IMF

Kevin P. Gallagher, Stephany Griffith-Jones, and José Antonio Ocampo

This month the International Monetary Fund (IMF) can make history.  The IMF is set to officially change its view on the regulation of cross-border finance.  Preliminary work released by the IMF exhibits diligent research and deep soul searching, but falls short of being a comprehensive view on how and when to regulate capital flows.  There is still time for the IMF to further sharpen its view.

In recent decades cross-border capital flows have increased massively; international asset positions now outstrip global economic output.  Direct investment is essential for growth but some forms of international financial flows (such as short-term debt, carry trade, and related derivatives) have proven to be usually de-stabilizing. Even long-term capital flows are highly, even increasingly pro-cyclical, as IMF research has shown. Read more

Dr Jan Fidrmuc, Department of Economics and Finance and Centre for Economic Development and Institutions, Brunel University

Anti-austerity protestors take to the streets in central Athens earlier this year. Getty Images

Anti-austerity protestors take to the streets in central Athens earlier this year. Getty Images

Following the rejection of EU imposed austerity measures by the overwhelming majority of Greek voters, eurozone finance ministers have once again come to Brussels to try and save the single currency in what is being described as a ‘crucial 48 hours’.

Two thirds of the Greek electorate voted for parties opposed to the austerity measures required by the European Commission, ECB and IMF as a precondition of a further bailout; despite the outgoing government pledging to adhere to these measures.

Without compromise either by the Greeks accepting austerity measures or the EU offering concessions on the proposed package, another election is inevitable. In this case the bailout package will be suspended, Greece will default on its debt and an exit from the eurozone may follow. None of this will offer much respite for the struggling Greek economy.

In the past the EU offered concessions to voters having rejected EU treaties, however this time there is little political will, and not only in Germany, to offer sweeteners to the Greeks to help them swallow the bitter pill of fiscal adjustment.

Why then are the Greeks fighting against the support from the EU? And should the rest of the EU let them resist or should they be offered a sweeter deal after all? Read more

By Kevin Gallagher

In Germany this week Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff rebuked industrialised countries for creating a “liquidity tsunami” of speculative capital that is bubbling currencies, stock and bond markets across emerging markets and the developing world.  To stem the tide, her government extended a tax on speculative inflows of capital into Brazil.

A new task force report entitled Regulating Global Capital Flows for Long-Run Development, released this week, argues that regulating flows to tame the liquidity wave are justified more than ever in the wake of the global financial crisis.  Countries have more flexibility to deploy such measures given the new consensus in the peer-reviewed academic literature and at the IMF that capital account regulations have been effective tools to prevent and mitigate financial crises.  In this new environment Brazil, Indonesia, Taiwan, Peru, Thailand, South Korea, and many others have regulated flows.

Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff

However, the report also expresses serious concern that many countries lack the ability to regulate flows because many of the world’s economic integration clubs and trade and investment treaties have started to mandate capital account liberalisation. Read more

By Olafur Arnarson, Michael Hudson and Gunnar Tomasson

Today, from Greece to Iceland, governments are acting as enforcers or even as collection agents on behalf of the financial sector — and Iceland stands as a dress rehearsal for this power grab.

The problem of bank loans gone bad has thrown into question just what should be a “fair value” for these debt obligations. The answer will depend largely on the degree to which governments back the claims of creditors. The legal definition of how much can be squeezed out is becoming a political issue pulling national governments, the IMFECB and financial agencies into a conflict, pitting banks, vulture funds and debt-strapped populations against each other. Read more

By Kevin P. Gallagher

At the recent annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank Taiwan’s Central Bank governor Perng Fai-nan urged emerging market nations in Asia to use capital controls to promote financial stability.

Yesterday, this call was echoed by Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. She singled out China, India, Singapore, Indonesia and South Korea as the most vulnerable nations in need of controls

These statements would have been unthinkable a decade ago, and shows how much has changed.

Part of the stigma attached to capital controls has been dampened by the new tune at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In a February 2010 staff position note and in the IMF‘s Global Financial Stability Report (GSFR) the IMF said that capital controls are a legitimate part of the toolkit for emerging markets. What’s more, the IMF’s economists found that those countries that deployed capital controls in the run-up to the current crisis were among the least hard hit from the global financial crisis.

It is time for the debate over capital controls to shift from whether to deploy controls to how and when.

The problem is that many of the world’s trade and investment treaties, especially those with the US, make it very difficult to effectively use capital controls. Read more