Is Europe saving away its future? European public funding for research in the era of fiscal consolidation
Reinhilde Veugelers 28 August 2014
The Crisis affected public spending. Research and innovation is one area often highlighted as needing protection. This column does not find strong evidence that European countries sacrificed research and innovation more than other government expenditure. However, there is strong heterogeneity across countries. Innovation lagging and fiscally weak countries cut R&I spending while innovation-leading forged it ahead. Research of this divide and long-term growth is still limited.
Trends in public R&I budgets in EU countries during the crisis
The dangerous cocktail in many European countries of high debt and subdued growth calls for smart fiscal consolidation. Cost-cutting programmes should minimise the potentially negative short-term effect on economic activity, while establishing a foundation for long-term growth, with growth-enhancing public expenditure safeguarded from cuts, or even increased (Teulings 2012).
EU policies Productivity and Innovation
research and innovation, Europe, public spending
Secular stagnation: Facts, causes, and cures – a new Vox eBook
Coen Teulings, Richard Baldwin 15 August 2014
Six years after the Crisis and the recovery is still anaemic despite years of zero interest rates. Is ‘secular stagnation’ to blame? This column introduces an eBook that gathers the views of leading economists including Summers, Krugman, Gordon, Blanchard, Koo, Eichengreen, Caballero, Glaeser, and a dozen others. It is too early to tell whether secular stagnation is really secular, but if it is, current policy tools will be obsolete. Policymakers should start thinking about potential solutions.
Economic growth is still anaemic despite years of zero interest rates.
- Is ‘secular stagnation’ to blame? What does secular stagnation really mean? And if it’s for real, what must be done?
Today, VoxEU.org launches an eBook that gathers the views of leading economists including Summers, Krugman, Gordon, Blanchard, Koo, Eichengreen, Caballero, Glaeser and a dozen others (edited by Coen Teulings and me). Collectively, the chapters suggest that something historic is afoot.
Global crisis Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
interest rates, US, Europe, Japan, investment, macroeconomics, Great Recession, zero lower bound, savings, secular stagnation, SecStag debate
Rethinking African solar power for Europe
Emanuele Massetti, Elena Ricci 23 July 2014
Concentrated solar power generation in Northern African and Middle Eastern deserts could potentially supply up to 20% of European power demand. This column evaluates the technological, economic, and political feasibility of this idea. Although concentrated solar power is a proven technology that can work at scale, it is currently four or five times more expensive than fossil fuels. Concentrated solar power could play an important role in Europe’s energy mix after 2050, but only if geo-political challenges can be overcome.
The DESERTEC Foundation has suggested that up to 20% of power demand in Europe can be obtained by connecting African deserts to European cities (Figure 1). The idea is to build a large number of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants in Middle Eastern and Northern African (MENA) countries, and to transmit electricity to Europe by means of very efficient high-voltage direct-current cables.
Europe, Africa, climate change, Renewable energy, energy security, Middle East, deserts, solar, photovoltaic, wind, concentrated solar power
European banks: Between a rock (need of more capital) and a hard place (low profitability)
Marco Onado 23 February 2014
The financial crisis showed that European banks were much more fragile than expected. This column discusses some of the changes implemented by banks since the crisis. Overall, their responses have been minor. Currently, most banks remain highly leveraged, yet yielding low returns. Redressing this could require a reduction of non-core assets and/or a slashing of operating costs. Ultimately, something has to give. European banks have yet to reach a post-crisis equilibrium.
The financial crisis has put to the forefront the long-debated issue of banks’ capital adequacy, showing that banks were much more fragile than they (and their regulators) pretended, also because they were allowed to push their leverage to levels much higher than any industrial company, or even a hedge fund, has never dreamt of.
Europe, bank leverage, post-crisis equilibrium
Clarifying the debate about deflation concerns
Mickey Levy 21 February 2014
A popular view among economic commentators is that rich countries face a serious risk of deflation, and should adopt aggressive macroeconomic stimulus policies to ward it off. This column argues that despite similar headline inflation rates, the US, Europe, and Japan in fact face very different macroeconomic conditions. In the US, much of the recent disinflation is attributable to positive supply-side developments. In Europe, an aggressive round of quantitative easing might encourage policymakers to delay the reforms that are necessary to avoid a prolonged Japanese-style malaise.
