Helmut Schmidt, one of the great post-war architects of Europe, passed away in November 2015. This column, by a former governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus, reminds us of Schmidt’s analysis of the political and economic dimensions of the Eurozone Crisis delivered in speeches in late 2011. As Schmidt said: “What we have, in fact, is a crisis of the ability of the EU’s political bodies to act. This glaring weakness of action is a much greater threat to the future of Europe than the excessive debt levels of individual Eurozone countries.”
Athanasios Orphanides, 29 January 2016
Richard Baldwin, 25 December 2015
Team Vox wishes to thanks all its readers and contributors for making 2015 a great year for the site. Vox will post no new columns between 25 December 2015 and 2 January 2016. There is, however, plenty to catch up on. This column presents a list of topical columns written by leading economists in 2015. It also presents a few statistics on Vox’s popularity.
Rebooting Consensus Authors, 20 November 2015
The Eurozone needs fixing, but it is impossible to agree upon the steps to be taken without agreement on what went wrong. This column introduces a new CEPR Policy Insight that presents a consensus-narrative of the causes of the EZ Crisis. It was authored by a dozen leading economists from across the spectrum. The consensus narrative is supported by a long and growing list of economists.
Richard Baldwin, Thorsten Beck, Agnès Benassy-Quéré, Olivier Blanchard, Giancarlo Corsetti, Paul De Grauwe, Wouter den Haan, Francesco Giavazzi, Daniel Gros, Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, Stefano Micossi, Elias Papaioannou, Paolo Pesenti, Christopher Pissarides, Guido Tabellini, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 19 November 2015
The Eurozone Crisis, which broke out in May 2010, is a long way from finished. Worse yet, many of the fragilities and imbalances that primed the monetary union for the Crisis are still present. EZ decision-makers will never agree upon the changes needed to prevent future crises unless they agree upon the basic facts that explain how the EZ Crisis got so bad and lasted so long. CEPR Policy Insight 85 presents a consensus narrative of the causes.
Ansgar Rannenberg, Christian Schoder, Jan Strasky, 11 November 2015
From 2011 to 2013, fiscal policy in the Eurozone turned progressively more restrictive. This column argues that output cost of fiscal consolidation strongly depends on presence and strength of credit constraints. With credit constraints both in the household and the firm sector, fiscal consolidation would be largely responsible for the weak growth performance during 2011-2013. Postponing the fiscal consolidation to a period of unconstrained monetary policy would have avoided most of these losses.
Mouhamadou Sy, 09 November 2015
From the introduction of the euro in 1999 to the Greek crisis in 2010, the Eurozone witnessed external imbalances between countries at its core and those at its periphery. These imbalances have been attributed either to differences in competitiveness or to the effect of financial integration. This column argues that in order to understand the imbalances within the Eurozone, it is necessary to consider credit costs and capital flows. The lower real cost of credit for high-inflation countries must be taken into account, as well as the inflow of capital to the non-tradable sector that this implies. Monetary policy cannot be conducted in a ‘one size fits all’ manner.
Graciela Laura Kaminsky, 08 November 2015
The Eurozone crisis is still lingering. This column uses data from 100 years of sovereign defaults to portray a new take on the crisis. The findings indicate that crises in a financial centre have persistent adverse effects on the periphery. They lead to more economic losses than home-grown idiosyncratic crises. Successful restructuring of such crises would require substantially larger debt write downs than those following idiosyncratic crises.
Philip R. Lane, 07 September 2015
In the lead up to the global financial crisis, there was a substantial credit boom in advanced economies. In the Eurozone, cross-border flows played an especially important role in the boom-bust cycle. This column examines how the common currency and linkages between member states contributed to the Eurozone crisis. A very strong relationship between pre-crisis levels of external imbalances and macroeconomic performance since 2008 is observed. The findings point to the importance of delinking banks and sovereigns, and the need for macro-financial policies that manage the risks associated with excessive international debt flows.
Giancarlo Corsetti, 07 September 2015
At the birth of the euro, the fiscal, financial, and monetary institutions in Europe were not sufficiently developed. This chapter describes these inefficiencies and the role they played in the Eurozone crisis. Instability in the Eurozone grew out of a disruptive deadlock between national governments forced to address and correct fundamental weaknesses in their national economies on their own, and the EZ-level policymaking. The future of the Eurozone therefore rests on developing an institutional framework that can credibly deliver stability at the EZ level.
