Category Archives: International affairs

The IMF includes the RMB in the SDR basket

On 30 November 2015 the IMF voted to include the RMB (the Chinese “people’s currency” denominated in yuan) in the basket of currencies it uses to calculate the value of the Special Drawing Rights, from October 2016. This is largely symbolic but should encourage further international financial reform in China. * What does it actually… Continue Reading

The true story of the Euro crisis

Most economist agree on the causes of the repeated crises of the Eurozone but that explanation is not the one that many governments, and the European Commission, want you to believe. * The problems of the Eurozone – bank failures, sovereign debt crises and bailouts and above all a protracted recession and mass unemployment –… Continue Reading

Global foreign reserves are now falling

The foreign exchange reserves held by governments, having risen for over a decade, have recently fallen. This is mainly because they are being used, as intended, to protect against turbulence in financial markets that would otherwise hurt the developing economies. * Foreign reserves are assets held by governments as a safety net against abrupt changes… Continue Reading

Africa and the “resource curse”

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is abundantly endowed with natural resources, whose value has increased in recent decades. But this has not led to increased benefits for the majority of the people. A recent IMF working paper sheds more light on the challenge of making Africa’s wealth work for most Africans. Ahead of the forthcoming annual Cambridge… Continue Reading

Greece repays IMF using the IMF’s own “currency”

Greece this week repaid €750m to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which it funded by drawing on its SDR account at the IMF. This legitimate but unusual move caught many commentators by surprise and drew attention to the little known SDR. * The SDR – Special Drawing Right – is something of a curiosity in… Continue Reading

Still debating the causes of the world financial crisis

Major world historical events such as the financial crisis that swept much of the world in 2007-09 typically have multiple causes. In 2014 there was an outpouring of new books about the causes of the First World War which started a century before. Historians continue to disagree about why the nations of Europe went to… Continue Reading

Barriers to negotiating mutually beneficial outcomes: the example of Greece

The current stand off in talks to renegotiate the Greek debt bailout shows the difficulty of achieving an outcome that could be good for both sides. * Why lenders sometimes rationally forgive part of a loan There is plenty of excellent commentary on the Greek debt situation, arising from a newly elected Greek government which… Continue Reading

Western capitalism is no longer working well for most people

Since the collapse of communism, capitalism in its various different flavours is the only realistic option for countries wanting high living standards. But the US/UK variant is failing to deliver mass prosperity, which threatens to undermine it and generate a potentially ugly backlash. * The US, Sweden and Japan are all capitalist societies, meaning that… Continue Reading

The accidental trillionaire

China’s $3.9 trillion foreign exchange reserves were not planned but arose as a side effect of a strategy, now ended, of keeping the RMB exchange rate lower than the market would have set it. * Last week I visited the home of China’s SAFE – the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. SAFE’s reserve management division… Continue Reading

The fortunes of nations: how long term growth rates change countries

Countries that had similar levels of economic prosperity two or three generations ago have diverged spectacularly. Getting economic growth right makes a huge difference to the lives of people. Here are two examples: The US and Argentina, and South Korea and Ghana. I recently came across the Maddison Project website, which has estimates of long… Continue Reading

Africa’s economic potential: people

Africa’s economic potential is usually thought to lie in its natural resources. But the continent’s people may be its greatest strength. One of the few areas where long term forecasts have some value is demography, the study of population size and structure. The dynamics of population growth depend on a few variables – the current population, the… Continue Reading

Letter from Dresden

The city of Dresden, capital of the Free State of Saxony, in the east of Germany, has a grimly melancholy reputation in the UK as the town most comprehensively destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, a level of destruction with little military or strategic necessity. Over three days in February 1945 British and… Continue Reading