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  • Author: Julia Coronado, Simon Potter
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The US monetary system faces significant challenges from advances in technology and changes in the macroeconomy that, left unaddressed, will threaten the stability of the US economy and financial system. At the same time, low interest rates mean that central banks will not have the policy ammunition they had in the past during the next recession. The Federal Reserve needs new tools to meet its mandates of price stability and maximum employment. It also needs to preserve the safety and soundness of the financial system in a rapidly digitizing world. The authors propose a Fed-backed digital currency to solve both problems. Their proposal creates a regulated system of digital currency accounts for consumers managed by digital payment providers and fully backed by reserves at the Fed. The system would be limited in size, to preserve the functions and stability of the existing banking system. Fed backing would mean low capital requirements, which would in turn facilitate competition. Low fees and no minimum balance requirements in the new system would also help financial institutions reach the roughly 25 percent of the US population that is currently either unbanked or underbanked. Digital accounts for consumers could also provide a powerful new stabilization tool for both monetary and fiscal policies. For fiscal policy, it could facilitate new automatic stabilizers while also allowing the Fed to provide quantitative easing directly to consumers. This tool could be used in a timely manner with broad reach to all Americans.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Banks, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Julia Coronado, Simon Potter
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In the second part of their Policy Brief, Coronado and Potter discuss how the system of digital payment providers (DPPs) proposed in their first Policy Brief on this topic adds a new weapon to the monetary toolkit that could be implemented in a timely, effective, and inclusive manner. They describe how a digital currency backed by the Federal Reserve could augment automatic fiscal stabilizers and—more importantly—harness the power of “helicopter” money or quantitative easing directly to consumers in a disciplined manner. To implement QE directly to consumers, Coronado and Potter propose the creation of recession insurance bonds (RIBs)—zero-coupon bonds authorized by Congress and calibrated as a percentage of GDP sufficient to provide meaningful support in a downturn. Congress would create these contingent securities; Treasury would credit households’ digital accounts with them. The Fed could purchase them from households in a downturn after its policy rate hits zero. The Fed’s balance sheet would grow by the value of RIBs purchased; the initial matching liability would be deposits into the DPP system. The mechanism is easy for consumers to understand and could boost inflation expectations more than a debt-financed fiscal stimulus could.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Insurance
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Thomas Philippon, Jean Pisani-Ferry
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The measures that most governments took in response to the sudden collapse in economic activity during the COVID-19 lockdowns nearly exclusively focused on protecting vulnerable workers and firms. These measures included unemployment benefits, grants, transfers, loans at low rates, and tax deferrals. As lockdowns are lifted, governments must shift policies toward supporting the recovery and design measures that will limit the pain of adjustment while preserving productive jobs and firms. This Policy Brief explores how such measures can be designed, with particular emphasis on Europe and the United States. The authors propose a combination of unemployment benefits to help workers, wage subsidies and partially guaranteed loans to help firms, and debt restructuring procedures for small and medium-sized companies handicapped by excessive legacy debt from the crisis.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Government, Labor Issues, Unemployment, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ana González, Euijin Jung
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: By refusing to fill vacancies in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Appellate Body—the top body that hears appeals and rules on trade disputes—the Trump administration has paralyzed the key component of the dispute settlement system. No nation or group of nations has more at stake in salvaging this system than the world’s big emerging-market economies: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, and Thailand, among others. These countries have actively and successfully used the dispute settlement system to defend their commercial interests abroad and resolve inevitable trade conflicts. The authors suggest that even though the developing countries did not create the Appellate Body crisis, they may hold a key to unlock it. The Trump administration has also focused its ire on a longstanding WTO practice of giving these economies latitude to seek “special and differential treatment” in trade negotiations because of their developing-country status. The largest developing economies, which have a significant stake in preserving a two-step, rules-based mechanism for resolving trade disputes, could play a role in driving a potential bargain to save the appeals mechanism. They could unite to give up that special status in return for a US commitment to end its boycott of the nomination of Appellate Body members.
