide evidence that countries can reap growth and productivity dividends from improvements in tax administration that lower compliance costs faced by firms.
Knarik Ayvazyan and Ms. Teresa Daban Sanchez
Using a structural vector auto-regression (SVAR) model, this paper examines the size, geographical sources, and transmission channels of global and regional shocks to the Armenian economy. Results show that Armenian economic activity is strongly influenced by global demand shocks and changes in oil prices, yet relatively immune to financial volatility. Transmission takes place through the Russian and EU economies, remittances, and external borrowing. The role of exports and tourism is low. Russia is key in transforming the potentially negative impact of an increase in oil prices into a positive event, through stronger remittances and exports. Services and construction, which depend significantly on remittances and external borrowing, are the most affected by global and regional shocks.
Raja Almarzoqi and Samy Ben Naceur
In this paper, we use a bank-level panel dataset to investigate the determinants of bank interest margins in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) over the period 1998–2013. We apply the dealership model of Ho and Saunders (1981) and its extensions to assess the extent to which high spreads of banks in the CCA can be related to bank-specific variables, to competition, and to macroeconomic factors. We find that interest spreads are affected by operating cost, credit risk, liquidity risk, bank size, bank diversification, banking sector competition, and macroeconomic policies; but the impact depends on the country.
Ms. Pritha Mitra, Amr Hosny, Gohar Abajyan, and Mr. Mark Fischer
The Middle East and Central Asia’s economic growth potential is slowing faster than in other emerging and developing regions, dampening hopes for reducing persistent unemployment and improving the region’s generally low living standards. Why? And is it possible to alter this course? This paper addresses these questions by estimating potential growth, examining its supply-side drivers, and assessing which of them could be most effective in raising potential growth. The analysis reveals that the region’s potential growth is expected to slow by ¾ of a percentage point more than the EMDC average over the next five years. The reasons behind this slowdown differ across the region. Lower productivity growth drives the slowdown in the Caucasus and Central Asia and is also weighing on growth across the Middle East (MENAP); while a lower labor contribution to potential growth is the main driver in MENAP. Moving forward, given some natural constraints on labor, total factor productivity growth is key to unlocking the region’s higher growth potential. For oil importers, raising physical capital accumulation through greater investment will also play an important role.