Richard Baldwin, Francesco Giavazzi, 07 September 2015
The EZ Crisis is a long way from finished. The latest VoxEU eBook presents a consensus view of what caused the Crisis and why. It argues that this was a classic ‘sudden stop’ crisis – not a public-debt crisis. Excessive, cross-border lending and borrowing among EZ members in the pre-Crisis years – much of which ended up in non-traded sectors – was why Greece’s deficit deceit in 2009 could trigger such a massive crisis. The ultimate causes were policy failures that allowed the imbalances to get so large, a lack of institutions to absorb shocks at the EZ level, and poor crisis management.
Thomas Philippon, 31 August 2015
The Eurozone crisis continues to take centre stage. This column discusses how deep the EZ crisis is, how long it will last, and what should be the policy priorities. A number of findings emerge. First, the difference in labour market performance between the US and the Eurozone is one of degree but not of kind. Second, the economic consequences of the sovereign debt crisis will be mostly gone by 2018, but the political crisis will continue. Third, enforcing fiscal rules via political arm twisting is a recipe for disaster. Market discipline must instead be brought back, but without financial fragmentation. Limited and conditional Eurobonds are the best way to do so.
Nauro F. Campos, Fabrizio Coricelli, 17 July 2015
Greece’s reluctance to implement ‘the structural reforms required for debt sustainability’ is a recurrent theme in the debate on the EZ Crisis. This column qualifies this conventional wisdom by reassessing the relationship between Greece and the EU over the past four decades. Although Greece has implemented structural reforms that were substantial enough to bring about a turning point in its relationship with the EU, these reforms have been overly localised, badly sequenced and implemented by short-sighted political elites. The role that structural reforms can play in solving the current crisis should not be overestimated.
Philippe Martin, Thomas Philippon, 11 November 2014
Economists disagree over the origin of the Eurozone Crisis. This column uses a quantitative framework to sort through the various channels and policy impacts. It argues that fiscal and macroprudential policies are complements, not substitutes. Prudent fiscal policy is helpful but cannot by itself undo private leverage booms. Both prudent fiscal policies and macroprudential policies are required to stabilise the economy and make the Eurozone a viable monetary union.
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
Selin Sayek, Fatma Taskin, 05 July 2014
The European Monetary Union is unprecedented, but the Eurozone Crisis is not. This column draws upon the experiences of previous banking crises, and compares the Eurozone Crisis countries. Like Japan before the 1992 crisis, Spain and Ireland had property bubbles fuelled by domestic credit. The Greek crisis is very distinct from crises in other Eurozone countries, so a one-size-fits-all policy would be inappropriate. The duration and severity of past crises suggest the road ahead will continue to be very rough.
Vesa Vihriälä, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 02 April 2014
The EZ debt overhang needs to be fixed. This column argues that making market discipline credible requires an orderly debt restructuring mechanism combined with a strictly regulated temporary mutualisation scheme or a well-designed debt conversion scheme. This combination could reduce the current debt overhang in an orderly fashion and cement strong incentives against over-borrowing in the future.
Michael Bordo, Harold James, 19 October 2013
The Eurozone’s tangle of conflicting goals – a series of ‘trilemmas’ – is not without precedent. This column argues that it is reminiscent of the interwar situation. The interwar slump was so intractable not just due to financial issues, but also a crisis of democracy, of social stability, and of the international political system. The big difference in the EZ is that nations cannot go off the euro as they went off the gold standard. That is why the initial EZ crisis may not have been so acute as some of the gold standard sudden stops, but the recovery or bounce back is painfully slow and protracted.
Olivier Blanchard, Florence Jaumotte, Prakash Loungani, 18 October 2013
The state of labour markets in advanced economies remains dismal despite recent signs of growth. This column explains the IMF’s logic behind the advice it provided on labour markets during the Great Recession. It argues that flexibility is crucial both at the micro level, i.e. on worker reallocation, and at the macro level, e.g. on collective agreements. It suggests that the IMF approach is close to the consensus among labour-market researchers.
Susan Schadler, 15 October 2013
The IMF loans to Greece, Ireland and Portugal are considered controversial by some analysts. This column argues that these loans – granted without having agreed on convincing paths to manageable debt levels – constituted a substantial departure from IMF principles. The situation is costly for Europe and, having now permanently changed the principles guiding large IMF loans, it will be costly for crises to come. A serious rethink of the management and decision-making structure of the IMF is needed.
Thorsten Beck, 22 March 2013
Cypriot banks urgently need restructuring and downsizing, but a functioning financial system is necessary to handle Cyprus’s transformation to an economic model not based on an oversized banking sector. This column argues that splitting the Cypriot banking system into a bad ‘legacy’ part and a good forward-looking part seems the only feasible and effective solution to resolve the current crisis and restore trust. The Eurozone's resources would be most useful in this bank-resolution process.