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    02 March 2021
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    Looking beyond the short-term economic shock, the Covid-19 pandemic and the exceptional health protection measures introduced to contain the virus raise many questions as to the lasting consequences of the crisis. The issue of zombie firms, which is far from new, has taken on a whole new dimension, as their weight in developed economies has progressively increased since the 1980s. Massive public interventions to tackle the effects of the pandemic, whether by governments – debt moratoriums, cancellations of employer social security contributions, widespread use of short-time working schemes, etc. – or by central banks – increase and prolongation of asset purchases schemes – could result in keeping non-viable companies afloat, raising fears of a zombification of economies.
    Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Kingdom had already begun to come out of the “age of austerity”, to borrow a phrase from former Prime Minister David Cameron. The massive intervention of UK authorities to support the economy through the Covid-19 sanitary and economic crises has significantly strengthened this trend. The government deficit ran at almost 20% of GDP in 2020, and the ratio of government debt to GDP increased by twenty percentage points to nearly 100%. Once the crisis is over, some adjustments will be needed. That said, the Treasury’s eagerness to bring public finances back under control rapidly could be counterproductive if it stifled the economic recovery. Moreover, long-term prospects, particularly demographic trends, suggest that balancing the government’s books will be no easy task.
    18 February 2021
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    Zambia’s recent sovereign default has cast a shadow of a looming wave of debt restructuring in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Covid shock has brought a significant risk of debt distress in several African countries, by exacerbating vulnerabilities that have built up over the past decade. While liquidity facilities through the DSSI and emergency lines have provided temporary support to many countries in the region, solvency issues remain and the prospect of debt restructuring is gaining ground. In this context, the methodology of the IMF and the World Bank remains the most suitable tool for assessing debt sustainability for low-income countries. The framework for common treatment of restructuring has recently been extended to all creditors. Given the scale of its financial commitments to African countries, China’s participation is essential. So far, the country has demonstrated a lack of transparency and limited cooperation. Its commitment to the common framework for debt treatment thus remains to be confirmed.
    12 January 2021
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    In third-quarter 2020, Turkish GDP had already returned to pre-Covid levels. Turkey’s economic recovery can be attributed to massive policy support – both fiscal and monetary –, which also involves risks. Inflation is significantly above 10%, and unlike many other emerging countries, the current account swung into a deficit again, which triggered a sharp depreciation in the Turkish lira. Faced with rising tensions, President Erdogan voiced to change the direction of economic policy. It should now have two pillars: a more rigorous policy mix, with a monetary policy that targets a lower inflation rate and greater attractiveness for non-resident investors. If these factors are sustained in the long run, they should help reduce volatility and release the bottlenecks that have weighed on Turkish growth over the past five years.
    30 November 2020
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    Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal have been hit hard economically by the Covid-19 epidemic. These countries have also suffered for many years from sluggish potential growth, which is among the lowest in Europe. The main obstacles are more or less the same: a low level of investment and productivity, and a slowing - or even declining - demographics which weigh on the workforce. How have these different factors evolved? What may be the impact of the current economic crisis on structural growth? Which levers to operate?
    With only a few weeks left before the end of the transition period that has extended the United Kingdom’s de facto membership of the European Union, considerable uncertainty remains about Brexit and its consequences. Whatever the outcome of the current negotiations on a free trade agreement, it is clear that this will be a hard Brexit. From this observation, a number of important questions emerge. What will be the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from both the EU’s single market and customs union? What effect will Brexit have on the UK economy, and will it differ across sectors? How will Brexit influence future economic policy in the UK?
    27 October 2020
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    Amidst low investment and stagnant productivity, Brazil has primarily relied on favorable demographics (labor accumulation) to grow. In the face of rapid population ageing and a decline in fertility rates however, Brazil’s demographic dividend has been gradually fading. Brazil will have to alter its pattern of growth and find avenues to stimulate capital investments and improve total factor productivity if its economy is to achieve higher medium-term growth prospects (i.e. lift potential growth). The administration has embraced this challenge through an ambitious structural reform agenda anchored on two complimentary pillars: enhancing the business environment and transforming the role of the state in the economy. The disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has however slowed down the pace of reform and heightened uncertainty over the path of the economy in coming years. This begs the question of the reasonable timeframe within which productivity-enhancing private investment can become an alternative and durable engine of growth.
