Revisiting the pain in Spain
Paul De Grauwe 07 July 2014
There has been a stark contrast between the experiences of Spain and the UK since the Global Crisis. This column argues that although the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions policy has been instrumental in reducing Spanish government bond yields, it has not made the Spanish fiscal position sustainable. Although the UK has implemented less austerity than Spain since the start of the crisis, a large currency depreciation has helped to reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio
The different macroeconomic adjustment dynamics in Spain – a member of a monetary union – and the UK – a stand-alone country – is stark. Paul Krugman popularised this contrast in his New York Times blog with the title “The Pain in Spain” (Krugman 2009, 2011), and commented on my own analysis in De Grauwe (2011).
Europe's nations and regions Global crisis Macroeconomic policy
ECB, monetary policy, euro, EMU, Spain, monetary union, fiscal policy, UK, government debt, austerity, EZ crisis, Outright Monetary Transactions, currency depreciation
Job losses from the credit crunch during the Great Recession
Samuel Bentolila, Marcel Jansen 01 February 2014
The evidence about the effect of declined lending during the Great Recession on the employment is quite limited. This column presents new research on the problem focusing on the case of Spain. A large part of credit to non-financial firms before the crisis came from weak banks, which solvency was strongly eroded during the crisis. As a result, firms that relied heavily on loans from such weak banks displayed significantly higher employment reduction in comparison to similar, less exposed firms. The bulk of employment destruction was driven by firm closures, which carries higher economic costs than downsizing, and could potentially make the recession more protracted.
Policymakers in both Europe and the US are concerned about the economic implications of the current shortage of credit. As the International Monetary Fund put it recently, “policymakers want to support markets because the decline in lending is seen to be a primary factor in the slow recovery” (IMF 2013).
Spain, Credit crunch, Great Recession, job losses
The new sustainability factor of the public pension system in Spain
Rafael Doménech, Víctor Pérez-Díaz 11 December 2013
Based on the report issued by a Committee of Experts, the Spanish Parliament will pass a new law that implements an innovative sustainability factor in the public pension system. This column argues that the proposal solves the problem of financial sustainability in the long run while opening a wider debate on the welfare system and growth under conditions of increased global competition.
As in many other European countries, long-term trends in population growth and life expectancy in Spain make the current pay-as-you-go pension system unsustainable. A later baby boom and a recent immigration wave help explain why Spain has postponed the implementation of reforms already introduced in other European countries in the 1990s (see, for example, Chapter 1 of OECD 2012). A deep economic crisis has now revealed how dramatic the scenario really is.
Europe's nations and regions Welfare state and social Europe
democracy, transparency, Spain, pensions, accountability, Sustainability
War of attrition between the parliament and the executive in 1575
Carlos Álvarez-Nogal, Christophe Chamley 21 October 2013
The recent showdown over the US debt ceiling can be thought of as a game of chicken over the repayment of sovereign debt, with potentially severe consequences. This column describes an analogous historical episode in Spain, in which city delegates in the Cortes resisted tax increases, and Phillip II responded by suspending payments on a portion of the sovereign debt. By the time the cities caved to a doubling of their tax contribution two years later, the resulting bank failures and credit freeze had caused lasting economic damage.
The recent showdown between the parliament and the executive in the US began when a faction in the Republican Party tried to stop the implementation of the healthcare law of President Obama. They refused to raise the legislatively determined ceiling on the federal public debt – a ceiling that has to be raised with the growth of the economy.
Economic history Financial markets
Spain, sovereign debt, financial crises, credit freeze
Unity in diversity: Protecting the common market with divergent macroprudential policies
Aerdt Houben, Jan Kakes 30 July 2013
Financial cycles have increasingly diverged across members of the Eurozone. National macroprudential tools are thus key to managing financial imbalances and protecting Europe’s economic integration. This column discusses research suggesting that reasonable macroprudential policies by the GIIPS countries in the euro’s first decade would have helped avoid much pain in Italy, Portugal and Spain. Greece’s public debt problems were far too large and its banks could not have been shielded with macroprudential policies.
The credit crisis and ensuing sovereign crisis powerfully illustrate the limitations of traditional macroeconomic policies to contain financial imbalances. Despite debate on the desirability to dampen credit cycles and asset-price fluctuations, countries have long been reluctant to include this in policy objectives.
