Spain: a 2018 budget on target, if the Commission likes it or not

By Christine Rifflart

With a deficit of 3.1% of GDP in 2017, Spain has cut its deficit by 1.4 points from 2016 and has been meeting its commitments to the European Commission. It should cross the 3% threshold in 2018 without difficulty, making it the latest country to leave the excessive deficit procedure (EDP), after France in 2017. The 2018 budget was first presented to the European Commission on April 30 and then approved by Spain’s Congress of Deputies on May 23 amidst a highly tense political situation, which on June 1 led to the dismissal of Spain’s President Mariano Rajoy (supported by the Basque nationalist representatives of the PNV Party who had approved the 2018 budget a few days earlier). It should be passed in the Senate soon by another majority vote. Continue reading “Spain: a 2018 budget on target, if the Commission likes it or not”

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France’s growth in 2018-2019: What the forecasters say …

By Sabine Le Bayon and Christine Rifflart

Following the INSEE’s publication of the first version of the accounts for the fourth quarter of 2017 and a first estimate of annual growth, we have been considering the outlook for 2018 and 2019 based on a comparative analysis of forecasts made for France by 18 public and private institutes, including the OFCE, between September and December 2017. This post presents the highlights of this analysis, which are given in detail in OFCE Policy Brief No. 32 of 8 February 2018 entitled, “A comparison of macroeconomic forecasts for France” and the associated working paper (No. 06-2018) (which contains the tables of the institutes’ forecasts). Continue reading “France’s growth in 2018-2019: What the forecasters say …”

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Oil: carbon for growth

By Céline AntoninBruno Ducoudré, Hervé Péléraux, Christine Rifflart, Aurélien Saussay

This text is based on the special study of the same name [Pétrole : du carbone pour la croissance, in French] that accompanies the OFCE’s 2015-2016 Forecast for the euro zone and the rest of the world.

The 50% fall in the price of Brent between summer 2014 and January 2015 and its continuing low level over the following months is good news for oil-importing economies. In a context of weak growth, this has resulted in a transfer of wealth to the benefit of the net importing countries through the trade balance, which is stimulating growth and fuelling a recovery. Lower oil prices are boosting household purchasing power and driving a rise in consumption and investment in a context where companies’ production costs are down. This has stimulated exports, with the additional demand from other oil-importing economies more than offsetting the slowdown seen in the exporting economies. Continue reading “Oil: carbon for growth”

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Devaluation through wages in the euro zone: a lose-lose adjustment

by Sabine Le Bayon, Mathieu Plane, Christine Rifflart and Raul Sampognaro

Since the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008 and the sovereign debt crisis in 2010-2011, the euro zone countries have developed adjustment strategies aimed at restoring market confidence and putting their economies back on the path to growth. The countries hit hardest by the crisis are those that depended heavily on the financial markets and had very high current account deficits (Spain, Italy, but also Ireland, Portugal and Greece). Although the deficits have now been largely resolved, the euro zone is still wallowing in sluggish growth, with deflationary tendencies that could intensify if no changes are made. Without an adjustment in exchange rates, the adjustment is taking place through jobs and wages. The consequences of this devaluation through wages, which we summarize here, are described in greater depth in the special study published in the dossier on the OFCE’s forecasts (Revue de l’OFCE, no. 136, November 2014). Continue reading “Devaluation through wages in the euro zone: a lose-lose adjustment”

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On the difficulty of carrying out structural reforms in a period of high unemployment

By Sabine Le Bayon, Mathieu Plane, Christine Rifflart and Raul Sampognaro

Structural reforms aimed at developing a more flexible labour market are often attributed all the virtues of fighting against mass unemployment and limiting the segmentation of the labour market between “insiders” on stable contracts  and “outsiders” who are unemployed or on precarious contracts. When the economy is growing, these measures can facilitate job creation for the benefit of the outsiders, but the results are likely to be more uncertain in a context of mass unemployment and sluggish growth. Structural reforms can indeed reduce the labour market duality arising from regulatory measures but they cannot combat the duality of the labour market inherent in human capital, which is exacerbated during periods of mass unemployment: given the same qualifications it is experience that makes the difference, and given equal experience it is qualifications that make the difference. High unemployment therefore strengthens the phenomenon of “queuing” to access more stable jobs. Structural reforms aimed at streamlining the labour market will thus primarily affect employees who have less qualifications and experience without however enabling outsiders to gain access to more stable employment. This means that inequality between workers is likely to rise, with no positive impact on employment due to the sluggishness of the economy. Only macroeconomic management that takes on board the goal of returning to full employment could lead to successful structural reform. Continue reading “On the difficulty of carrying out structural reforms in a period of high unemployment”