    21 October 2020
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    Has household consumption, the driving force behind French growth, stalled? Or was it actually in the process of rebounding? In 2019, household consumption rose at an average annual rate of 1.5% in real terms, which is considered to be a disappointing performance. But “disappointing” on what grounds and from which standpoint? Are we really dealing with a feeble rebound? These are difficult questions to answer, since everything depends on the perspective we take and the determinants we look at. In this article, we will try to put household consumption into context, and provide answers and explanations for the above issues. In a descriptive analysis in part one, we examine household consumption’s role as a growth engine, its momentum and composition. The second part is explanatory. Our analysis focuses on household consumption’s (lack of) momentum since 2008 in general, and in 2019 in particular.
    31 August 2020
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    The Brazilian economy is gradually migrating towards a new macroeconomic equilibrium whereby the private sector is gaining a larger role in the allocation of resources. This transition is the result of a changing conception of the role of the state but also stems out of a necessity to consolidate fiscal accounts. The nature of the fiscal adjustment however has had knock-on effects on both public and private investment, with adverse consequences on the recovery and medium-term growth prospects. The recent disruption to the economy resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has also reset the deck with regards to the outlook for corporate investment and potential output. Brazil may have to proceed much more rapidly in lifting long-standing impediments to investment if it wants to offset some of the adjustments costs inherent to the transition process and make up for the lost ground it will suffer due to the pandemic.
    28 July 2020
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    The analysis of banks' business model responds to strategic as well as regulatory needs. It can also contribute to studying the effects of monetary policy, amongst other things. However, no harmonized definition exists in the literature. The authors therefore regularly use hierarchical cluster analysis to objectively classify banks according to their business model. These empirical, algorithm-based approaches rely heavily on balance sheet variables. Still, the distribution of bank sources of income and assets under management are also relevant variables. We therefore perform our own classification of European banks according to their business model using all these variables. In addition, we apply a divisive (top-down) hierarchical classification that appears to perform better than its agglomerative (bottom-up) version, which is more common in the literature. Finally, the retention of a supplementary principal component, in addition to the two that are traditionally retained, improves the quality of our classification.
    30 June 2020
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    The Covid-19 shock has triggered a significant fiscal policy response by European Union member states. Even though it is likely to be short-lived, the 2020 recession will be historic. The fiscal response has therefore been essential in avoiding much more serious and longer-lasting economic consequences. Member states have not all been affected in the same way by the current crisis, and the scale of their fiscal responses varies. The European response has been one of the few positive aspects of the crisis. However, the challenges are not yet over. Levels of risk and uncertainty on both the public health and economic fronts will remain particularly high over the next few months. An agreement on a European recovery programme is therefore needed and there is little likelihood of any letting up in national efforts.
    The exceptional measures taken by the US authorities to bolster the liquidity of companies and markets in response to the Covid-19 crisis have resulted in a significant expansion of bank balance sheets. Since the financial crisis of 2007-2008, regulators have tightened balance sheet constraints significantly. Fearing that leverage requirements could damage banks’ ability to finance the economy and support the smooth functioning of financial markets, these have temporarily been relaxed. However, the Federal Reserve is unlikely to undergo a slimming regime that will scale back bank balance sheets for a number of years (and almost certainly not before the end of the period of relaxation of requirements). As a result, we cannot rule out the possibility that the leverage ratio constraint will return as quickly as it was removed.
    04 June 2020
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    The Covid-19 crisis will not be without its consequences for the Russian economy, which faces twin supply and demand side shocks against the background of collapsing commodity prices. According to forecasts from the IMF and the Russian central bank, economic activity could contract by between 4% and 6%. Macroeconomic fundamentals are likely to worsen, but without undermining the government’s ability to meet its obligations. However, this latest shock will weaken a banking sector that is in full restructuring mode and could delay the important government development projects that will be essential to boosting growth over the medium term. Against this background, on 2 June the government announced a new plan of RUB 5 trn (4.5% of GDP) to support the economic recovery and sustain potential growth. It remains to be seen whether it will be of such a nature as to raise potential growth. To date, no details are yet available on the content and modalities of its implementation between Q3-2020 and Q4-2021.
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