In an uncertain world, fiscal policy must be robust to a range of models. This column introduces a rule of thumb governing fiscal expansion that is consistent for a group of countries, and for each country individually. Applying this rule to the Eurozone recommends overall fiscal neutrality, with moderate consolidation in France and Spain, lower consolidation in Italy, and moderate stimulus in Germany. This policy is optimal for Germany even without taking into account positive spillovers to other members.
Marco Buti, Nicolas Carnot, 24 February 2015
Sebastian Gechert, Andrew Hughes Hallett, Ansgar Rannenberg, 26 February 2015
The literature on fiscal multipliers has expanded greatly since the outbreak of the Global Crisis. This column reports on a meta-regression analysis of ﬁscal multipliers collected from a broad set of empirical reduced form models. Multiplier estimates are signiﬁcantly higher during economic downturns. Spending multipliers exceed tax multipliers, especially during recessions. The authors estimate that the Eurozone’s fiscal consolidation – most significantly transfer cuts – reduced GDP by 4.3% relative to the no-consolidation baseline in 2011, increasing to 7.7% in 2013.
Sebastian Gechert, Andrew Hughes Hallett, Ansgar Rannenberg, 25 February 2015
The literature on fiscal multipliers has expanded greatly since the outbreak of the Global Crisis. CEPR Policy Insight 79 reports on a meta-regression analysis of ﬁscal multipliers collected from a broad set of empirical reduced form models. Multiplier estimates are signiﬁcantly higher during economic downturns. Spending multipliers exceed tax multipliers, especially during recessions. The authors estimate that the Eurozone’s fiscal consolidation – most significantly transfer cuts – reduced GDP by 4.3% relative to the no-consolidation baseline in 2011, increasing to 7.7% in 2013.
Lars Feld, Christoph Schmidt, Isabel Schnabel, Benjamin Weigert, Volker Wieland, 20 February 2015
Claims that ‘austerity has failed’ are popular, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world. This column argues that this narrative is factually wrong and ignores the reasons underlying the Greek crisis. The worst move for Greece would be to return to its old ways. Greece needs to realise that things could actually become much worse than they are now, particularly if membership in the Eurozone cannot be assured. Instead of looking back, Greece needs to continue building a functioning state and a functioning market economy.
Plamen Iossifov, Jiří Podpiera, 16 February 2015
The ongoing, synchronised disinflation across Europe raises the question of whether non-Eurozone EU countries are affected by the undershooting of the Eurozone inflation target, by other global factors, or by synchronised domestic, real sector developments. This column argues that falling world food and energy prices have been the main disinflationary driver. However, countries with more rigid exchange-rate regimes and/or higher shares of foreign value added in domestic demand have also been affected by disinflationary spillovers from the Eurozone.
Thomas Philippon, 10 February 2015
Greece has a problem with debt that must be addressed on way or the other. This column proposes a way to estimate a ‘fair’ level of fiscal consolidation in Greece. The author’s central argument is that contagion risk made the Greek crisis worse by preventing early debt restructuring. If restructuring took place in 2010 instead of 2012, Greece’s debt to GDP ratio would have been 30 percentage points lower today. To bring Greece’s debt under 120% of GDP, it would be fair for Greece to run a 3% primary surplus over the next decade or two. This is less than the current target of 4.5% but still requires a significant effort.
Julio Escolano, Laura Jaramillo, Carlos Mulas-Granados, Gilbert Terrier, 27 February 2015
Fiscal consolidation is back at the top of the policy agenda. This column provides historical context by examining 91 episodes of fiscal consolidation in advanced and developing economies between 1945 and 2012. By focusing on cases in which the adjustment was necessary and desired in order to stabilise the debt-to-GDP ratio, the authors find larger average fiscal adjustments than previous studies. Most consolidation episodes resulted in stabilisation of the debt-to-GDP ratio, but at a new, higher level.
Paolo Manasse, 27 January 2015
This column discusses and evaluates the new guidelines issued by the European Commission regarding the Stability and Growth Pact. These do not change the existing rules, but work to improve transparency, encourage fiscal discipline, and underline that fiscal adjustments should vary based on the circumstances a country finds itself to be in. But by operating within to the existing rules, the new guidelines conform to austerity bias and complexity of implementation.
