Writing and editing at the virtual IMF/ World Bank annual meetings

Phil helped organise the coverage by the magazine GlobalMarkets of the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank that were held in October 2021. First the second time the annual meetings had to be held virtually because of the coronavirus. This means that the newsroom existed only on Microsoft Teams with editors and journalists reporting from various locations. We built on our experience of 2020 to interact with the organised events through virtual platforms. The newspaper was published as a PDF rather than printed and distributed manually.

He wrote two features analysing key issues that came up at the meetings of the finance ministers and central bankers of the 187 member countries. The first look at the future that surrounded accusations that IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva had put pressure on staff to alter data on China when she was CEO at the World Bank. The feature was converted into a news story as the issue was resolved in Georgieva’s favour on the eve of the start of the meetings. The story is here.

The other looked at the agenda that experts believe that World Bank president David Malpass should pursue to ensure that the multilateral lender remains relevant in the post-Covid era. At its heart is the need for a massive replenishment of the finances of the International Development Association, its arm that gives grants and makes loans to the poorest countries. The story is here.

Focus on Japanisation

Business Life, a Channel Islands-based magazine aimed at the financial sector, commissioned Phil to look at whether Europe was suffering from Japanisation – a structural shift to a low growth, low inflation near-zero interest rates that the Asian superpower has seen for almost 30 years.

He spoke to many analysts including Holger Schmieding at Berenberg Bank who disputed the idea that Japan was “suffering”, Andrew Milligan at Aberdeen Standard Investments looked at the impact on banks and advisers to high wealth individuals and Amit kara at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research highlighted the challenge that investment managers will face to secure higher yields in Europe and other Japanised economies.

The article is here.

Contribution to Financial Times 2018 survey

We were asked by the Financial Times to contribute our views on a range of issues which have the potential to affect the UK economy during 2018. On overall growth, we said the economy will slow in 2018 as the uncertainty created by the stop-start Brexit negotiations nags at consumer and business confidence and at investment intentions. A drop to 1.5% from 1.8% in 2017 seems likely. The interesting comparison is with the eurozone, which could post growth as high as 2.4 per cent. Those data will be confirmed in spring just as the UK will leave the EU — a timely reminder of the damage that the UK is doing to itself by leaving.

On Brexit we said that it will either be possible to stay within a/the single market and a/the customs union or even that opposition to Brexit itself is starting to grow. Either there are now hopes that the UK will get as bad a deal as feared a year earlier.

On the consumer economy, we said the downward pressure on consumer spending that has so far come from a fall in real wages is likely to continue. Our other concern is the mountain of debt that consumers are building up and whether any of the bubbles in personal loans, credit card debt, and car loans will burst.

A year ago we contributed to the 2017 survey in which we said we predicted that growth would slow sharply, that inflation would rise and the negative impact from Brexit had been postponed rather than cancelled.

LatinFinance’s finance minister of the year

We worked with LatinFinance, the magazine that covers Latin American economies and financial markets, on its Finance Ministry Scorecard. This is an annual assessment of the performance of the finance ministers and their ministries over the latest calendar year.

It recognises outperformance in managing fiscal and external accounts, building sustainable economic growth, and contributing to controlled inflation. It takes into account ministries’ transparency and clarity in communications with markets, independence and financial strength. The final decision is based on a series of in-depth interviews with market participants including ratings agencies analysts, private-sector agencies analysts and independent economists.

Our assessment led LatinFinance to decide that Colombia and finance minister Mauricio Cardenas had performed better than any major economy over that period. The announcement is here. Colombia was the fastest-growing large economy in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014. It kept its fiscal deficit limited, and attracted strong levels of foreign investment. Further, the country has a low debt ratio, at below 32% of GDP.  WE carried out an interview with Minister Cardenas in which he talked about how he had achieved strong growth in the face of the fall in the oil price and signs of weakness in the eurozone and Chinese economies. The article is here.