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The ECB – or how to become less conventional

By Jérôme Creel and Paul Hubert

The gloomy economic situation in the euro zone and the deflationary risks it is facing are leading the members of the European Central Bank (ECB) to consider a new round of quantitative easing, as can be seen in recent statements by German, Slovakian and European central bankers. What might this involve, and could these measures be effective in boosting the euro zone economy? suite…»

Towards a better governance in the EU?

By Catherine Mathieu and Henri Sterdyniak

The 10th EUROFRAME Conference on economic policy issues in the European Union was held on 24 May 2013 in Warsaw on the topic, “Towards a better governance in the EU?” Revised versions of twelve of the papers presented at the Conference are included in issue 132 of the “Debates and Policies” collection of the Revue de l’OFCE entitled “Towards a better governance in the EU?“. The papers are organized around four themes: fiscal governance, analysis of fiscal policy, bank governance, and macroeconomic issues. suite…»

Europe’s control of public aid: good or bad for industry?

By Sarah Guillou

Following a meeting of the Ministers of Industry in Brussels on 20 February 2014, Arnaud Montebourg criticized the European Commission’s control of aid, which he considers too strict at a time when industry needs assistance. He wants aid for energy-intensive industries to receive an exemption due to competition from US companies that have much lower energy costs (estimated, on average, at one-third of the cost in Europe). More generally, Arnaud Montebourg was very critical of Joaquin Almunia, the European Commissioner for Competition. So is the Minister of Industrial Renewal (Redressement productif) right to castigate the control of State aid by the European Commission? suite…»

The critique of capital in the 21st century: in search of the macroeconomic foundations of inequalities

By Guillaume Allègre and Xavier Timbeau

In his book Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty offers a critical analysis of the dynamics of capital accumulation. The book is at the level of its very high ambitions: it addresses a crucial issue, it draws on a very substantial statistical effort that sheds new light on the dynamics of distribution, and it advances public policy proposals. Thomas Piketty combines the approach of the great classical authors (Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Walras) with impressive empirical work that was inaccessible to his illustrious predecessors. suite…»

How many euros per job created?

By Guillaume Allègre, @g_allegre

The Responsibility Pact, the CICE competitiveness tax break, reductions on social security charges … is it possible to reduce the evaluation of such measures to the cost in euros of each job created? While such an assessment is obviously important, the final figure is often subject to misinterpretation or misuse in the public debate, sometimes in perfectly good faith. For some commentators, a very high cost per job created, generally higher than the average real cost of a public (or private) job, represents a waste of public money that would be better used elsewhere, for nurseries, education or the national police. suite…»

And what if the ECB respected its mandate!

By Christophe Blot

Article 127 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), i.e. former Article 105 of the Maastricht Treaty, states clearly that “the primary objective of the European System of Central Banks … shall be to maintain price stability”. However, no precise quantification of this goal is given in the Treaty. The European Central Bank has interpreted this by stating that it would target inflation that is below, but close to, 2% over the medium term. Furthermore, Article 127 of the TFEU adds that, “without prejudice to the objective of price stability , the [European System of Central Banks ] shall support the general economic policies in the Union, as laid down in Article 3 …”, which includes in particular the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, full employment and social progress. It is therefore clear that the goal of growth and employment is not abandoned but subordinated to the goal of price stability. Starting from this review of the definition of the ECB’s objectives, what conclusion can we draw on the orientation of monetary policy in the euro zone? suite…»

Revising the budget in Croatia: yes, but … for whom and why?

By Sandrine Levasseur

Under the excessive deficit procedure that Croatia has been subject to since 28 January 2014, the country’s government has been obliged to revise its projected budget for the forthcoming three years, which is the timeframe that has been set for putting its finances into “good order”, with “good order” being understood to mean a public deficit that does not exceed 3% of GDP. This new budget is being fixed in adverse economic conditions, as the government’s forecast of GDP growth for 2014 has been revised downward from 1.3% to a tiny 0.2%. suite…»

Should we be celebrating the fall in unemployment at end 2013?

By Bruno Ducoudré and Eric Heyer

Every quarter, the INSEE publishes the unemployment rate as defined by the International Labour Office (ILO): for the fourth quarter of 2013, it fell 0.1 point in France, meaning 41,000 fewer unemployed. Likewise, every month the number of jobseekers registered with the PĂ´le Emploi job centre is reported: during the fourth quarter of 2013, this source indicated that the number of registered jobseekers in category A rose by 23,000. In one case unemployment is down, in the other it is up – this does not lead to a clear diagnosis about where unemployment is heading at year end. suite…»

Central banks and public debt: dangerous liaisons?

By Christophe Blot

Since 2008, monetary policy has been in the forefront of efforts to preserve financial stability and stem the economic crisis. Though the Great Recession was not avoided, the lessons of the crisis of the 1930s were learned. The central banks quickly cut short-term interest rates and have kept them at a level close to zero, while developing new monetary policy instruments. These so-called unconventional measures led to an increase in the size of balance sheets, which exceed 20% of GDP in the United States, the United Kingdom and the euro zone and 45% in Japan. Among the range of measures employed was the central banks’ purchase of public debt. The goal was to lower long-term interest rates, either by signalling that monetary policy will remain expansionary for an extended period, or by modifying the composition of the asset portfolios held by private agents. However, the Federal Reserve recently announced that it would gradually reduce its interventions (see here), which could cause a rapid rise in interest rates like that seen in May 2013 (Figure 1) upon the previous announcement of this type. In a context of high public debt, interest rate dynamics are crucial. The central banks need to take into account the enhanced interaction between monetary and fiscal policy by coordinating their decisions with those taken ​​by governments. suite…»

The responsibility pact’s obligation of a result

By Xavier Timbeau, @XTimbeau, OFCE

The original French text was published in the “Rebonds” section of the newspaper Libération on 28 February 2014.

Is the policy supply-side or demand-side? This debate takes us back decades to a time when the advocates of supply-side policy, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, wanted to put Keynesian practices into the closet. With respect to the responsibility pact, the debate is moot. There is a clear diagnosis that companies are suffering from such low margin rates that their very survival is threatened. The losses of market share since the 2000s cannot be explained solely by the transition to a post-industrial society. It is thus a priority to boost corporate margins by whatever means necessary. But the restoration of business margins will not be sufficient to put them back on a path of increasing productivity, ensuring their competitiveness in the medium term. Getting back on this path will require numerous reforms, ranging from a better education system to a stable tax system that is as neutral as possible, while making use of the impact of agglomeration and specialization. Coordinating everyone’s projects around a comprehensive strategy to make the energy transition is also a powerful instrument. But the responsibility pact remains silent on this. suite…»