Universal basic income: An ambition to be financed

By Pierre Madec and Xavier Timbeau

This evaluation of Universal Basic Income (UBI), the flagship proposal of French presidential candidate Benoît Hamon, highlights a potentially important impact of the measure on the living standards of the least well-off households and on inequalities in living standards. If implemented, a universal basic income would have the effect of making France one of the most egalitarian countries in the European Union. In return, the “net” cost of the programme could be high, around 45 to 50 billion euros. Given the measure’s cost, financing it through an income tax reform could make the French socio-fiscal system even more redistributive, but would lead to a considerable increase in the marginal tax rates borne by the wealthiest households. Continue reading “Universal basic income: An ambition to be financed”

Share Button

Europe is dead – Long live Europe!

By Maxime Parodi and Xavier Timbeau

The British people’s vote for Brexit merely reinforces the political logic that has become an imperative. On the one hand, people want to be consulted, while on the other, Europe is summoned to change. François Hollande believes that, “the vote of the United Kingdom is putting Europe to the test”; Alain Juppé holds that, “we must write a new page, a new chapter, in the history of Europe”; the leaders of France’s National Front, but not they alone, are calling for a referendum on France’s membership in the EU and in the euro. Throughout Europe, debate along these same lines is underway. Continue reading “Europe is dead – Long live Europe!”

Share Button

Give Recovery a Chance

By iAGS team, under the direction of Xavier Timbeau

The ongoing recovery of the Euro Area (EA) economy is too slow to achieve a prompt return to full employment. Despite apparent improvement in the labour market, the crisis is still developing under the covers, with the risk of leaving long-lasting “scars”, or a “scarification” of the social fabric in the EA. Moreover, the EA is lagging behind other developed economies and regardless of a relatively better performance in terms of public debt and current account, the current low rate of private investment is preparing a future of reduced potential growth and damaged competitiveness. So far, the Juncker Plan has not achieved the promised boost to investment. The internal rebalancing of the EA may fuel deflationary pressure if it is not dealt with through faster wage growth in surplus countries. Failure to use fiscal space where it is available will continue to weigh down on internal demand. Monetary policy may not succeed in the future in avoiding a sharp appreciation of the Euro against our trade partners’ currencies. Such an appreciation of the real effective exchange rate of the Euro would lock the EA in a prolonged period of stagnation and low inflation, if not deflation. Continue reading “Give Recovery a Chance”

Share Button

An ever so fragile recovery

By the Department of Analysis and Forecasting, under the direction of Eric Heyer and  Xavier Timbeau

This text summarizes the OFCE’s economic forecast for 2015-2017 for the euro zone and the rest of the world.

The figures for euro zone growth in the first half of 2015 have confirmed the upswing glimpsed at the end of 2014. While the zone’s return to growth might once have been taken to indicate the end of the global economic and financial crisis that struck in 2008, the turbulence hitting the emerging countries, particularly over the summer in China, is a reminder that the crisis ultimately seems to be continuing. China’s economic weight and its role in world trade are now so substantial that, even in the case of a soft landing, the impact on growth in the developed countries would be significant. We nevertheless anticipate that the scenario for a recovery need not be called into question, and that euro zone growth will be broadly supported by favourable factors (lower oil prices and ECB monetary support) and by some weakening of unfavourable factors (easing of fiscal policies). But the fact remains that the situation in the developing world will add new uncertainty to an already fragile recovery. Continue reading “An ever so fragile recovery”

Share Button

Investing in the zero carbon economy in order to escape secular stagnation

By Xavier Timbeau

What the downward revisions of various forecasts (IMFOECDOFCE) presented in early autumn 2015 tell us about the euro zone is not very comforting. A recovery is underway, but it is both sluggish and fragile (see: “A very fragile recovery“). The unemployment rate in the euro zone is still very high (almost 11% of the labour force in the second quarter), and a sluggish recovery means such a slow fall (0.6 point per year) that it will take more than seven years to return to the 2007 level. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank’s unconventional monetary policy is having difficulty re-anchoring inflation expectations. The announcement of quantitative easing in early 2015 pushed up the 5-year/5-year forward inflation rate [1], but since July 2015 the soufflé has collapsed once again and medium-term expectations are 0.8% per year, below the ECB target (2% per year). Underlying inflation has settled in at a low level (0.9% per year), and there is a high risk that the euro zone will be frozen in a state of low inflation or deflation, strangely resembling what Japan has experienced from the mid-1990s to today. Low inflation is not good news because it is triggered by high unemployment and slowly rising nominal wages. The result is real wages growing more slowly than productivity. Little or no inflation means both real interest rates that remain high, which increases the burden of debt and paralyzes investment, but also an unconventional monetary policy that undermines the ability to measure risks and which gradually loses its credibility for maintaining price stability, i.e. to keep inflation within declared targets. At the Jackson Hole Symposium in August 2014, Mario Draghi announced that, in the face of persistent unemployment, monetary policy cannot do everything. Structural reforms are necessary (what else could a central banker say?). But a demand policy is also needed. Not having one means running the risk of secular stagnation, as was formulated by Hansen in the late 1930s and recently brought up to date by Larry Summers. Continue reading “Investing in the zero carbon economy in order to escape secular stagnation”