Francesco Giavazzi, Guido Tabellini, 17 January 2015
The ECB may soon launch QE. Two of Europe’s leading macroeconomists argue that QE is the ECB’s last anti-deflation tool – it must not be sacrificed to political expediency. The risk-sharing debate is secondary to the programme’s size and duration – one example would be €60 billion per month for one year, or until inflation expectations rose to near 2%. The ECB should also explain that no matter how well the monetary part of the programme is designed, an accompanying fiscal expansion is critical to QE’s effectiveness.
Marco Buti, 22 December 2014
Weak investment is a key macroeconomic problem in the Eurozone, and the new European Commission has proposed an ‘Investment Plan’ to complement existing policy initiatives. In this column, the Commission’s Chief Economist explains the key rationale behind the Investment Plan.
Vincent Bouvatier, Anne-Laure Delatte, 14 December 2014
Eurozone financial integration is reversing, with 2013 cross-border capital flows at 40% of their 2007 level. This column discusses research showing that banking integration has in fact strengthened in the rest of the world.
Jean-Pierre Landau, 02 December 2014
Eurozone inflation has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. Building on existing research, this column explores the conjecture that low inflation in the Eurozone results from an excess demand for safe assets. If true, this conjecture would have definite policy implications. Getting out of such a ‘safety trap’ would necessitate fiscal or non-conventional monetary policies tailored to temporarily take risk away from private balance sheets.
Paolo Manasse, 01 December 2014
Today’s Eurozone fiscal discipline is the amalgamation of reforms implemented over ten years, with the latest and largest changes agreed in crisis settings. This column argues that the result fosters neither growth nor stability since actual fiscal policy has been powerfully procyclical. The focus on intermediate targets has distracted attention from the final objectives – debt sustainability and economic convergence. A drastic simplification of the current rules is proposed.
Thorsten Beck, 10 November 2014
The ECB has published the results of its asset quality review and stress tests of Eurozone banks. This column argues that, while this process had clear shortcomings, it still constitutes a huge improvement over the three previous exercises in the EU. Nevertheless, the banking union is far from complete, and the biggest risk now is complacency. A long-term reform agenda awaits Europe.
Jean Pisani-Ferry, 07 November 2014
A triple-dip recession in the Eurozone is now a distinct possibility. This column argues that additional monetary stimulus is unlikely to be effective, that the scope for further fiscal stimulus is limited, and that some structural reforms may actually hurt growth in the short run by adding to disinflationary pressures in a liquidity trap. The author advocates using tax incentives and tighter regulations to encourage firms to replace environmentally inefficient capital.
Moreno Bertoldi, Philip Lane, Valérie Rouxel-Laxton, Paolo Pesenti, 24 October 2014
The reason for the divergent macroeconomic policies on the two sides of the Atlantic after the Crisis remains a hotly debated subject. The topic was also discussed at the recent “Macroeconomic Policy Mix in the Transatlantic Economy” workshop. This column summarises the main discussions at the workshop. Other covered topics included secular stagnation, the output effects of fiscal consolidation, cross-border banking (as a source and propagator of shocks), and the asset-market effects of unconventional monetary policies.
Francesco Giavazzi, Guido Tabellini, 25 September 2014
In a recent column, the authors suggested coordinating monetary and fiscal expansions in the Eurozone through a money-financed temporary tax cut. The effectiveness of their proposal, however, has been questioned. In this column, the authors address some of the criticisms. They argue that the counter-cyclical fiscal policies adopted by the US and the UK, together with monetary easing, had a stabilising effect on output. Moral hazard due to the more lax monetary and fiscal policies is avoidable, increasing the credibility of the future spending cuts.
Roberto Perotti, 13 September 2014
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.
Charles Wyplosz, 12 September 2014
Last week, the ECB announced that it would begin purchasing securities backed by bank lending to households and firms. Whereas markets and the media have generally greeted this announcement with enthusiasm, this column identifies reasons for caution. Other central banks’ quantitative easing programmes have involved purchasing fixed amounts of securities according to a published schedule. In contrast, the ECB’s new policy is demand-driven, and will only be effective if it breaks the vicious circle of recession and negative credit growth.
Marcus Miller, Lei Zhang, 10 September 2014
During the Great Moderation, inflation targeting with some form of Taylor rule became the norm at central banks. This column argues that the Global Crisis called for a new approach, and that the divergence in macroeconomic performance since then between the US and the UK on the one hand, and the Eurozone on the other, is partly attributable to monetary policy differences. The ECB’s model of the economy worked well during the Great Moderation, but is ill suited to understanding the Great Recession.