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Financial Sector

“When the Tide Goes Out, You See Who’s Naked”

Cara Santos Pianesi's picture

Said Martin Sandbu, the FT economics writer that moderated the FT-MIGA Summit, Managing Global Political Risk, last week in London.   
 
This is the fifth year that MIGA, the political risk insurance and credit enhancement arm of the World Bank, co-hosted the event to launch its World Investment and Political Risk report.  Undoubtedly, these have been heady years and most participants agreed that, while it is still strong, political risk has waned since the global financial crisis and the Arab Spring. This sentiment dovetails with the findings of the report, which show that macroeconomic stability won by just a hair over political risk as the factor that international investors fear most.
 
Also in line with these findings, the World Bank’s Andrew Burns cautioned that the world will soon be grappling with the next group of challenges brought about by the tide. What tide? Here, Sandbu meant the significant investment that has flowed to developing countries in search of yield over the past few years, quantitative easing that has kept economies afloat, and high commodity prices. All of these factors are now in flux.
 “When the Tide Goes Out, You See Who’s Naked
And now, the (potential) nudity. That is, as investment to emerging markets tapers, macreconomic tools are used less bluntly, and commodity prices normalize, will countries have laid enough strong economic foundations to weather the inevitable changes that will occur? And as this MIGA-sponsored conference deals with political risk, how will economic changes affect the destiny of leaders and, resultantly, citizens?
 
Tina Fordham of Citi Research emphasized that the structural determinants of political risk are still very present. She noted little improvement in unemployment and an increase in vox populi risk. By this she meant shifting and more volatile public opinion around the world—amplified by social media—has recently resulted in a proliferation of mass protests.  Panelists discussed several other risk factors, including increasing polarization in politics, pressure on central banks to keep the economic show on the road, reduced investment in infrastructure, and a reversal in living standards in some hard-hit countries.
 

Settling with Justice

Jean Pesme's picture



Settlements in cases of foreign bribery cases are big news and growing.  More and more countries are allowing these procedures, and their law enforcement agencies are using them forcefully in their efforts to combat foreign bribery. The FCPA, which came into law in the US over thirty five years ago, has paved the way for many other countries to adopt similar legislations, in line with far reaching international agreements such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. These are very welcome developments, which should continue unabated.

The 2003 UN Convention Against Corruption – to which almost 170 countries have become party to - has created an environment for a radical and universal change in the international landscape of anti-bribery legislation. Actual enforcement is making a difference, as illustrated by the rapid growth in settlements by companies and individuals who have contravened the law and have to face the consequences - without going to a full trial. The figures are telling: over the past decade a total of US$ 6.9 billion has been imposed in monetary sanctions through settlements - which is clearly good news in the fight against corruption.

But in the midst of this positive development, there are a number of troubling concerns (from the perspective of the countries affected by corruption).  Research by the  UNODC/World Bank Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative in our new report ‘Left Out of the Bargain’ has revealed that those countries whose officials have been bribed are most often unaware of the settlements, and receive very little of the moneys involved. Of the US$ 6.9 billion, nearly US$ 5.8 billion came about when the countries where the settlement took place – mostly major financial centers - were different from those of the allegedly bribed foreign public official.

StAR’s analysis of 395 cases reveals that only about US$197 million, or 3%, was returned to the countries whose officials allegedly received bribes.
 

Should Policy Makers in Emerging Markets be Concerned about “Tapering”?

Mathew Verghis's picture

 

City and traffic lights at sunset in JakartaThe US and European economies are showing some signs of recovery from the global financial crisis that began in 2008. As a result, the US Federal Reserve Bank is considering phasing out, or “tapering”, the extraordinary monetary policy measures through which it responded to the crisis. On May 22, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before Congress that the Fed may begin to reduce the size of its bond buying program. There was an immediate withdrawal by investors from stocks and bonds in emerging markets. The World Bank's East Asia and Pacific regional update estimated that in East Asia alone $24 billion was withdrawn from equities and $35.2 billion from bonds. Share prices fell by 24 percent in Indonesia, 21 percent in Thailand, and 20 percent in the Philippines. Yields on 10 year local currency bonds increased by 273 basis points in Indonesia, 86 basis points in Thailand and 76 basis points in Malaysia. The exchange rate depreciated by 18 percent in Indonesia, and about 5 percent in the Philippines and Thailand. Financial markets largely recovered once the Fed decided to postpone tapering in September, but there is still nervousness. The Indonesian Rupiah and Indian Rupee both fell significantly in November, till Fed Chair nominee Janet Yellen signaled that she saw a continued need for the bond buying program.

