May 2014: Under repair

International capital markets are in a holding pattern. Several sources of political and economic tensions – ranging from nowunwinding American quantitative easing and the danger of major corporate earnings downgrades in Europe, through to Japan versus China disputes and war threats in Ukraine – keep the world in thrall. Yet, on financial markets, underlying buoyancy remains. In the May edition we look at the suspense, and ask how long it will last. Unless the fog dissipates, world economic growth will remain below par. The cover story is on Brazil, Latin America’s biggest economy, the focus of much pride, hope and worry ahead of June’s World Cup. Maria Antonieta Del Tedesco Lins describes the on-off state of economic growth and the decline of the Brazilian economic model. Elsewhere across the emerging markets Meghnad Desai dwells on the Indian elections, where the count in mid-May seems likely to lead to the election of Narendra Modi, the charismatic and controversial chief minister of Gujarat. Jonathan Fenby outlines new question marks over the renminbi. Desai describes, too, how leadership of the International Monetary Fund – embroiled still in a long dispute with the chief paymaster, the US, over a much-needed reordering of quotas and voting strengths – should pass to a non-European when Christine Lagarde’s mandate runs out in 2016. We put forward the name of Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the Singapore finance minister, as a possible candidate − and highlight the need for a genuinely open-minded competition. In our European section, Gabriel Stein highlights a key problem of economic and monetary union: many countries with which Germany should theoretically be forming an optimum currency area are not euro members. William Keegan ponders the perils of central banks’ ‘forward guidance’. Klaas Knot reflects on De Nederlandsche Bank’s 200-year-old history. John Nugée puts forward an alternative strategy for winning Scottish voters to the cause of remaining in the UK. Frank Westermann cautions against drawing the wrong conclusions from improved Target-2 balances at the heart of the euro’s financial imbalances. Ruud Lubbers and Paul van Seters emphasise how the UK is backing Europe’s green energy plans. We focus, too, on how Mario Draghi is leading a revamp of the European Central Bank’s decision-making processes on monetary policy. With regard to the US, Desmond Lachman writes that, on the future of the world’s premier reserve currency, prophets of the dollar’s fall from grace will once again be proven wrong. In similar vein, John Kornblum says the US will emerge strengthened from latest geopolitical tussles, whereas Russian President Vladimir Putin is one of the losers. Darrell Delamaide, in his monthly Banknotes feature on the Federal Reserve, sums up the debate on whether the US faces inflation or deflation. Steve Hanke updates his ‘misery index’, putting US experience into an international context. Our review section describes books by Thomas Piketty and John Peet and Anton La Guardia. I write this as Managing Director. John Plender has taken over as a Chairman. OMFIF has strengthened its shareholding structure, board and management team. The world remains uncertain. This is not necessarily a hindrance to further expansion.

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