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More Pain, No Gain for Greece: Is the Euro Worth the Costs of Proa

February 23, 2012

This week the Greek government reached agreement with the European authorities and the IMF for 130 billion euros in lending, as part of a new adjustment package to replace the current IMF program that began in May of 2010. Although the agreement should allow the government to avoid default in March, there are grave doubts as to whether the agreed upon program will lead the country to a point where it returns to growth, has a sustainable debt burden, and can borrow from private markets.

Decreasing Inequality Under Latin America's "Social Democratic" and " Populist" Govenments: Is the Difference Real?

October 27, 2011

This paper addresses the claim that the governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, Latin America's so-called "left-populist" governments, have failed to effectively reduce inequality in the 2000s and have only benefitted from high commodity prices and other benign external conditions. In particular, it examines the econometric evidence presented by McLeod and Lustig (2011) that the "social democratic" governments of Brazil, Chile and Uruguay were more successful and finds that their original results are highly sensitive to the use of data from the Socioeconomic Database for Latin America and the Caribbean (SEDLAC). Conducting the same analysis using data on income inequality from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) leads to the exact opposite result: it is the so-called "left-populist" governments who appear to have effectively reduced income inequality over the last decade. The key difference between data from SEDLAC and ECLAC is that the latter corrects for income underreporting -- when households in an income survey underreport their true amount of income, thus biasing the measurement of inequality -- while the former does not. Absent reasonable criteria for choosing one dataset over the other, the paper suggests that any econometric results based on income inequality data should prove robust to both sources.

The Argentine Success Story and its Implications

October 21, 2011

The Argentine economy has grown 94 percent for the years 2002-2011, using International Monetary Fund projections for the end of this year. This is the fastest growth in the Western Hemisphere for this period, and among the highest growth rates in the world. It also compares favorably to neighboring economies that are commonly seen as quite successful, such as Brazil, which has had less than half as much growth over the same period.During this period, Argentina has seen considerable progress on social indicators. Poverty has fallen by over two-thirds from its peak, from almost half of the population in 2001 to approximately one-seventh of the population in early 2010. Unemployment has fallen by over half from its peak, to 8.0 percent. And employment, by early 2010, had risen to 55.7 percent, the highest on record, as social spending nearly tripled in real terms. Income inequality has also fallen dramatically.Argentina was trapped in a severe recession from mid-1998 to the end of 2001. Attempts to stabilize the economy and maintain the currency peg to the U.S. dollar, through monetary and fiscal tightening, led by the IMF and backed by tens of billions of dollars in lending, failed to arrest the economy's downward spiral. In December of 2001, the government defaulted on its debt, and a few weeks later it abandoned the currency peg to the dollar. Recovery began after one quarter of contraction and continued until the world economic slowdown and recession of 2008-2009. Now it has rebounded, and the IMF projects growth of 8 percent for 2011.This paper looks at Argentina's success and the important implications behind this success for Europe, including the weaker eurozone economies.