The Janus-Faced Nature of Debt

by Mattia Guerini, Alessio Moneta, Mauro Napoletano, Andrea Roventini

The financial and economic crises of 2008 have been intimately interwined with the dynamics of debt. As a matter of fact, a research by Ng and Wright (2013) reports that in the last thirty years all the U.S. recessions had financial origins. Continue reading “The Janus-Faced Nature of Debt”

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Balance sheets effects of a euro break-up

By Cédric Durand (Université Paris 13), and Sébastien Villemot

When it was introduced at the turn of the millennium, the euro was widely perceived as a major achievement for Europe. The apparent economic successes, coupled with cross-country convergence of several economic indicators, fueled this sentiment of success. A couple of years later, the picture looks dramatically different. The world financial crisis has revealed imbalances that have led to the sovereign debt crisis and brought the euro area on the verge of dislocation. The austerity policies that became the norm on the continent in 2011 fueled a protracted stagnation[1], with growth rates that look bleak in comparison to the United States and the United Kingdom.

This economic underperformance has fueled popular resentment against the euro, now seen by a growing number of European people as the problem rather than the solution. The financial community itself seems to be prepared to the possibility of an exit or a dissolution of the single currency by cutting back on cross-border positions. Greece was on the verge to leave in 2015. And the intellectual mood is also shifting: leading thinkers, such as US economist Joseph Stiglitz, or German Sociologist Wolfgang Streeck are among the most visible figures of a wider change of attitude. Continue reading “Balance sheets effects of a euro break-up”

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European Semester: assessing the aggregate fiscal stance is good, discussing about its economic impact is better

by Raul Sampognaro

On November the 26th, the ECFIN launched the European Semester and published the 2016 Annual Growth Survey and the Euro Area policy recommendation. The ECFIN states that the large spillovers from fiscal policy decisions and the current constraints on the single monetary policy call for strengthened attention to the aggregate fiscal stance at the euro area level. The recommended aggregate fiscal stance should take into account the cyclical position of the euro area. Moreover, a broadly neutral aggregate fiscal stance for the next years in the euro area appears appropriate to ECFIN in light of downside risks to growth and the persistent economic slack. Continue reading “European Semester: assessing the aggregate fiscal stance is good, discussing about its economic impact is better”

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Wage moderation in Germany – at the origin of France’s economic difficulties

By Xavier Ragot, President of the OFCE, CNRS-PSE, together with Mathilde Le Moigne, ENS

If the future of the euro zone does indeed depend on political cooperation between France and Germany, then economic divergences between the two countries should be a cause for concern. These divergences need to be analysed, with particular attention to three specific areas: the unemployment rate, the trade balance and the public debt. Germany’s unemployment rate is falling steadily; in June it was under the 5% mark, which represents almost full employment, whereas the French rate is over 10%. Germany’s low unemployment rate does not however reflect strong consumption by German households, but rather the country’s export capacity. While France continues to run a negative trade balance (importing more than it exports), Germany is now the world’s leading exporter, ahead of China, with a trade surplus that will run close to 8% in 2015. As for the public deficit, it will be around 3.8% in France in 2015, while Germany is now generating a surplus. This has impressive consequences for the way the public debt is changing in the two countries. In 2010 they were similar, at around 80% of GDP, but in 2014 Germany’s public debt fell below 75%, and is continuing to decline, while France’s debt has continued to grow, and has now hit 97%. This kind of gap is unprecedented in recent times, and is fraught with mounting tension over the conduct of monetary policy. Continue reading “Wage moderation in Germany – at the origin of France’s economic difficulties”

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The Greek Sisyphus and its public debt: towards an end to the ordeal?

By Céline Antonin

After its failure to elect a new President by a qualified majority vote, the Greek Parliament was dissolved, with early elections to be held on 25 January 2015. The radical left party Syriza is leading the opinion polls on the election, ahead of the “New Democracy” party of the outgoing Prime Minister, Anthony Samaras. While Syriza’s economic programme has met with enthusiasm from the population, it has aroused concern from the Troika of creditors (IMF, ECB and EU), particularly on three issues: the country’s potential withdrawal from the euro zone, the implementation of a fiscal stimulus, and a partial sovereign default. This last topic will be the main issue after the elections. Continue reading “The Greek Sisyphus and its public debt: towards an end to the ordeal?”

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Does growth in the euro zone really depend on a hypothetical German fiscal stimulus?

By Christophe Blot and Jérôme Creel

The debate on economic policy in Europe was re-ignited this summer by Mario Draghi during the now traditional symposium at Jackson Hole, which brings together the world’s main central bankers. Despite this, it seems that both the one side (Wolfgang Schaüble, Germany’s finance minister) and the other (Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF) are holding to their positions: fiscal discipline plus structural reforms, or demand stimulus plus structural reforms. Although the difference can seem tenuous, the way is now open for what Ms. Lagarde called “fiscal manoeuvring room to support a European recovery”. She is targeting Germany in particular, but is she really right? Continue reading “Does growth in the euro zone really depend on a hypothetical German fiscal stimulus?”

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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. Continue reading “Towards a better governance in the EU?”

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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%. Continue reading “Revising the budget in Croatia: yes, but … for whom and why?”

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So far so good …

By Christophe Blot

The euro zone is still in recession. According to Eurostat, GDP fell again in the fourth quarter of 2012 (‑0.6%). This figure, which was below expectations, is the worst quarterly performance in the euro zone since the first quarter of 2009, and it is also the fifth consecutive quarter of a decline in activity. For 2012 as a whole, GDP decreased by 0.5%. This annual figure masks substantial heterogeneity in the zone (Figures 1 and 2), since Germany posted annual growth of 0.9% while for the second consecutive year Greece is likely to suffer a recession of more than 6%. Moreover, taking all the countries together, the growth rate will be lower in 2012 than in 2011, and some countries (Spain and Italy to name but two) will sink deeper into depression. This performance is all the more worrying as several months of renewed optimism had aroused hopes that the euro zone was recovering from the crisis. Were there grounds for such hope? Continue reading “So far so good …”

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A recession is not inevitable

By Marion Cochard, Bruno Ducoudré and Danielle Schweisguth

The cold blast from the autumn forecasts continues with the publication of the European Central Bank’s latest forecasts. Revising its growth outlook for the euro zone downwards (to -0.3% for 2013, against the forecast of 0.9% in September), the ECB in turn is now pointing to the reinforced austerity measures and the growing impact of uncertainty in the financial markets. It is clear that the intensity of the fiscal consolidation is paralyzing growth in the euro zone through the interplay of the fiscal multipliers, while not managing to restore confidence. In this note we show that the recessionary spiral that the euro zone is getting sucked into is not an inevitability. Continue reading “A recession is not inevitable”

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