At some point the Fed will indeed begin to taper. Investors should clearly be concerned as there is a risk of sudden and dramatic falls in asset prices. Should policy makers be concerned? Will there be an impact on growth, inflation or macroeconomic risk that requires a response from policy makers?
 

Indonesia’s “continuing adjustment”

Alex Sienaert's picture


2013 has been a year of adjustment for Indonesia’s economy.  In the recent edition of the Indonesia Economic Quarterly report, the flagship publication of the World Bank Indonesia office, we asked the questions: what are the drivers of this adjustment and how should policy respond?

Meet the Innovators: Tech Entrepreneurs Forge a New Future for the Western Balkans

The countries of the Western Balkans – which include the states of the former Yugoslavia, along with Albania – are not exactly world-famous for their entrepreneurial spirit. Yet if you look at their societies more carefully, you’ll soon find a surprising number of new companies dotted throughout the Western Balkans. They’re already setting their sights beyond smaller domestic markets: They’re looking to Europe, and the world.

China’s Third Plenum: Much will Change - for Other Developing Economies Too

Manu Bhaskaran's picture

CN142S09 World Bank Some observers caution that the reforms proposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after the Third Plenary meeting of its Central Committee may fall short of promise because of resistance from vested interests or a lack of political will. My view is that it will bring about fundamental changes in China for one simple reason - politics. First, the CCP leadership fully understands that the party has lost the trust of the people because of rising corruption and cronyism, increasingly offensive income inequality, huge question marks over food safety, and worsening pollution. Second, they realize that the current economic model cannot sustainably deliver the economic progress that citizens expect in return for their allegiance to the CCP. The CCP leaders know that fundamental changes are needed to this economic model to regain the trust of the people. Since survival demands big changes, the leadership will pull out all the stops.

Leveraging Financial Inclusion to Promote Economic Development in Egypt

Leveraging Financial Inclusion to Promote Economic Development in Egypt - Photo: Arne Hoel

Egyptian policymakers are facing a significant challenge: how to address acute economic challenges while managing ongoing political and social transitions. Output in major sectors of the economy (construction, trade, and tourism) remain weak while foreign direct investment (FDI), once a core tenant of Egyptian growth, reached nearly zero in the second quarter of this year. The Egyptian unemployment rate, which traditionally hovered around 9.5 percent in the years preceding the revolution, has increased to 13.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

Convergence in the Ease of Doing Business

Augusto Lopez-Claros's picture

Overlooking the central Kumasi marketSuppose that one were to divide the countries included in the latest Doing Business report into two groups. Call the first group (made up of some 44 countries) the “worst quartile”—that is, the countries with the costliest and most complex procedures and the weakest institutions. Call the other group the “best three quartiles.” Then let’s ask ourselves: how many days did it take to establish a business in both groups in 2005? The answer is 113 days in the worst quartile and 29 days in the best three quartile countries, meaning that in 2005 there was a gap of 84 days between the two sets. Now, let’s repeat the exercise for 2013. The worst quartile is down to 49 days and the best three quartiles is down to 16; the gap between the two has narrowed to 33 days, which is still sizable but a lot less than 84. Repeat the same exercise for time to register property and time to export a container. For property registration, the gap in 2005 was 192 days and by 2013 it has narrowed to 63. For time to export, the gap in 2005 was 32 days and in 2013 it was down to 23. (The figures are presented in the charts below. Only a small subset of the indicators has been included here, for illustrative purposes).

Financial Education: What Works and What Doesn’t?

Margaret Miller's picture
How can we successfully design programs to promote financial literacy and financial capability – that is, not just financial knowledge in the abstract, but also the practical skills, attitudes and behaviors needed to take care of one’s everyday finances? Amid the wide-ranging scholarship on financial education, researchers have documented that there is often a strong relationship between exhibiting financial knowledge and achieving good financial outcomes (such as saving for retirement, paying bills on time or avoiding mortgage default).

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