Global crisis International finance
Italy, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Eurozone crisis, Portugal, macroprudential tools, GIIPS
When good intentions go wrong: Effects of bank deregulation and governance on risk taking
Manuel Illueca, Lars Norden, Gregory F Udell 26 June 2013
Economic liberalisation can go wrong when the objectives and corporate governance of the firms in the deregulated industry are not adequately taken into account. This column presents evidence on the deregulation of the Spanish savings banks, known as ‘cajas’, which led to a dramatic expansion of lending and branching, increase in risk taking, and the final implosion of the whole savings-bank sector in Spain in 2012.
The motivation of economic liberalisation is to foster competition in order to increase allocative efficiency, economic growth and social welfare. This paradigm hinges on the assumption that firms maximise value and that more competitors in a market automatically leads to more competition.
Europe's nations and regions International finance
Spain, liberalisation, banking
Are Germans poorer than other Europeans? The principal Eurozone differences in wealth and income
Giovanni D'Alessio, Romina Gambacorta, Giuseppe Ilardi 24 May 2013
The ECB’s recent survey on household finances and consumption threw up some unexpected results – counter-intuitively, the average German household has less wealth than the average Mediterranean household. In line with a recent VoxEU.org contribution from De Grauwe and Ji, this article analyses the principal differences in wealth and income between the main Eurozone countries.
The Household Survey (European Central Bank 2013) is a joint project of the ECB and all the Eurozone central banks providing harmonised information on the balance sheets of 62,000 households in 15 Eurozone countries (all except Ireland and Estonia).1
Media hype had been generated by the ranking of the countries’ median household wealth results, especially by the fact that:
Europe's nations and regions
Italy, Germany, Spain, household income, Greece, Eurozone crisis, household wealth
Budget balance, structural unemployment and fiscal adjustments: The Spanish case
Javier Andrés, Rafael Doménech 05 April 2013
Fiscal adjustment and structural reform are key parts of Eurozone bailout packages (or key features of government policy that aims to avoid such bailouts). This column argues that patience is the most prized virtue of policymakers implementing fiscal adjustment and structural reform. Reducing unemployment and fiscal consolidation are mutually reinforcing, but they move at different speeds.
One of the most important questions in the current process of fiscal consolidation in many developed economies concerns the size and the pace of the adjustment. An excessive and/or too-fast fiscal retrenchment can have dramatic effects on unemployment and growth, while if it is too slow, it can prove to be ineffective and lack credibility in the eyes of the financial markets. Thus, when the debt-to-GDP ratio is high and there is limited fiscal space, the challenge is to find the proper balance between growth, efficiency and credibility of the fiscal adjustment.
Europe's nations and regions
unemployment, Spain, fiscal policy, Eurozone crisis, structural adjustment
Another look at Ricardian equivalence: The case of the European Union
Thomas Grennes, Andris Strazds 28 February 2013
Can European countries share their debts? This column argues that higher government indebtedness means larger household net financial assets. Thus, any pooling of European legacy debt would be considered unacceptable by countries with less government debt unless it also involved the pooling of households’ financial assets. Yet, this would be legally and technically insurmountable. The EU must face forced Ricardian equivalence: the countries with the largest legacy-debt burdens must reduce them by increasing the tax burden or, alternatively, reduce their budget expenditure.
The so-called Ricardian equivalence suggests that a government will have the same effect on private spending whether it raises taxes or takes on additional debt to finance higher government spending. The logic behind it is that as the government gets more indebted, people would put aside more money in expectation of higher taxes in the future. However, there is no consensus on the empirical validity of Ricardian equivalence (see Seater 1993 for a comprehensive review).
Europe's nations and regions
Germany, Spain, UK, Greece, Eurozone crisis, Ricardian equivalence
Winners of a European banking union
Dirk Schoenmaker, Arjen Siegmann 27 February 2013
So far, discussions around Europe’s prospective banking union have focused only on the supervision of banks. This column argues that policymakers must also think about the resolution of banks in distress. While national governments confine themselves to the domestic effects of a banking failure, a European Resolution Authority could incorporate domestic and cross-border effects. A cost-benefit analysis of a hypothetical resolution of the top 25 European banks shows that the UK, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands would be the main winners.
The aim of the prospective banking union is to foster financial stability in Europe. The euro sovereign debt crisis has shown that financial stability cannot be managed effectively at the national level, because of the diabolic loop between national governments and banks (Alter and Schüler 2012). A truly integrated European-level banking system can do much to stabilise the Eurozone by breaking this diabolic loop.
EU institutions EU policies Europe's nations and regions
Sweden, Spain, UK, Netherlands, Bailouts, Eurozone crisis, banking union