Karim Barhoumi, Seung Mo Choi, Tara Iyer, Jiakun Li, Franck Ouattara, Mr. Andrew J Tiffin, and Jiaxiong Yao
The COVID-19 crisis has had a tremendous economic impact for all countries. Yet, assessing the full impact of the crisis has been frequently hampered by the delayed publication of official GDP statistics in several emerging market and developing economies. This paper outlines a machine-learning framework that helps track economic activity in real time for these economies. As illustrative examples, the framework is applied to selected sub-Saharan African economies. The framework is able to provide timely information on economic activity more swiftly than official statistics.
Brandon Buell, Reda Cherif, Carissa Chen, Jiawen Tang, and Nils Wendt
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the critical need for detailed, timely information on its evolving economic impacts, particularly for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where data availability and lack of generalizable nowcasting methodologies limit efforts for coordinated policy responses. This paper presents a suite of high frequency and granular country-level indicator tools that can be used to nowcast GDP and track changes in economic activity for countries in SSA. We make two main contributions: (1) demonstration of the predictive power of alternative data variables such as Google search trends and mobile payments, and (2) implementation of two types of modelling methodologies, machine learning and parametric factor models, that have flexibility to incorporate mixed-frequency data variables. We present nowcast results for 2019Q4 and 2020Q1 GDP for Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Ghana, and argue that our factor model methodology can be generalized to nowcast and forecast GDP for other SSA countries with limited data availability and shorter timeframes.
Machine learning tools are well known for their success in prediction. But prediction is not causation, and causal discovery is at the core of most questions concerning economic policy. Recently, however, the literature has focused more on issues of causality. This paper gently introduces some leading work in this area, using a concrete example—assessing the impact of a hypothetical banking crisis on a country’s growth. By enabling consideration of a rich set of potential nonlinearities, and by allowing individually-tailored policy assessments, machine learning can provide an invaluable complement to the skill set of economists within the Fund and beyond.
This paper focuses on official intervention on the forward exchange market. The purpose is to provide a straightforward account of the theory of intervention and to use it to discuss the problems raised. The forward exchange market may be conveniently treated in terms of stocks rather than of flows; that is, the forward exchange rate is taken as reconciling the desires of market participants with respect to the holding—rather than the changing—of forward exchange positions. Official intervention in the forward exchange market can be analysed by regarding the authorities either as part of the market or as distinct from it. Official swap transactions are frequently undertaken not on the open market but by direct arrangement with foreign monetary authorities or with commercial banks. The substantial rise to be expected in the forward premium would, of course, have an adverse effect on the foreign balance, which might be unwelcome from a cyclical standpoint though it would probably merely involve a diminution in the improvement that would otherwise have occurred as a result of the recession.