Timely data availability is a long-standing challenge in policy-making and analysis for low-income developing countries. This paper explores the use of Google Trends’ data to narrow such information gaps and finds that online search frequencies about a country significantly correlate with macroeconomic variables (e.g., real GDP, inflation, capital flows), conditional on other covariates. The correlation with real GDP is stronger than that of nighttime lights, whereas the opposite is found for emerging market economies. The search frequencies also improve out-of-sample forecasting performance albeit slightly, demonstrating their potential to facilitate timely assessments of economic conditions in low-income developing countries.
We compare business cycle fluctuations in Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Our main results are as follows: (i) African economies stand out by their macroeconomic volatility, which is is reflected in the volatility of output and other macro variables; (ii) inflation and output tend to be negatively correlated; (iii) unlike advanced economies and emerging markets (EMs), trade balances and current accounts are acyclical in SSA; (iv) the volatility of consumption and investment relative to GDP is larger than in other countries; (v) the cyclicality of consumption and investment is smaller than in advanced economies and EMs; (vi) there is little comovement between consumption and investment; (vii) consumption and investment are strongly positively correlated with imports.
The paper finds a significant shift in the economic characteristics of civil conflicts during the1990s. Conflicts have become shorter but with more severe contractions and a stronger recovery of growth. The overall length and cost of the conflict cycle has probably declined. The stance of macroeconomic policy was an important factor while the underlying "conflict process" remained unchanged. This shift seems related to changes in aid flows since the Cold War: donors became disinclined to provide support during conflict, but more inclined after conflict. These findings are buttressed by the post-conflict experience of countries that received financial assistance from the IMF and of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These findings have implications for policy and aid priorities after conflict.
Ms. Ratna Sahay, Mr. Jeromin Zettelmeyer, Mr. Eduardo Borensztein, and Mr. Andrew Berg
What are the relative roles of macroeconomic variables, structural policies, and initial conditions in explaining the time path of output in transition and the large observed differences in output performance across transition economies? Using a sample of 26 countries, this paper follows a general-to-specific modeling approach that allows for differential effects of policies and initial conditions on the private and state sectors and for time-dependent effects of initial conditions. While showing some fragility to model specification, the results point to the preeminence of structural reforms over both initial conditions and macroeconomic variables in explaining cross-country differences in performance and the timing of the recovery.