There is a growing consensus that austerity is contributing to the Eurozone’s macroeconomic malaise, but also that spending cuts are needed in the long run to achieve fiscal sustainability. Some commentators have advocated a temporary tax cut financed by unsterilised ECB purchases of long-term public debt, accompanied by a commitment to future spending cuts. This column argues that such commitments are simply not credible – especially given the moral hazard problem created by central bank monetisation of debts.
Roberto Perotti, Saturday, September 13, 2014
Paul De Grauwe, Monday, July 7, 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
Carlos A. Vegh , Guillermo Vuletin, Thursday, June 12, 2014
The question of whether fiscal policy should be pro- or countercyclical has become increasingly relevant during the recession. This column provides causal evidence from South American countries showing the success of countercyclical policy in improving social indicators of economic success, combined with correlative evidence from Europe. This represents a strike against the case for austerity-led growth.
Markus Eberhardt, Sunday, May 11, 2014
The debt-growth link is essential to today's marcoeconomic policy choices. This Vox Talk discusses new evidence based on data on total public debt for 105 economies between 1972 and 2009 and two centuries of data for the UK, US, Sweden and Japan. There is no convincing proof that austerity works and that it is dangerous for policy makers to pretend otherwise.
Emanuele Baldacci, Sanjeev Gupta, Carlos Mulas-Granados, Monday, March 31, 2014
The recent debate on the link between austerity and growth has focused on the short run. This column discusses recent research into the link between fiscal consolidation and medium-term growth under different financial conditions. If credit is not available to consumers and investors, private demand is less able to compensate for cutbacks in public demand, so large spending cuts can have a negative effect on growth. Difficult financial conditions probably explain why fiscal adjustments that worked in the 1990s have not produced similar beneficial effects on growth in recent years.
Francesco Pappadà, Yanos Zylberberg, Monday, February 3, 2014
Greece’s austerity package included an unprecedented increase in the VAT rate, but the resulting increase in revenue was much lower than expected. This column links this disappointing result to the ‘transparency response’ of firms to higher tax rates. In countries like Greece with poor tax monitoring, firms face a tradeoff when deciding whether to declare their activity. Transparency is a necessary condition for accessing external finance, but it also means having to pay tax. Improving credit conditions for small and medium-size Greek firms might shift this tradeoff in favour of transparency.
Markus Eberhardt, Andrea F Presbitero, Sunday, November 17, 2013
The idea that there is a common tipping point in the relationship between public debt and economic growth is still widespread. However, this is likely due to a misinterpretation of the existing evidence. Once we allow for the relationship between debt and growth to be country-specific, there is limited evidence supporting the presence of a within-countries debt threshold.
Silvana Tenreyro, Gregory Thwaites, Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Governments wary of fiscal expansion have turned to monetary policy to stimulate slowly recovering economies. This column presents evidence that lowering interest rates is ineffective during recessions – just when fiscal policy would be most effective. If this result is robust, we are seeing recent signs of recovery in spite of austerity, not because of it.
Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Today’s austerity, many argue, is stupid. This column argues that today’s EZ austerity may arise from stupidity before the crisis – specifically lacklustre structural reform. Excess debt arose in nations maintaining unsustainable living standards and welfare systems in the face of poor growth. The Crisis forced radical adjustments such as austerity in a recession. It’s not austerity which caused low growth, but low pre-Crisis growth which ultimately caused austerity. The way out of austerity is fundamental pro-growth reforms that create room for more gradual fiscal adjustment.
Marco Buti, Pier Carlo Padoan, Tuesday, October 8, 2013
The causes of the Eurozone’s slow growth are much debated. This column argues that fiscal consolidation will be less of a drag going forward but that the ongoing recovery remains fragile. A policy strategy is needed to support the recovery based on three mutually reinforcing elements – reducing policy uncertainty, repairing the financial system, and undertaking structural reforms.
Carlos A. Vegh , Guillermo Vuletin, Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Government spending is procyclical in developing countries, exacerbating the business cycle. However, an analysis of tax policy is also required in order to properly assess the overall stance of fiscal policy. This column presents recent research showing that tax policy tends to be procyclical in developing countries and acyclical in developed countries. Although some developing countries have managed to escape the procyclical fiscal policy trap, some developed nations – notably Eurozone members – are falling into it.
Alan Taylor, Saturday, July 20, 2013
Recent austerity policies have been guided by ideology rather than research. This column discusses research that reconciles disparate estimates of fiscal multipliers in the literature. It finds that common identification assumptions are problematic. Matching methods based on propensity scores show how contractionary austerity really is, especially in economies operating below potential.
Richard Wood, Saturday, May 11, 2013
The world economy seems to be acting in unexpected ways. This column argues that austerity and quantitative easing do not seem to be working out as advertised. There is an urgent need to review the effectiveness of alternative macroeconomic policy approaches, and prepare an internationally agreed pro-growth plan to reflate distressed economies. The outlines of one such plan are presented.
Olivier Blanchard, Daniel Leigh, Friday, May 3, 2013
The debate about fiscal consolidation reduces too often to shouting matches about the value of fiscal multipliers, or about the existence of a critical debt-to-GDP ratio. This does not do justice to what is a complex choice, depending on many factors. Our purpose in this article is to review the relevant factors at play and allow for a richer discussion.
Reda Cherif, Fuad Hasanov, Friday, May 3, 2013
Europe’s austerity-first approach has triggered research-based efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of debt-reduction strategies. This column, based on a US empirical study, suggests that an ‘austerity shock’ in a weak economy may be self-defeating. Public-debt reduction historically occurs gradually amid improved growth. If policymakers, firms and households respond as in the past, we should expect lower deficits amid higher growth and, eventually, decreasing debt ratios.
Marco Buti, Nicolas Carnot, Thursday, March 14, 2013
As the Eurozone growth continues to be negative, debates over the correct degree of austerity continue. This column presents the Commission’s view on how and why austerity continues to be necessary.
Richard Wood, Monday, March 4, 2013
Despite recent calm in the markets, the Eurozone crisis seems far from over. So far, responses have worked little magic. This column argues that at some point soon, Eurozone governments will be forced by voters to reverse austerity and stimulate growth. A number of policy options are available, but it is clear that pro-growth fiscal stimulus policies should take their place. Longer-term fiscal consolidation will nonetheless also be required to reduce excessive levels of public spending relative to GDP.
Paul De Grauwe, Yuemei Ji, Thursday, February 21, 2013
Eurozone policy seems driven by market sentiment. This column argues that fear and panic led to excessive, and possibly self-defeating, austerity in the south while failing to induce offsetting stimulus in the north. The resulting deflation bias produced the double-dip recession and perhaps more dire consequences. As it becomes obvious that austerity produces unnecessary suffering, millions may seek liberation from ‘euro shackles’.
John Van Reenen, Saturday, September 15, 2012
John Van Reenen talks to Viv Davies about fiscal consolidation during a depression. They discuss Van Reenen's recent work on quantifying the costs and benefits of delaying austerity measures until recovery is clearly established. They also discuss whether austerity has gone too far. Van Reenen presents the case for a more federal Europe. The interview was recorded at the LSE on 13 September 2012.
Benedict Clements, Ruud de Mooij, Gerd Schwartz, Sunday, September 9, 2012
Many advanced country governments face the dual challenge of promoting job growth while pushing ahead with spending cuts. This column discusses how well-designed fiscal policy reforms can help boost employment without busting the government budget.