Francesco Giavazzi, Guido Tabellini25 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.
In his recent article on Vox, Roberto Perotti takes issue with the proposal of coordinating a monetary and fiscal expansion in the Eurozone through a money-financed temporary tax cut, which we advocated in a column on 21 August (see Perotti 2014, Giavazzi and Tabellini 2014). He does not question the effectiveness of the proposal in stimulating aggregate demand.
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.
The consensus is increasing that austerity has not worked – Europe stands on the edge of deflation and suffers from a deficit of demand. A recent VoxEU proposal (Giavazzi and Tabellini 2014) offers a solution that is widely shared on both sides of the Atlantic – all Eurozone countries should cut taxes simultaneously by 5% of GDP, and the ECB should buy the extra debt without sterilisation. This should be accompanied by a credible plan to reduce government spending in the future.
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.
The 4 September announcement by Chairman Mario Draghi has been greeted with enthusiasm by the markets and the media. It has been long awaited, and many believe that the ECB has finally delivered. This is not sure. The ECB intends to buy large amounts of securities backed by bank lending to households (mortgages) and to firms.
To exit the Great Recession, central banks must adapt their policies and models
Marcus Miller, Lei Zhang10 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.
“Practical men…are usually the slaves…[of] some academic scribbler of a few years back” – John Maynard Keynes.
For monetary policy to be most effective, Michael Woodford emphasised the crucial importance of managing expectations. For this purpose, he advocated that central banks adopt explicit rules for setting interest rates to check inflation and recession, and went on to note that:
Pricing to market and Eurozone membership: Evidence from Latvia
Alberto Cavallo, Brent Neiman, Roberto Rigobon22 August 2014
What happens to prices when a country joins a currency union, and do prices behave differently in a pegged exchange rate regime? This column sheds lights on these questions by using evidence from Latvia, whose currency was pegged to the euro before the country became a Eurozone member on 1 January 2014. The authors find that clothing retail prices in Latvia completely converged to those in other Eurozone countries.
What happens to prices when a country joins a currency union? And do prices behave differently in pegged exchange rate regimes compared to common currency areas? The answer to this question is a critical input to a country’s choice of currency regime.
Lessons from history for the European Financial Crisis
Selin Sayek, Fatma Taskin05 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.
Pietro Alessandrini, Andrew Hughes Hallett, Andrea F Presbitero, Michele Fratianni
As of July 2014, we continue to debate whether the European economy is out of the woods. The effectiveness of policies and the prospects of full recovery are under scrutiny. The unique nature of Europe’s monetary union begets further questions of whether policies should be designed to resolve a single euro crisis, or whether they should be designed to resolve multiple European crises occurring simultaneously. A discussion of whether the sui generis European project has led to a sui generis set of financial crises would provide a framework for these policy discussions.
The euro crisis: Muddling through, or on the way to a more perfect euro union?
Joshua Aizenman03 July 2014
After a promising first decade, the Eurozone faced a severe crisis. This column looks at the Eurozone’s short history through the lens of an evolutionary approach to forming new institutions. German dominance has allowed the euro to achieve a number of design objectives, and this may continue if Germany does not shirk its responsibilities. Germany’s resilience and dominant size within the EU may explain its ‘muddling through’ approach to the Eurozone crisis. Greater mobility of labour and lower mobility of under-regulated capital may be the costly ‘second best’ adjustment until the arrival of more mature Eurozone institutions.
The short history of the Eurozone has been remarkable and unprecedented – the euro project has moved from the planning board to a vibrant currency within less than ten years. Otmar Issing’s optimistic speech in 2006 reflects well the buoyant assessment of the first decade of the euro – an unprecedented formation of a new currency without a state.1 Observers viewed the rapid acceptance of the euro as a viable currency and the deeper financial integration of the Eurozone and the EU countries as stepping stones toward a stable and prosperous Europe.
As the Eurozone cautiously implements stabilising reforms, Germany is forced to go further with concessions than it would prefer. This column suggests that it would be beneficial for discontented members to consider the formation of a second monetary union. The second euro can be constructed better than the first, bringing the discontented members exchange-rate adjustments relative to Germany, and avoiding competitive devaluations.
One basic feature of the sickly situation in the Eurozone today is that the system does not clearly bear any essential flaw from the standpoint of Germany. All things considered, the country has not done badly since the Great Recession of 2008-2010. And as the Eurozone moves forward gingerly with necessary reforms in order to avoid a break-up of the system, it is evident that Germany is constantly under pressure to go further with concessions than it would prefer.
Saving the euro: self-fulfilling crisis and the ‘Draghi put’
Marcus Miller, Lei Zhang26 June 2014
Like banks, indebted governments can be vulnerable to self-fulfilling financial crises. This column applies this insight to the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, and explains why the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions policy reduced sovereign bond spreads in the Eurozone.
The CEPR Business Cycle Dating Committee recently concluded that there is not yet enough evidence to call a business cycle trough in the Eurozone. Instead, the committee has announced a 'prolonged pause' in the recession. This Vox Talk discusses the possible directions that this situation could lead to and questions whether the Great Recession has harmed the Eurozone’s long-term growth prospects to the extent that meagre growth could become the 'new normal'.