Share Button

Greece: an agreement, again and again

By Céline Antonin, Raul Sampognaro, Xavier TimbeauSébastien Villemot

… La même nuit que la nuit d’avant                  […The same night as the night before
Les mêmes endroits deux fois trop grands          The same places, twice too big
T’avances comme dans des couloirs                     
You walk through the corridors
Tu t’arranges pour éviter les miroirs                     
You try to avoid the mirrors
Mais ça continue encore et encore …                    
But it just goes on and on…]

Francis Cabrel, Encore et encore, 1985.

Just hours before an exceptional EU summit on Greece, an agreement could be signed that would lead to a deal on the second bail-out package for Greece, releasing the final tranche of 7.2 billion euros. Greece could then meet its deadlines in late June with the IMF (1.6 billion euros) as well as those in July and August with the ECB (6.6 billion euros) and again with the IMF (0.45 billion euros). At the end of August, Greece’s debt to the IMF could rise by almost 1.5 billion euros, as the IMF is contributing 3.5 billion euros to the 7.2 billion euro tranche.

Greece has to repay a total of 8.6 billion euros by September, and nearly 12 billion by the end of the year, which means funding needs that exceed the 7.2 billion euros covered by the negotiations with the Brussels Group (i.e. the ex-Troika). To deal with this, the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) could be used, to the tune of about 10 billion euros, but it will no longer be available for recapitalizing the banks. Continue reading “Greece: an agreement, again and again”

Share Button

Save Greece by Democracy!

By Maxime Parodi @MaximeParodi, Thomas Piketty (Director of research at the EHESS and professor at Paris School of Economics), and Xavier Timbeau @XTimbeau

The newspapers have been full of the Greek drama since Syriza’s election to power on 25 January 2015. Caught in the noose of its loans, Greece’s government is defending its position by threatening to leave the euro zone. The situation today is at an impasse, and the country’s economy is collapsing. As bank deposits flee and uncertainty mounts about the times ahead and the measures to come, no-one is really able to think about the future.

Europeans, for their part, are wondering what has led to this state of affairs. There has been a diagnosis of Institutional incompleteness, with proposals to reinforce the construction of the euro zone. But what is emerging is not up to the challenges facing Europe. Continue reading “Save Greece by Democracy!”

Share Button

The spirit of the letter of the law … to avoid a “Graccident”

Raul Sampognaro and Xavier Timbeau

The noose, in the words of Alexis Tsipras, is getting tighter and tighter around the Greek government. The last tranche of the aid program (7.2 billion euros) has still not been released as the Brussels Group (the ex-Troika) has not accepted the conditions on the aid plan. The Greek state is therefore on the brink of default. It might be thought that this is simply one more episode in the drama that Greece has been acting out with its creditors and that, once again, at the last moment the money needed will be found. But if Greece has managed to meet its deadlines up to now, it has been at the price of expedients that it is not at all certain can be used again. Continue reading “The spirit of the letter of the law … to avoid a “Graccident””

Share Button

Greece on a tightrope

By Céline Antonin, Raul Sampognaro, Xavier Timbeau and Sébastien Villemot

This text summarizes the special study, “Greece on a tightrope”

Since early 2015, Greece’s new government has been facing intense pressure. At the very time that it is negotiating to restructure its debt, it is also facing a series of repayment deadlines. On 12 May 2015, 750 million euros was paid to the IMF by drawing on the country’s international reserves, a sign that liquidity constraints are becoming more and more pressing, as is evidenced by the letter sent by Alex Tsipras to Christine Lagarde a few days before the deadline. The respite will be short: in June, the country has to make another payment to the IMF for 1.5 billion euros. These first two deadlines are only a prelude to the “wall of debt” that the government must deal with in the summer when it faces repayments of 6.5 billion euros to the ECB. Continue reading “Greece on a tightrope”

Share Button

The coming recovery

By the Analysis and Forecasting Department, under the direction of Eric Heyer and Xavier Timbeau

This text summarises the OFCE 2015-2016 economic outlook for the euro zone and the rest of the world

While up to now the euro zone had not been part of the global recovery, the conjunction of a number of favourable factors (the fall in oil prices and depreciation of the euro) will unleash a more sustained process of growth that is shared by all the EU countries. These developments are occurring at a time when the massive and synchronised fiscal austerity that had pushed the euro zone back into recession in 2011 is easing. The brakes on growth are gradually being lifted, with the result that in 2015 and 2016 GDP should rise by 1.6% and 2%, respectively, which will reduce unemployment by half a point per year. This time the euro zone will be on the road to recovery. However, with an unemployment rate of 10.5% at the end of 2016, the social situation will remain precarious and the threat of deflation is not going away. Continue reading “The coming recovery”

Share Button