Based on internal data, this paper finds that the capacity development program of the IMF’s Statistics Department has prioritized technical assistance and training to fragile and conflict-affected states. These interventions have yielded only slightly weaker results in fragile states than in other states. However, capacity development is constantly needed to make up for the dissipation of progress resulting from insufficient resources that fragile and conflict-affected states allocate to the statistical function, inadequate inter-agency coordination, and the pervasive impact of shocks exogenous to the statistical system. Greater coordination with other capacity development providers and within the IMF can help partially overcome low absorptive capacity in fragile states. Statistical capacity development is more effective when it is tailored to countries’ level of fragility.
Mr. Paul A Austin, Mr. Marco Marini, Alberto Sanchez, Chima Simpson-Bell, and James Tebrake
As the pandemic heigthened policymakers’ demand for more frequent and timely indicators to assess economic activities, traditional data collection and compilation methods to produce official indicators are falling short—triggering stronger interest in real time data to provide early signals of turning points in economic activity. In this paper, we examine how data extracted from the Google Places API and Google Trends can be used to develop high frequency indicators aligned to the statistical concepts, classifications, and definitions used in producing official measures. The approach is illustrated by use of Google data-derived indicators that predict well the GDP trajectories of selected countries during the early stage of COVID-19. To this end, we developed a methodological toolkit for national compilers interested in using Google data to enhance the timeliness and frequency of economic indicators.
Metodij Hadzi-Vaskov, Mr. Luca A Ricci, Alejandro Mariano Werner, and Rene Zamarripa
This paper investigates the performance of the IMF WEO growth forecast revisions across different horizons and country groups. We find that: (i) growth revisions in horizons closer to the actual are generally larger, more volatile, and more negative; (ii) on average, growth revisions are in the right direction, becoming progressively more responsive to the forecast error gap as horizons get closer to the actual year; (iii) growth revisions in systemic economies are relevant for growth revisions in all country groups; (iv) WEO and Consensus Forecast growth revisions are highly correlated; (v) fall-to-spring WEO revisions are more correlated with Consensus Forecasts revisions compared to spring-to-fall revisions; and (vi) across vintages, revisions for a given time horizon are not autocorrelated; within vintages, revisions tend to be positively correlated, suggesting perception of persistent short-term shocks.
It has been two years since the trade tensions erupted and not only captured policymakers’ but also the research community’s attention. Research has quickly zoomed in on understanding trade war rhetoric, tariff implementation, and economic impacts. The first article in the December 2019 issue sheds light on the consequences of the recent trade barriers.
Mr. Serkan Arslanalp, Mr. Marco Marini, and Ms. Patrizia Tumbarello
Vessel traffic data based on the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a big data source for nowcasting trade activity in real time. Using Malta as a benchmark, we develop indicators of trade and maritime activity based on AIS-based port calls. We test the quality of these indicators by comparing them with official statistics on trade and maritime statistics. If the challenges associated with port call data are overcome through appropriate filtering techniques, we show that these emerging “big data” on vessel traffic could allow statistical agencies to complement existing data sources on trade and introduce new statistics that are more timely (real time), offering an innovative way to measure trade activity. That, in turn, could facilitate faster detection of turning points in economic activity. The approach could be extended to create a real-time worldwide indicator of global trade activity.
Sandile Hlatshwayo, Anne Oeking, Mr. Manuk Ghazanchyan, David Corvino, Ananya Shukla, and Mr. Lamin Y Leigh
Corruption is macro-relevant for many countries, but is often hidden, making measurement of it—and its effects—inherently difficult. Existing indicators suffer from several weaknesses, including a lack of time variation due to the sticky nature of perception-based measures, reliance on a limited pool of experts, and an inability to distinguish between corruption and institutional capacity gaps. This paper attempts to address these limitations by leveraging news media coverage of corruption. We contribute to the literature by constructing the first big data, cross-country news flow indices of corruption (NIC) and anti-corruption (anti-NIC) by running country-specific search algorithms over more than 665 million international news articles. These indices correlate well with existing measures of corruption but offer additional richness in their time-series variation. Drawing on theory from the corporate finance and behavioral economics literature, we also test to what extent news about corruption and anti-corruption efforts affects economic agents’ assessments of corruption and, in turn, economic outcomes. We find that NIC shocks appear to negatively impact both financial (e.g., stock market returns and yield spreads) and real variables (e.g., growth), albeit with some country heterogeneity. On average, NIC shocks lower real per capita GDP growth by 3 percentage points over a two-year period, illustrating persistence in the effect of such shocks. Conversely, there is suggestive evidence that anti-NIC efforts appear to have a sustained positive macro impact only when paired with meaningful institutional strengthening, proxied by capacity development efforts.