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  • Author: Peter R. Orszag, Robert E. Rubin, Joseph E. Stiglitz
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Orszag, Rubin, and Stiglitz outline a new fiscal framework that they argue would better equip policymakers to face deep uncertainties about future interest rates (which, they say, may not remain low forever), hard-to-predict global shocks, and climate risks. They reject fiscal anchors—simple limits on deficits or debt as a share of GDP that governments adopt to check their spending and borrowing—that have historically guided fiscal policy and believe any attempts to modify such targets for the current period of low interest rates are likely to fail. Instead they propose making the budget respond more automatically to economic distress (through stronger automatic stabilizers) and to long-term fiscal pressures (e.g., embedding adjustment mechanisms in health care and pension programs), as well as creating an infrastructure program and extending debt maturities to insure against interest rate changes. Such a "streamlined dashboard" would then allow policymakers to use discretion as necessary to take any additional actions—either to provide more stimulus during short-term difficulties or to adjust the automatic features themselves—rather than adhering to fiscal targets that may no longer be appropriate when economic conditions change.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Economy, Fiscal Policy, Fiscal Deficit
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Julien Maire, Adnan Mazarei, Edwin M. Truman
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In the last two decades, sovereign wealth funds (SWFs)—funds accumulated by a government that are invested in whole or in part abroad to benefit the country in the future—have faced increased public scrutiny over their investment patterns, financial results, and governance. This Policy Brief updates and expands a prototype scoreboard rating the transparency and accountability of SWFs, which Truman established in 2007. This fifth edition of the scoreboard shows that the average scores continued to improve for the 64 SWFs examined, but governance issues remain. New funds have emerged—many of them government holding companies or strategic investment funds—but the growth of assets under management by SWFs has slowed, in some cases partly because of withdrawals to help finance expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, raising questions about their future role.
  • Topic: Government, Markets, Sovereign Wealth Funds, Governance, Regulation, Capital
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Josh Felman, Arvind Subramanian
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Anew consensus on fiscal policy has emerged in advanced economies, that stimulus is both needed and feasible. At first blush, the scope for stimulus seems even greater in emerging markets, since their primary deficits are smaller and interest-growth differentials more favorable, suggesting that they can sustain much higher levels of debt. But more careful analysis suggests that this is not the case. The authors point out that what matters for debt sustainability are not current conditions but rather the range of possible future outcomes. And prospects for interest rates and growth are more uncertain in emerging markets, while primary balances are more difficult to adjust. As a result, debt limits are in fact tighter than advanced economies. Taking India as a case study, the authors argue that what is needed in the current situation is responsible, slow fiscal adjustment. More generally, one should be careful about importing wholesale the new fiscal consensus into emerging markets.
  • Topic: Emerging Markets, Monetary Policy, Fiscal Policy, Consensus
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Simeon Djankov, Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, Lisa Hyland, Eva (Yiwen) Zhang
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Despite many significant gains by women in the paid workforce in recent decades, the percentage of women participating in the labor force has remained lower than the percentage of male participants. Now, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the global economic downturn it precipitated, the gap in labor force participation between men and women in some economies has actually widened, with potentially damaging repercussions for women’s career prospects and pay. The pandemic has disproportionately affected sectors employing more women, such as retail stores, restaurants, and the hotel and hospitality business. An increase in family caregiving responsibilities because of school and childcare closures has also fallen on working mothers' shoulders. Both factors have pulled women out of the labor force. The authors track trends in male and female labor force participation in 43 countries and find substantial differences across countries in the way women’s participation has been affected relative to that of men. In some countries, such as Colombia, Chile, and Cyprus, the gender gap in labor force participation widened the most during the pandemic. The gender gap also widened in the United States, driving 2.5 million women from their jobs in what Vice President Kamala Harris called a “national emergency” for women. In other economies, such as Luxembourg and Lithuania, the gender gap in labor force participation, unexpectedly, shrank during the early period of the pandemic. On average, female employees have fared better in countries where women are less concentrated in the services sector, less likely to be employed as temporary workers, and where laws supported greater equality at the onset of the crisis. Greater government expenditure on childcare in the pre-COVID-19 era, however, does not appear to have insulated female workers from the damaging repercussions of the pandemic.