A common theme among many economic policymakers, financial market participants, and the media is that rich industrialised nations face a high risk of deflation, and that deflation always harms economic performance and so must be combatted with aggressive macroeconomic stimulus. Such broad assessments are misleading, and under certain circumstances may lead to misguided policies. More clarity on the topic is required.
Global crisis Monetary policy
eurozone, US, Europe, Japan, deflation, disinflation, quantitative easing
Efficient retail payments: An untapped source for reviving growth in Europe?
Iftekhar Hasan, Tuomas Takalo 24 January 2014
Efficient retail payments are associated not only with lower direct costs but also with indirect benefits, and ultimately – with enhanced economic growth. This column presents research on different retail payment habits in the Eurozone. A correlation exists between the forms of payment in a country and its recent economic fortune. There are a number of methods to promote more efficient payments. The biggest challenge to increase the efficiency of retail payments in Europe is the heavy regulation and barriers to entry of new payment methods.
Retail payments are an inherent part of most adults’ daily life in Europe. But promotion of efficient retail payments is seldom an inherent part of European growth agendas. It should be.
Microeconomic regulation Productivity and Innovation
Europe, economic growth, retail, efficiency
Scrapping subsidies during the Global Crisis – Evidence from Europe
Nina Leheyda, Frank Verboven 05 December 2013
Scrapping subsidies were a popular policy to protect car sales in the beginning of the crisis. This column presents new research showing that the subsidies had a strong effect on stabilising sales, but only a small environmental impact. There may thus be more productive investments to stabilise the economy during times of crisis.
Many governments around the world have introduced scrapping schemes during the last financial and economic crisis. In Europe, they were especially popular during the year 2009. Governments aimed to counteract the sharply declining demand for cars, while at the same time promoting cleaner cars with lower CO2 emissions. The effectiveness of the scrapping schemes for both of these objectives remains an open question. Most recent empirical work has looked at the 2009 ‘Cash for Clunkers’ programme in the US, which cost $2.85 billion and lasted for only one month. Li et al.
Europe, global crisis, Cash for clunkers, scrapping subsidies
Public investments for long-term economic growth: the case of health
Michael Stolpe 22 March 2013
The crisis has shot holes in government budgets devoted to pro-growth public goods. This column argues that health-related public goods support long-term economic growth. Governments may be more inclined to focus on spending related directly to jobs, such as education and welfare-to-work programmes, but health should not be forgotten
Crisis or not, healthcare cries out for large-scale public investments that lock in what appears to be an historic trough in government borrowing costs in many of the world’s advanced countries.
US, Europe, Japan, investment, Ageing
European labour-market reform
John Driffill 08 March 2013
How do we solve worryingly high unemployment across Europe? In a time of crisis, would reform actually exacerbate unemployment? This column argues that labour markets – especially in southern Europe – have to be reformed, presenting policy prescriptions to that effect. If we are to break the back of sluggish labour markets, policymakers need to learn from Europe’s success stories.
Unemployment continues to rise in the Eurozone and is increasingly drawing attention to its sluggish labour markets. There is a lingering suspicion that these markets are not flexible enough; that wage growth (real and in money terms) does not respond sufficiently to unemployment. Labour-market reform has featured prominently in the bailout agreements reached between the Troika and Greece, Portugal, and Ireland. Reform is surely a good thing. But what is it meant to achieve? What should and can be done? Is the time now ripe for reform?
Europe's nations and regions Labour markets
Europe, unemployment, EU
Investigating the effect of exchange-rate changes in Japan, China, east Asia, and Europe
Willem Thorbecke 26 February 2013
Policymakers everywhere are concerned about currency wars. Are quantitative easing and managed exchange rates bad for the global economy? This column looks at the hard empirical evidence, arguing that, in fact, Japan is behaving rather responsibly and that other strong economies have themselves benefited from undervalued currencies. That said, it is true that politicians’ short time horizons often lead to stealthy policy and large swings in exchange rates. Economists should therefore aim to promote longer-run cosmopolitan interests rather than shorter-run nationalistic agendas where possible.
Policymakers are concerned about currency wars and competitive devaluations. Many complain that trading partners are artificially lowering their exchange rates through quantitative easing and managed exchange rates in order to gain price competitiveness for their exporters.
US, Europe, China, Japan, Eurozone crisis