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What’s masked by the fall in US unemployment rates

By Christine Rifflart

Despite the further decline in the US unemployment rate in December, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released last week confirms paradoxically that the American labour market is in poor health. The US unemployment rate fell by 0.3 percentage point from November (-1.2 points from December 2012) to end the year at 6.7%. The rate has fallen 3.3 percentage points from a record high in October 2009, and is coming closer and closer to the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (NAIRU), which since 2010 has been set by the OECD at 6.1%. However, these results do not at all reflect a rebound in employment, but instead mask a further deterioration in the economic situation. Continue reading “What’s masked by the fall in US unemployment rates”

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America’s fiscal headache

By Christine Rifflart

Before next December 13th, the Budget Conference Committee must present the results of the discussions begun following the shutdown and debt crisis in October 2013. The objective of the negotiations is to enable Congress to approve the 2014 Budget, for which the fiscal year began on October 1 [1], and find an alternative to the automatic cuts in federal spending that are to take effect on 1 January 2014. An agreement does not seem out of reach. Even if sharp opposition between Republicans and Democrats remains, reason should prevail and the risk of a new budget crisis seems excluded. At worst a new Continuing Resolution [2] will be passed that allows institutions to continue to function and the arbitrary nature of automatic budget cuts in structural expenditure to guide government policy. At best, the negotiations will lead to reasoned cuts in expenditure, and even to increases in some revenues that will then curb the violence of the adjustment, a violence that is amplified by the ending of the exceptional measures to support income and activity that were enacted at the heart of the crisis. Continue reading “America’s fiscal headache”

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No surprises from the Fed*

By Christine Rifflart

Not surprisingly, at its meeting on 29 and 30 October the Monetary Policy Committee of the US Federal Reserve decided to maintain its unconventional measures and to leave the federal funds rate unchanged. Since the end of 2012, the Fed has been making massive purchases of securities (government bonds and mortgage debt) at a rate of $85 billion per month. The aim is to put pressure on long-term rates and to support economic activity, including the real estate market. Continue reading “No surprises from the Fed*”

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Shut down: America in the spotlight

By Christine Rifflart

A State that asks a third of its civil servants to stay home because it can’t pay them is in a critical situation. When it’s the United States, it’s the whole world that worries.

The absence of an agreement on the 2014 budget, which was to take lawful effect as of Tuesday, 1 October 2013, shows the standoff in Congress between Democrats and Republicans. This kind of contention over the budget is not new: no budget has been passed since 2011, and the federal government has worked up to now through “continuing resolutions” that are used to release the funds needed for the government to function and operate, on a provisional basis. Today’s blockage is on a different scale, and parts of the administration have had to close their doors due to lack of funds. This exceptional situation is not unprecedented: 17 shutdowns have occurred since 1976, the last two under the Clinton administration, lasting, respectively, one week (from 13 to 18 November 1995) and three weeks (from 15 December 1995 to 6 January 1996). Continue reading “Shut down: America in the spotlight”

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Rent control: will the ALUR law be sufficient?

By Sabine Le Bayon, Pierre Madec and Christine Rifflart

On 10 September 2013, Parliament began discussing the bill on “Access to housing and urban renovation [“Accès au Logement et un Urbanisme Rénové” – ALUR]. This legislation will result in stepped-up state intervention in the private rental market and complements the government decree that took effect in summer 2012 on rent control in high-pressure areas. This was an initial step in the government’s effort to curb the increase in housing costs being faced by renters. [1] Continue reading “Rent control: will the ALUR law be sufficient?”

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