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Frederic Lambert, Mr. Andrea Pescatori, and Mr. Frederik G Toscani
Labor market informality is a pervasive feature of most developing economies. Motivated by the empirical regularity that the labor informality rate falls with GDP per capita, both at business cycle frequency and in a cross-section of countries, and that the Okun's coefficient falls with the level of labor informality, we build a small open-economy dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model with two sectors, formal and informal, which can replicate these key stylized facts. The model is calibrated to Colombia. The results show that labor market and tax reforms play an important role in changing the informality rate but also caution against over-optimism - with low GDP per capita, informality will always be relatively high as there is insufficient demand for formal goods. Quantitatively we find that higher productivity in the formal sector is key in explaining the difference between Colombia and countries with significantly lower informality. We use the model to study how labor informality and labor market frictions mediate the cyclical response of the economy to shocks, including commodity price shocks which are particularly relevant in Latin America. Informality is shown to play an important role as a shock absorber with the informal-formal margin limiting movements in the employed-unemployed margin.
Mr. Antonio Spilimbergo and Mr. Krishna Srinivasan

Abstract

Brazil is at crossroads, emerging slowly from a historic recession that was preceded by a huge economic boom. Reasons for the historic bust following a boom are manifold. Policy mistakes were an important contributory factor, and included the pursuit of countercyclical policies, introduced to deal with the effects of the global financial crisis, beyond the point where they were helpful. More fundamentally, it reflects longstanding structural weaknesses plaguing the economy, that also help explain Brazil’s uninspiring growth performance over the past four decades.

International Monetary Fund. Western Hemisphere Dept.
This Selected Issues paper investigates the impact of exchange rate movements on private consumption in Uruguay. Uruguay is a highly dollarized economy, which makes the relationship between exchange rate movements and private consumption particularly complex. The paper shows that a large share of Uruguayan households is liquidity constrained, which allows the transitory real income shocks brought about by exchange rate pass-through to have a significant impact on consumption. Moreover, exchange rate pass-through is highly heterogenous, with relative prices of durables increasing (decreasing) following a depreciation (appreciation). This creates incentives for households to engage in intertemporal substitution where they buy durables when they are relatively cheaper. Data from Input–Output tables show that Uruguay produces a nontrivial amount of the tradable, durable goods it consumes, opening the door to contractionary depreciations. The results offer a potential explanation for the often noted ‘excess volatility of consumption’ in emerging markets for the case of Uruguay.
International Monetary Fund. Research Dept.
The Research Summaries in this issue of the IMF Research Bulletin cover “Tax Capacity and Growth” (by Vitor Gaspar, Laura Jaramillo, and Philippe Wingender), and “U.S. Shale Revolution and Its Spillover Effects on the Global Economy” (Ravi Balakrishnan, Keiko Honjo, Akito Matsumoto, and Andrea Pescatori). The Q&A coauthored by Amadou Sy and Mariama Sow covers “Seven Questions about the Relationship between Country Finance and Governance.” A listing of recent IMF Working Papers, Staff Discussion Notes, and Recommended Readings from IMF Publications is included in the IMF Research Bulletin. Readers can also find news on free-to-view articles from IMF Economic Review and a call for conference papers in this issue of the Bulletin.
International Monetary Fund
As a companion piece to the Board paper on Structural Reforms and Macroeconomic Performance: Initial Considerations for the Fund, this paper presents a selection of case studies on the structural reform experiences of member countries. These papers update the Board on work since the Triennial Surveillance Review toward strengthening the Fund’s capacity to analyze and, where relevant, offer policy advice on macro-relevant structural issues. The paper builds on the already considerable analytical work underway across the Fund, setting out considerations to support a more strategic approach going forward.
Mr. Francesco Grigoli, Alexander Herman, Mr. Andrew J Swiston, and Gabriel Di Bella
Output gap estimates are subject to a wide range of uncertainty owing to data revisions and the difficulty in distinguishing between cycle and trend in real time. This is important given the central role in monetary policy of assessments of economic activity relative to capacity. We show that country desks tend to overestimate economic slack, especially during recessions, and that uncertainty in initial output gap estimates persists several years. Only a small share of output gap revisions is predictable ex ante based on characteristics like output dynamics, data quality, and policy frameworks. We also show that for a group of Latin American inflation targeters the prescriptions from typical monetary policy rules are subject to large changes due to output gap revisions. These revisions explain a sizable proportion of the deviation of inflation from target, suggesting this information is not accounted for in real-time policy decisions.
Mr. Fei Han
This paper quantifies the effects of external risks for Peru, with particular attention to two major external risks, China’s investment slowdown and the U.S. monetary policy tightening. In particular, a macroeconomic model for a small open and partially dollarized economy is developed and estimated for Peru to measure the risk spillovers, and simulate domestic macroeconomic responses in different scenarios with these two external risks. The simulation results suggest that Peru’s output is vulnerable to both risks, particularly the U.S. monetary policy tightening. Simulations also highlight the importance of higher exchange rate flexiblity and a lower degree of dollarization, which could help mitigate the negative spillover effects of these external risks.
Mr. Nicolas E Magud and Ms. Evridiki Tsounta
This paper estimates neutral real interest rate (NRIR) ranges for 10 Latin American countries that either have full-fledged inflation targeting regimes in place or have recently adopted them, using an array of methodologies commonly used in the literature. We find that NRIRs have declined in the last decade, with more economically and financially developed economies exhibiting lower NRIR levels. Based on the estimated NRIRs, we assess that the current monetary stance (measured by the interest rate gap) is appropriately neutral in most of the considered economies, in line with closing output gaps. We also observe that the interest rate gap can be a good predictor of future inflation dynamics and economic growth. In addition, looking at the recent experiences in Brazil and Peru, we suggest that macro-prudential policies could affect the monetary stance even in the absence of direct interest rate changes, through affecting the NRIR.
Davide Furceri and Ms. Aleksandra Zdzienicka
The aim of this paper is to assess the short- and medium-term impact of debt crises on GDP. Using an unbalanced panel of 154 countries from 1970 to 2008, the paper shows that debt crises produce significant and long-lasting output losses, reducing output by about 10 percent after eight years. The results also suggest that debt crises tend to be more detrimental than banking and currency crises. The significance of the results is robust to different specifications, identification and endogeneity checks, and datasets.
International Monetary Fund
Paraguay’s economy recently experienced particularly large output swings. Economic policies will play a critical role in raising investment by making sure that macroeconomic stability is maintained. The spillovers from the agricultural sector to the rest of the economy are limited. The high level of bank excess reserves in Paraguay reflects a mixture of precautionary and involuntary factors. Large bank excess reserves weaken the monetary transmission channel, and cause inefficiency costs. Bank reforms should be undertaken to preserve financial and macroeconomic stability.