Robert Kahn

Macro and Markets

Robert Kahn analyzes economic policies for an integrated world.

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Showing posts for "IMF"

Greece: Game Over?

by Robert Kahn
People line up to withdraw cash in Athens on June 28, 2015. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters) People line up to withdraw cash in Athens on June 28, 2015. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)

This is how Grexit happens. Following the collapse of negotiations between Greece and its creditors, the European Central Bank (ECB) has halted emergency liquidity assistance. Facing an intensified bank run, the Greek government on Sunday introduced banking controls and declared a bank holiday. With substantial wage and benefit payments due this week and local banks out of cash, economic conditions are likely to deteriorate quickly in Greece ahead of a planned referendum for July 5 asking Greek voters whether the government should accept a creditor-backed reform plan.

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A Roadmap for Ukraine

by Jennifer M. Harris and Robert Kahn

U.S. and European efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis seem to be finding their stride in recent days. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ended months of “will they won’t they?” by announcing earlier this week that the U.S. would be sending heavy weaponry into Eastern Europe, and late last week EU leaders declared that EU sanctions against Russia would remain in place through the end of 2016, quelling months of anxiety around whether EU resolve on sanctions would hold.

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Greece’s Bridge to Nowhere

by Robert Kahn
Greece's Bridge to Nowhere Last week, Greece delayed a $338 million payment to the IMF as negotiations stalled. (Grigoris Siamidis/Reuters)

Negotiations continue today between Greece and its creditors, with reports that the government has presented a revised proposal that offers minor concessions in an effort to break the deadlock. A deal is needed in the next week if a package of assistance is to be put in place before end-month payments of $1.7 billion are due to the IMF. While this is not a hard deadline—a short-term default to the IMF need not sink the Greek economy—the government is out of cash and it is hard to imagine how they make critical domestic payments without an injection of cash from creditors.

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Greece and the Politics of Arrears

by Robert Kahn
Merkel-Tsipras German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras review an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin on March 23, 2015. (Pawel Kopczynski/Courtesy Reuters)

Greece is running out of money. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s meeting this week with German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken some of the toxicity out of the conversation for now, but cannot mask Greece’s current collision course with its creditors. Committed to a platform on which it was elected but that it cannot pay for, and with additional EU/ECB financing conditioned on reform, the Greek government is likely to run out of money in April (if not before). If past emerging market crises are any guide, the decisions that it will then confront about who to pay and who not to—the politics of arrears—will present a critical challenge to the government and likely define the future path of the crisis.

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Ukraine’s IMF Program Sets Stage for Debt Restructuring

by Robert Kahn

The IMF yesterday approved a four-year, $17.5 billion arrangement for Ukraine, their contribution to a $40 billion financing gap that they have identified over that period. A further $15 billion is to come from a restructuring of private debt, with formal negotiations expected to begin soon. The rest is expected to come from governments and other multilateral agencies. An ambitious array of reforms—including to fiscal and energy policy, bank reform, and strengthening the rule of law—are laid out, signaling a dramatic break from past governments. These measures are expected to set the stage for recovery: output falls 5 ½ percent this year before 2 percent growth returns in 2016, inflation will average 27 percent this year and then decline, while the current account deficit falls to 1 ½ percent and the currency stabilizes around current levels. Public sector debt will peak at 94 percent of GDP in 2015 as the program takes hold. All this depends on an end to the current hostilities, which as the IMF notes remains a considerable risk to the program.

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The Meaning of Ukraine’s IMF Deal

by Robert Kahn

While today’s headlines focus on the truce agreement between Ukraine and Russia, a significant economic milestone was achieved yesterday with the IMF’s announcement that its staff has reached agreement with the government on a new four-year program. The Fund’s Board will likely consider the program next month. Whether or not the truce holds, the program is the core of western financial support for Ukraine. Is it enough?

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G20 Worries About Growth

by Robert Kahn

The central message from the G20 Summit in Brisbane last weekend was the need for more growth, and there was a clear sense after the meeting that leaders are worried. David Cameron captured the mood with his statement that “red warning lights are flashing on the dashboard of the global economy” and his concern about “a dangerous backdrop of instability and uncertainty.” While Europe came in for the most criticism (Christine Lagarde rightly worries that high debt, low growth and unemployment may yet become “the new normal in Europe”) concerns about growth in Japan and emerging markets also weighed on leaders. In the end, though, the diplomacy conducted on the sidelines was more meaningful than the growth proposals put forward at the summit.

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The International Economic Agenda Facing the New Congress

by Robert Kahn

The initial post-election talk is understandably about whether the shift to a Republican controlled Senate makes it easier or harder to make progress on central economic challenges facing the United States, including energy, immigration, social spending, and infrastructure. There is understandable concern that this next Congress will face the same gridlock that we have now. But even before that, there is the mundane issue of what we borrow and spend. Partly out of fear of being seen as crying wolf one too many times, I have been wary to advertise my concern that we are facing a new series of economic cliffs. First up is a likely standoff on the budget (in December, and likely again in the spring of 2015). Then comes the debt limit, which will be reset on March 15, but given the usual and not-terribly-extraordinary “extraordinary measures” that are at the disposal of Treasury, they can likely pay the nation’s bills until perhaps the fall of 2015 before cash balances fall to zero. Of course, in the past deals have been done, often at the last minute, and we have not, with the exception of the 2013 government shutdown, gone off the cliff (though there have been a few unnecessary fender benders along the way). But with the Senate as polarized as ever, it is easy to see getting to deals on these issues will be difficult and potentially unsettling to markets.

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When meetings matter—The World Bank and IMF Convene

by Robert Kahn

There are many reasons cited for this week’s market turndown and risk pullback, including concerns about global growth, Ebola, turmoil in the Middle East, and excessive investor comfort from easy money. What has been less commented on is the role played by last weekend’s IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings. Sometimes these meetings pass uneventfully, but sometimes bringing so many people together—policymakers and market people—creates a conversation that moves the consensus and as a result moves markets. It seems this year’s was one of those occasions. As the meetings progressed, optimism about a G-20 growth agenda and infrastructure boom receded and concerns about growth outside of the United States began to dominate the discussion. The perception that policymakers—particularly European policymakers—were either unable or unwilling to act contributed to the gloom. Time will tell whether macro risk factors that markets have shrugged off over the past few years will now be a source of volatility going forward. But if that is the case, perhaps these meetings had something to do with it.

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