IMF Notes

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January 4, 2024

Digital Money, Cross-Border Payments, International Reserves, and the Global Financial Safety Net: Preliminary Considerations

Description: The rapid advent of digital money (DM) and assets raises questions about its implications for the functioning of the international monetary system (IMS). The low transaction costs of digital technologies, their accessibility and ease of automation, and their integration into existing digital services may bring opportunities in the form of higher financial interconnectedness and inclusion but may also add to risks. This paper explores the possible implications of DM for the IMS from the perspective of cross-border payments, international reserves and the supply of global safe assets, and the global financial safety net. To help inform the discussion, the paper presents empirical analyses of the effect of payment efficiency on international currency adoption for payment/transaction purposes as well as on reserve currency holdings, along with an illustrative modeling scenario of a DM-induced shock for the potential demand for global financial safety net resources.


December 11, 2023

Exploring the Adoption of Selected Digital Technologies in Tax Administration: A Cross-Country Perspective

Description: Using cross-country data, this note explores the potential impact of selected digital technologies on tax collection and compliance. The analysis makes use of multi-dimensional International Survey on Revenue Administration, Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool, and Revenue Administration-Gap Analysis Program (RA-GAP) data with results indicating that digital technologies could help enhance tax collection, but with effects that vary by the type of specific digital service or tools introduced. While the results demonstrate a strong association between digital tax administration operations and improved performance outcomes, the realization of revenue gains is heavily contingent on accompanying policy, legislative, and administrative reforms, as well as the availability of adequate digital connectivity and capable tax administration staff. The cross-country approach provides reasonable upper-bound estimates on revenue gains, which, however, need to be carefully validated with country-specific case studies. The note reviews single country case studies from selected micro-economic literature that complement the cross-country results and reveal key enabling factors necessary to reap and sustain the benefits of new digital investments.

December 7, 2023

Expanding and Improving Social Safety Nets Through Digitalization: Conceptual Framework and Review of Country Experiences

Description: Social safety nets (SSNs) are focal policies that support poor and vulnerable households, most prominently through cash transfers. However, strong discrepancies persist across countries in terms of spending, coverage, and targeting of SSNs, with larger gaps often found in low-income countries. Digital technologies can prove vital in supporting a rapid expansion of SSNs around the world. Governments need to do three things for this: identify, verify, and pay. This note explains how countries can make considerable improvements across these three dimensions despite differences in capacity levels. It examines six case studies of countries―Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Pakistan, Togo, and Türkiye―that used and adapted digital technologies in different ways due, in large part, to variations in digital SSN infrastructures in place before the onset of COVID-19. These case studies illustrate how (1) innovative digital technologies can help overcome lack of government capacity to implement SSNs, even in countries with a lack of digital infrastructure or capacity, and (2) countries with stronger digital infrastructure or investments in SSNs before COVID-19 were able to complement existing policies to reach more people and to provide stronger responses than countries without preexisting SSN frameworks.

October 30, 2023

Digital Interventions in the Health Sector: Country Cases and Policy Discussions

Description: This note discusses, through selected country case studies, how digital health records and telemedicine can improve delivery quality, access to underserved populations, and resource utilization in healthcare. In addition, it shows how digital disease surveillance tools can identify outbreaks and track the spread of diseases, while novel digital platforms can facilitate patent licensing and international pooled procurements for better drug access in developing countries. Ensuring safe and well-regulated collection and use of healthcare data, as well as facilitating standardization and interoperability of digital infrastructure in different sectors is critical for the success of these interventions.

September 7, 2023

Fiscal Revenue Mobilization and Digitally Traded Products: Taxing at the Border or Behind It?