  • Topic: Development, Government, World Trade Organization, Developing World, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: China, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Brazil, North America, Mexico, Thailand, United States of America
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Lawrence H. Summers
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: With interest rates persistently low or even negative in advanced countries, policymakers have barely any room to ease monetary policy when the next recession hits. Fiscal policy will have to play a major and likely dominant role in stimulating the economy, requiring policymakers to fundamentally reconsider fiscal policy. Blanchard and Summers argue for the introduction of what they call “semiautomatic” stabilizers. Unlike purely automatic stabilizers (mechanisms built into government budgets that automatically—without discretionary government action or explicit triggers—increase spending or decrease taxes when the economy slows or enters a recession), semiautomatic stabilizers are targeted tax or spending measures that are triggered if, say, the output growth rate declines or the unemployment rate increases beyond a specified threshold. The authors argue that the trigger should be changes in unemployment rather than changes in output, and the design of semiautomatic stabilizers, whether they focus on mechanisms that rely primarily on income or on intertemporal substitution effects (changing the timing of consumption), depends crucially on the design of discretionary policy.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Finance
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovksy
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Benny Gantz’s party lost the head-to-head battle, Avigdor Liberman’s favorable influence on the coalition math has left the general in a stronger position—and taken some diplomatic weight off the Trump administration’s shoulders. Israel’s third round of elections last week seemed inconclusive at first, but the deadlock may now be broken. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did better this time than in September’s round two, but his gains were insufficient to form a new government. Potential kingmaker Avigdor Liberman jettisoned his previous idea of getting the two top parties to join forces; instead, personal antipathy and policy differences have led him to definitely state that he will not join any government Netanyahu leads. Thus, while centrist Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz may have options to shape a new government, Netanyahu has no pathway on his own. In theory, the center-left bloc has the requisite number of seats for a bare majority in the 120-member Knesset, since anti-Netanyahu forces won 62 seats. In reality, the situation is more complex.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Sultan Haitham will now be free to put his own stamp on the country's government and foreign policy, and a recent dust-up on the Yemeni border could provide the first indicator of his approach. On February 20, Oman will begin its next era in earnest. The new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, was officially sworn in on January 11, but he has remained quiet and mostly out of sight during the forty-day mourning period that followed the death of his cousin, Sultan Qaboos. Now that this period is drawing to a close, he is free to put his stamp on Omani policy. Notably, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the first international delegation to see Sultan Haitham in the post-mourning period. When the meeting was first scheduled, the secretary likely saw it as a chance to get to know the new leader, and also as a symbolic visit to make up for sending such a low-level delegation to offer condolences. Yet the two may have more to talk about now. Earlier this week, a flare-up occurred between Saudi forces and Omani-backed locals in the Yemeni border province of al-Mahra. The confrontation may be Sultan Haitham’s first regional test, and identifying the actors who help him get through it could help Washington discern future power centers within Oman’s often opaque government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Oman, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Aaron Sayne, Melanie D. Reed
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Natural Resource Governance Institute
  • Abstract: The complex, secretive nature of foreign corruption calls for a collaborative, all-hands-on-deck approach. Corrupt actors go to great lengths to hide their wrongdoing, using layers of legal entities, transactions, secrecy jurisdictions and middlemen. No one response can detect and prevent every bad act, and different anticorruption actors have their own unique interests, mandates and abilities. In many cases, they may struggle even to learn the facts of what went wrong. Prosecuting a corruption crime generates reams of valuable information. This can include the names of bribe takers and payers; the industries, countries and public institutions involved; how the proceeds of crime changed hands; and who facilitated or turned a blind eye. Who should get to see this information? Thought leaders on anticorruption, from Transparency International (TI) to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Working Group on Bribery (OECD WGB), have long endorsed greater transparency in foreign corruption cases. They argue, for example, that access to information raises awareness, gives guidance to anticorruption practitioners, encourages cooperation with prosecutors and boosts confidence in law enforcement. Conversely, opacity in corruption cases can weaken the deterrent value of prosecutions, open doors for prosecutorial misconduct and thwart efforts to make victims whole. These concerns are particularly keen in cases that settle via tools like deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) or plea bargains. Many governments share evidence from corruption cases confidentially, through formal legal instruments and close working relationships. But how does public disclosure of facts from corruption cases, whether by courts or other law enforcement bodies, aid the broader fight against corruption? Put differently: At a time when enforcement of anticorruption laws remains low in many countries, could more transparency help anticorruption efforts by regulators, companies, the media, civil society and others? To answer this question, the authors of this briefing analyzed materials from foreign corruption cases that have arisen since the inception of laws banning foreign bribery. During the past four years, they also conducted over two dozen interviews with experts government, the private sector, civil society and the press. From this work, they found instances in which other anticorruption actors used published facts from court cases to do their jobs more effectively. Although they undertook this research as part of the Natural Resource Governance Institute’s (NRGI’s) programming aimed at reducing corruption risks in the oil, gas and mining sectors, they did not limit themselves to cases in the extractive industries. Accordingly, their findings and recommendations apply broadly to corruption in other sectors.
  • Topic: Corruption, Government, Economy, Accountability
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Patrick Heller, Ethan Elkind, Ted Lamm
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Natural Resource Governance Institute
  • Abstract: The global transition from fossil fuel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) will require the production of hundreds of millions of batteries. The need for such a massive deployment raises questions from the general public and critics alike about the sustainability of the battery supply chain, from mining impacts to vehicle carbon emissions. Growing demand for the mineral inputs for battery production can provide an opportunity for mineral-rich countries to generate fiscal revenues and other economic opportunities. But where extraction takes place in countries with weak governance, the benefits expected by citizens and leaders may not materialize; in some cases extraction might even exacerbate corruption, human rights abuses and environmental risks. Many EV proponents and suppliers are aware that supply chain governance problems pose a challenge to the evolution of the EV industry, but outstanding questions remain about how these challenges materialize. This brief, jointly published by UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE) and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) provides basic information on the EV battery supply chain and key battery minerals, such as cobalt and lithium, and addresses the following questions: What does the supply chain for EV batteries comprise? How do carbon emissions from EVs compare to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles? What are the most significant challenges in managing the mineral extraction necessary for the EV supply chain, and what sustainability and human rights initiatives apply?
  • Topic: Civil Society, Corruption, Government, Human Rights, Natural Resources, Governance, Regulation, Legislation, Supply Chains
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Thomas Philippon, Jean Pisani-Ferry
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: Most governments have taken measures to protect vulnerable workers and firms from the worst effects of the sudden drop in activity related to COVID-19. But as lockdowns are lifted, the focus must shift, and governments in advanced economies must design measures that will limit the pain of adjustment.
  • Topic: Government, Labor Issues, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus