This 2019 Article IV Consultation highlights that Finland’s economy has performed well over the past three years, however, has slowed in 2019. There are some vulnerabilities in household finances, and productivity growth remains weak, with trend growth also constrained by adverse demographics. A new coalition government targets greater social support and inclusion, higher employment, carbon neutrality by 2035, and a balanced budget by 2023. A key challenge is to balance plans to increase spending with the need to maintain fiscal buffers. The fiscal expansion is expected to provide useful cyclical support in the short run, but offsetting measures will be required to ensure the structural balance reaches the government’s medium-term target. The government aims for a substantial increase in employment, but the effectiveness of the proposed wage subsidies is unclear. Alternatively, incentives from tax and benefit schedules could be improved, especially for younger women, older workers, and those out of the workforce. Risks in the banking system remain low overall, but some types of lending are increasing household vulnerabilities. The recent recommendation to limit the ratio of household debt to income is both sensible and in line with steps taken in many other countries.
Recent growth has been healthy, and the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since 2011. However, some underlying weaknesses remain. The rate in which new jobs are created and the “churn” of workers relocating across jobs has not picked up with the recovery, labor productivity growth remains weak, and the outlook for potential growth is constrained by a shrinking workforce. Household debt has been increasing as the economy has recovered, and some borrowers appear vulnerable to interest rate increases.
This Selected Issues paper describes wages and competitiveness in Norway. Norway may have to downwardly revise its expectations for wage growth if it is to avoid a significant loss of competitiveness and manage the transition to a less oil-dependent economy. Norway was able to afford very high wage growth in the past (notwithstanding the noted challenges in several sectors) thanks to good fortune in its terms of trade. Going forward, it would be prudent not to count on being fortunate twice: wage moderation would help build resilience in case of less favorable trends in international prices. It would also help facilitate the needed transition out of oil by supporting sectors that did not benefit from past terms of trade gains. Communication from the government can continue to help in managing public expectations. Fiscal policy plays a key role in promoting competitiveness and containing the spending effect of Dutch Disease. After a prolonged expansion of fiscal policy—partly enabled by large valuation gains of the sovereign wealth fund—it is now appropriate to gradually start tightening fiscal policy. The ongoing up-cycle provides an ideal setting to get started on structural consolidation, which will ultimately be needed to face to address aging pressures.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes Norway’s economy that has a maturing oil and gas industry. Norway’s half century of good fortune from its oil and gas wealth may have peaked. Oil and gas production will continue for many decades on current projections, but output and investment have flattened out, and the spillovers from the offshore oil and gas production to the mainland economy may have turned from positive to negative. Thus far, economic policy has needed to focus on managing the windfall, and Norway’s institutions have been a model for other countries. Going forward, the challenges are expected to become more complex.
This Selected Issues paper examines implications of capital account liberalization in Iceland. Capital controls were critical in 2008 to avoid a more severe collapse of the Icelandic economy. Six years later, capital inflows have been liberalized, but most outflows remain restricted. Iceland has used the breathing room to reduce flow and stock vulnerabilities, strengthen institutions, and prepare for the lifting of capital controls. Simulations using the central bank’s Quarterly Macroeconomic Model (QMM) suggest that, compared with the 2008 crisis episode, the economy can better withstand the impact of an abrupt removal of capital controls. However, the outcome would be dependent on a number of factors, including resident depositor behavior.
This paper analyzes the transmission of shocks and policies among and across the Nordic economies and the rest of the world. This spillover analysis is based on a pair of estimated structural macroeconometric models of the world economy, disaggregated into thirty five national economies. We find that the Nordic economies are heavily exposed to external macroeconomic and financial shocks, but have significant scope to mitigate their domestic macroeconomic impacts through coordinated policy responses, given their high degree of regional integration.
This paper examines 2013 Cluster Consultation—a Nordic Regional IMF staff report. Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden that form the Nordic region share a set of strong economic and social institutions and policies, with emphasis on education, high income equality, high employment, innovative and competitive business environment, etc. The IMF report suggests that strong national financial sector policies and regional cooperation would help mitigate common challenges and shared risks. Cooperative regional policies, such as introducing binding macroprudential minima and clear ex ante burden-sharing arrangements are expected to help limit the costs from any large bank failures.
This Selected Issues paper elaborates findings and discussions of 2013 Cluster Consultation Nordic Regional report. The countries have close economic and financial ties and face some common challenges and shared risks, such as large banking sectors and high household debt. The economic performance of the four continental Nordic economies (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden—Nordic-4) ranks among the advanced economic development circle. It is analyzed that the large Nordic banking systems support relatively high levels of private sector debt. House price developments in the Nordic-4 pose a risk to broader macroeconomic stability in the context of strained household balance sheets.
Mr. Jesus R Gonzalez-Garcia and Mr. Gonzalo C Pastor Campos
This paper examines the usefulness of testing the conformity of macroeconomic data with Benford's law as indicator of data quality. Most of the macroeconomic data series tested conform with Benford's law. However, questions emerge on the reliability of such tests as indicators of data quality once conformity with Benford's law is contrasted with the data quality ratings included in the data module of the Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes (data ROSCs). Furthermore, the analysis shows that rejection of Benford's law may be unrelated to the quality of statistics, and instead may result from marked structural shifts in the data series. Hence, nonconformity with Benford's law should not be interpreted as a reliable indication of poor quality in macroeconomic data.