Description: Digitalization has the potential to bring great economic benefits, but it is also creating new challenges. This note focuses on trade in digitized products, its fiscal revenue implications, and the appropriate role for domestic and border tax instruments in this context. As digitized trade increases, in part replacing physical trade, developing countries that rely on tariff revenue to support fiscal capacity will face the difficult question of how best to tax these new trade flows and maintain fiscal balances. This note shows that, independently of the future trajectory of trade in digitized products, broad-based nondiscriminatory value-added taxes are preferrable to tariffs both from an economic efficiency and from a revenue standpoint. These taxes are also easier to implement and administer. In this context, the World Trade Organization (WTO) moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmission can help to effectively channel developing countries’ tax reform efforts in a more efficient direction. This transition would require further investment by the global community in modernizing the tax and customs infrastructure of developing countries to adequately meet revenue needs in the digital era.

July 21, 2023

The Political Economy of GovTech

Description: The digitalization of public services, known as GovTech, can disrupt traditional mechanisms to promote economic development (for example, financial inclusion, education, and health care), improve the delivery of public services, and expedite development objectives. For GovTech to be successful in enhancing the public sector's efficiency, transparency, and inclusiveness, its design and implementation require that private interests be aligned with the overarching goal of a “citizen-oriented” digitalization. Because the interests of the state and private providers are often antagonistic, the social dividends from GovTech remain contingent on implementing the appropriate market structure through adequate property rights and regulatory oversight.

April 12, 2023

Global Food Crisis Update: Recent Developments, Outlook, and IMF Engagement

Description: The global food crisis remains a major challenge. Food insecurity fueled by widely experienced increases in the cost of living has become a growing concern especially in low-income countries, even if price pressures on global food markets have softened somewhat since the onset of Russia’s war in Ukraine in February 2022. Targeted assistance to the most vulnerable households combined with policy measures to support trade and agriculture systems, including to better cope with climate shocks, can help countries withstand the fallout of the ongoing food crisis while building longer-term resilience. The IMF, working in close cooperation with other international organizations, has continued to contribute to international efforts to alleviate food insecurity by providing policy advice, capacity development, and financial support through Upper Credit Tranche Arrangements and the new Food Shock Window. New commitments to countries particularly affected by the global food crisis total $13.2 billion since February 2022, of which $3.7 billion has been disbursed as of March 2023.

Notes: Fall 2023 Global Food Crisis Update —Recent Developments, Outlook, and IMF Engagement

March 31, 2023

Internet Adoption Trends during COVID-19

Description: This paper examines the common perception that internet adoption accelerated globally during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data show little evidence of a faster expansion of access to internet (extensive margin) across all country income groups but strong evidence of acceleration in the improvement in the quality of connectivity (intensive margin). The data also support that, despite a decline in internet prices over the past decade, affordability of digital services remains a concern for low-income developing countries.


September 29, 2022

Tackling the Global Food Crisis: Impact, Policy Response, and the Role of the IMF

Description: Russia’s war in Ukraine has exacerbated food insecurity that had already been on the rise for half a decade. Low-income countries are affected the most. This note suggests that the food and fertilizer price shock would add $9 billion in 2022 and 2023 to the import bills of the 48 most affected countries. The budgetary cost of protecting vulnerable households in these countries amounts to $5–7 billion. Strong and timely action on a global scale is needed to support vulnerable households through international humanitarian assistance and domestic fiscal measures; to maintain open trade; to enhance food production and distribution; and to invest in climate-resilient agriculture. The IMF has been stepping up its engagement to help tackle the global food crisis, working closely with partners, by providing policy advice, capacity building and financing. IMF financing is a third line of defense in meeting external financing needs associated with the global food shock, which should ideally be covered by donor grants and concessional borrowing from MDBs. A new food shock window under the emergency financing instruments is expected to be approved soon to further strengthen its lending response to the food crisis.

September 8, 2022

Policies to Address the Refugee Crisis in Europe Related to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Description: Refugees from Ukraine face multiple vulnerabilities, with many requiring humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs. In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, host countries in Europe and beyond have adopted measures to support refugees, including residency rights, free movement across countries, access to labor markets and integration policies, health and education services, housing options, banking services, and social protection systems. Drawing on previous IMF work on the economic challenges of refugees, this note provides an overview of policy responses needed to provide effective support to refugees fleeing Ukraine.

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