  • Topic: Economics, Gender Issues, Labor Issues, Women, Services, COVID-19, Empowerment
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Chile, Cyprus, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Soyoung Han, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The Summer Olympic Games are the most globalized sporting event on earth. Until now, the Summer Games had been postponed only three times—in 1916, 1940, and 1944—all because of world wars. So, the announcement that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Games would be postponed by a year is significant, implicit testimony to the destructiveness of the pandemic. The Tokyo Games were expected to continue the evolution of the Games away from the aristocratic European milieu where the modern Olympic movement began. As poverty has declined and incomes across the global economy have converged, participation in the Games has broadened and the pattern of medaling has become more pluralistic, particularly in sports with low barriers to entry in terms of facilities and equipment. This Policy Brief presents forecasts of medal counts at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games had they had gone on as scheduled, setting aside possible complications arising from the coronavirus pandemic. The forecasts are not just a depiction of what might have been. They establish a benchmark that can be used when the Games are eventually held, to examine the impact of the uneven incidence of the pandemic globally.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, Sports, Olympics
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Soyoung Han, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Despite steady progress, women remain grossly underrepresented in corporate leadership worldwide. The share of women executive officers and board members increased between 1997 and 2017, but progress was not uniform. Partly in response to gender quotas, the shares of female board members have risen rapidly in some countries while lagging elsewhere. This Policy Brief reports results derived from the financial records of about 62,000 publicly listed firms in 58 economies over 1997–2017, which together account for more than 92 percent of global GDP. The authors conclude that if, as emerging evidence in the literature indicates, gender diversity contributes to superior firm performance, then progress in this area could help boost productivity globally. Policymakers and corporate leaders should consider supportive public and private policies, including more gender-neutral tracking in education, firm protocols that encourage gender balance in hiring and promotion, enforceable antidiscrimination laws, public support for readily available and affordable high-quality childcare and maternity and paternity leave, and quotas.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Women, Economic Inequality, Private Sector
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Lawrence H. Summers
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: With interest rates persistently low or even negative in advanced countries, policymakers have barely any room to ease monetary policy when the next recession hits. Fiscal policy will have to play a major and likely dominant role in stimulating the economy, requiring policymakers to fundamentally reconsider fiscal policy. Blanchard and Summers argue for the introduction of what they call “semiautomatic” stabilizers. Unlike purely automatic stabilizers (mechanisms built into government budgets that automatically—without discretionary government action or explicit triggers—increase spending or decrease taxes when the economy slows or enters a recession), semiautomatic stabilizers are targeted tax or spending measures that are triggered if, say, the output growth rate declines or the unemployment rate increases beyond a specified threshold. The authors argue that the trigger should be changes in unemployment rather than changes in output, and the design of semiautomatic stabilizers, whether they focus on mechanisms that rely primarily on income or on intertemporal substitution effects (changing the timing of consumption), depends crucially on the design of discretionary policy.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Finance
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Matthew Fisher, Adnan Mazarei
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) adapts its strategy to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, it should develop a new temporary lending instrument to assist emerging-market countries facing pandemic-related fiscal and balance of payments difficulties. A dedicated IMF Pandemic Support Facility would help meet the exceptional financing needs of emerging-market countries at a time of high uncertainty while providing more lenient repayment periods and also allow the Fund to be more flexible in its operations with minimum disruptions to its existing facilities.
  • Topic: Emerging Markets, International Monetary Fund, Financial Crisis, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Edwin M. Truman
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic and an unprecedented global recession have triggered fears of a debt crisis requiring massive intervention by international financial institutions as well as debt restructuring by private and official creditors. Truman draws two lessons for the current crisis, based on his ring-side experience during the debt crises of the 1980s. First, the initiation of debt relief will require a broad consensus among four groups: the borrowing countries, their foreign creditors, the authorities of the countries in which those creditors are located, and international institutions. Reaching consensus takes time. Second, implementation of the consensus framework will be case by case, because of differences in the political and economic circumstances of each country, which will militate against simple replication for different countries and against implementation all at the same time. Any framework will not be self-implementing. While the call for rapid action is understandable, applying a one-size-fits-all approach will not be possible.
  • Topic: Debt, Emerging Markets, History, International Monetary Fund, Financial Crisis, World Bank, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Julien Maire
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In March 2020, most countries implemented stringent measures—closing schools and workplaces, limiting public gatherings, and curbing travel—to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Using the Oxford Stringency Index and smartphone data from Google, Maire examines the effects of the stringent measures implemented in March–May 2020 on individual mobility. The results suggest that stringent measures were more effective at reducing individual mobility in higher-income countries than in lower-income countries and that the differences reflect factors such as extreme poverty, perception of risk, the share of vulnerable employment, number of hospital beds, age distribution of the population, and population density. Understanding how the effects of lockdown measures on individual mobility differed across countries is important to determine the effectiveness of such measures on health outcomes and their impact on economic activity.
  • Topic: Health, Science and Technology, Governance, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus