Robert Kahn

Macro and Markets

Robert Kahn analyzes economic policies for an integrated world.

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Showing posts for "IMF"

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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Financing Ukraine: Time for an Honest Assessment

by Robert Kahn

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (“incursion” is far too polite a term) represents a major intensification of the conflict and should cross all red lines the West has established.  The logic of the earlier, incremental approach—put modest sanctions in place, and let the threat of worse create a chilling effect on investment and trade—has reached a dead end.  Whether President Putin seeks a stalemate within Ukraine or something more menacing, full sectoral sanctions (including, importantly, Russia’s access to payments systems) should now be put in place as a firm signal of western resolve.  The real cost-benefit to be done is not the costs on the West compared to Russia. Rather it is those relative costs contrasted against doing nothing and risking a situation that brings us closer to either armed conflict or acceptance of a new rule that states can redraw boundaries by force. German President Merkel has signaled that further sanctions are on the agenda for the September 30 EU leaders summit, and I expect the Obama Administration will move with them if not before.

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BRICS and Mortals

by Robert Kahn

Leaders of the BRICS–Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa–meet in Rio today to swap World Cup stories and launch a long-discussed “BRICS Bank.” The bank creates two funds–a development lending facility (New Development Bank or NDB) backed by $50 billion in capital ($10 billion from each of the BRICs), and a $100 billion rescue fund (Contingent Reserve Arrangement, CRA) for countries suffering from exogenous shocks.

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