The World Bank and the IMF are no strangers to criticism. Both organisations have pursued controversial policies in their attempts to improve the lot of people in developing countries. Recent events at the World Bank have heightened criticism of the organisation and in the first article below Naomi Klein (author of No Logo – nologo.org) argues that the behaviour of Paul Wolfowitz is symptomatic of a wider hypocrisy in the behaviour of the World Bank around the world. In the second article George Monbiot writes a criticism of the behaviour of the IMF and its approach.

Questions

1. Use the web sites of the IMF and the World Bank to write a summary of their roles.
2. Assess the validity of the arguments of (a) George Monbiot with respect to the IMF and (b) Naomi Klein with respect to the World Bank.
3. Discuss possible changes in World Bank policies that would help address Naomi Klein’s criticisms.

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe is no longer news. Indeed the news below that inflation has risen to 2,200% may not even surprise us any more. However, inflation of this level should also mean similar changes in the exchange rate if purchasing power parity is to be maintained. The official exchange rate in Zimbabwe, however, hasn’t changed by anywhere near this amount and there are reports (See Scotsman article below) that the Governor of the Central Bank has even tried to portray a recent devaluation as not really a devaluation at all!

Our mutual friend The Economist (subscription) (12/4/07)
Zimbabwe inflation reaches 2,200% BBC News Online (26/4/07)
Zimbabwe’s inflation rate surges to 231,000,000% Guardian (9/10/08)
A month ago, the hospitals were overflowing. Now they lie empty Guardian (6/12/08)
Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe Wikipedia
(27/4/07)
How Zimbabwe lost control of inflation Newzimbabwe.com (11/12/09)

Questions

1. Explain, using diagrams as appropriate, how hyperinflation will affect the exchange rate in Zimbabwe.
2. Discuss the likely economic impact of not devaluing the official exchange rate in line with the level of inflation in Zimbabwe.
3. Assess possible exchange rate policies that would help reduce the level of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe.

With the news this month of the death of Boris Yeltsin, it has been an opportunity to look back at the economic legacy of the first democratically-elected President of Russia. Boris Yeltsin took over at a time when all goods were scarce and the industrial infrastructure was crumbling. He adopted policies of extensive privatisation and abandoned price controls. To what extent has this created the Russia of today and what is the legacy he has left behind?

Yeltsin’s moment The Economist (subscription) (26/4/07)
Yeltsin’s economic legacy BBC News Online (24/4/07)

Questions

1. Explain the reasoning behind the policies that were adopted by Boris Yeltsin in his early years in office.
2. Discuss the extent to which those policies enabled the development of the Russian economy.
3. Assess the current state of the Russian economy.

In March 2007, the pound reached a record high against the dollar. This made it an excellent time for UK tourists to visit the USA with prices appearing relatively low thanks to the exchange rate. These exchange rate values also affected the balance of payments of both the USA and the UK and the article below looks at the economic impact of the high exchange rate against the dollar.

Why everything’s almost free in America (and why it won’t last) Guardian
(23/4/07)

Questions

1. Explain the principal reasons for the change that has taken place in the exchange rate in recent years.
2. “On a PPP basis, a pound should buy $1.60”. Explain what is meant by this statement.
3. “My bet is that within a year the rate will be closer to $1.60 than $2. Maybe a lot closer.” Assess the impact of this possible outcome on economic growth and inflation in the UK.
4. Examine the likely impact of the high exchange rate on the balance of payments situation of (a) the USA and (b) the UK.

You do perhaps need to check the date for this story, but once you have established that it wasn’t written on April 1st, you can start to take it a little more seriously. An alliance of an American oil company and food producer is to turn pig fat into diesel fuel. The fuel will apparently have the same chemical properties as diesel but a lower carbon dioxide content and zero sulphur, so should be beneficial for the environment the companies argue.

Pig fat to be turned into diesel BBC News Online (19/4/07)

Questions

1. Using diagrams as appropriate, compare and contrast the environmental impact of conventional diesel and the new pig fat bio-diesel.
2. Discuss the extent to which the new pig fat diesel will be better for the environment than conventional diesel.
3. Evaluate two policies that the government could implement to encourage the use of alternative fuels like the new pig fat bio-diesel.