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Views from the Center

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Mapping Development Trends in Google N-Grams

A few days ago, Google put online a tool designed as a time-suck for the holiday season (HT to Marginal Revolution for the link).  Google N-gram viewer allows you to type in some search terms and it spits out how often those terms appear in Google Books by year of publication.  Google books now contains 5,195,769 digitized books –or about 4% of all books ever published—so that it’s a pretty powerful tool to monitor cultural trends.

IMF Reform: How the Poor Man (That’s the USA) Had a Good Idea

IMF governance reforms were agreed the week before the G20 Summit.  One decision – to increase IMF resources but not by much – may matter for the IMF’s role in a still-unsettled Eurozone – if Ireland’s problem becomes Portugal’s and so on.

For a full and nicely balanced assessment of the reforms from Ted Truman, including on resources, go here.  Among other things, unpacks a couple of little-known and little-understood facts that are (though he doesn’t say so directly) about the role of the USA – the poor man with good ideas.

Currency Wars Are a Development Problem and the G-20 Has a Major Role to Play in the Solution

Last weekend’s communiqué from the G-20 finance ministers is a first step to bridge the divide in the ongoing currency wars. I find both hope and disappointment in the Communiqué. It is very positive that the G-20 ministers have called for the IMF to help identify countries with policies leading to large and unsustainable imbalances. This is a step in the right direction, although no specific quantitative indicators have yet been advanced.

Are the MDGs Useful for Africa?

Good question as the world prepares for the September summit to assess progress. But this is a slightly odd debate here at The Africa Report. The UN Millennium Promise’s Charles Abugre Akelyira seems to think the MDGs are a rejection of economic policy reform:

Liberia’s Debt Relief Party

This week, Liberians celebrated in the streets – faces painted, drums blaring, and dancing with abandon.  They’re not rejoicing over some recent triumph by the Liberian soccer team or a local festival.  The streets of Monrovia were overflowing because of debt relief.  That’s right, debt relief.  On Tuesday, Liberia secured nearly $5 billion in irrevocable debt relief from the World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank, and bilateral creditors.  It’s a massive sum

Red Flags and Red Lights for IMF Lending to HIPCs

This blog entry also appeared on the Huffington Post.

As the global economic crisis spread throughout the developing world in 2008, some of us waited for the next unfortunate phase for poor, debt vulnerable countries - the resumption of massive IMF lending. This is a movie that we’ve seen many times before. And we know the ending. Sadly, it’s less of a Hollywood ending and more of a Parisian tragedy.

It didn’t take long to get the IMF engine roaring.

Multilateralism on Currency Issues

This article also appeared in the Business Standard.

Back in 1971, the then US Treasury Secretary, John Connolly, told his European counterparts that the dollar was “our currency, but your problem”. Today, it seems that China has returned that favour. Its currency has become a problem for the US. Not just the politics but the intellectual climate has become charged with even Nobel laureate Paul Krugman urging strong trade action against China. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has a damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t choice facing him in mid-April, when he is required by law to pronounce on whether China is a currency manipulator.

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