Lower taxation on business but higher on households

By Mathieu Plane and Raul Sampognaro

Following the delivery of the Gallois Report in November 2012, the government decided at the beginning of Francois Hollande’s five-year term to give priority to reducing the tax burden on business. But since 2015, the President of the Republic seems to have entered a new phase of his term by pursuing the objective of reducing the tax burden on households. This was seen in the elimination of the lowest income tax bracket and the development of a new allowance mechanism that mitigates tax progressivity at the lower levels of income tax. But more broadly, what can be said about the evolution of the compulsory tax burden on households and businesses in 2015 and 2016, as well as over the longer term? Continue reading “Lower taxation on business but higher on households”

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2015-2017 forecasts for the French economy

By Mathieu PlaneBruno DucoudréPierre Madec, Hervé Péléraux and Raul Sampognaro

This text summarizes the OFCE’s economic forecast for the French economy for 2015-2017

After a hesitant upturn in the first half of 2015 (with growth rates of 0.7% and 0% respectively in the first and second quarter), the French economy grew slowly in the second half year, with GDP rising by an average of 1.1% for the year as a whole. With a GDP growth rate of 0.3% in the third quarter of 2015 and 0.4% in the fourth quarter, which was equal to the pace of potential growth, the unemployment rate stabilized at 10% at year end. Household consumption (+1.7% in 2015) was boosted by the recovery in purchasing power due in particular to lower oil prices, which will prop up growth in 2015, but the situation of investment by households (-3.6%) and the public administration (-2.6%) will continue to hold back activity. In a context of sluggish growth and moderate fiscal consolidation, the government deficit will continue to fall slowly, to 3.7% of GDP in 2015. Continue reading “2015-2017 forecasts for the French economy”

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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”

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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””

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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”

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The planetary alignment has not always been favourable to the euro zone countries

By Eric Heyer and Raul Sampognaro

In 2015, the euro zone economies will benefit from a favourable “planetary alignment” (with the euro and oil prices down and financial constraints on the economy easing), which should trigger a virtuous circle of growth. Over the previous four years (2011-2014), the “planetary alignment” that existed was in a diametrically opposite direction: the euro and oil prices were high, with financing conditions and the fiscal stance very tight.

In a recent article, we propose an evaluation of the impact of these four factors on the economic performance of six major developed countries since 2011 (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and USA). Continue reading “The planetary alignment has not always been favourable to the euro zone countries”

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France: Recovery … at last!

By Mathieu PlaneBruno DucoudréPierre Madec, Hervé Péléraux and Raul Sampognaro

The OFCE’s forecast for the French economy in 2015-2016 is now available.

Not since the beginning of the subprime crisis has the French economy been in such a favourable situation for a recovery. The fall in oil prices, the ECB’s proactive and innovative policy, the easing of fiscal consolidation in France and the euro zone, the gathering impact of the CICE tax and the implementation of the Responsibility Pact (representing a tax transfer to business of 23 billion euros in 2015 and nearly 33 billion in 2016) all point in the same direction. The main obstacles that have held back French activity over the last four years (over-calibrated fiscal austerity, a strong euro, tight financial conditions, and high oil prices) should all be out of the way in 2015 and 2016, with pent-up growth finally released. The supply policy being pushed by the government, whose impact on business is still pending, will be all the more effective thanks to the positive demand shock from foreign trade, which will allow the economic rebalancing that was lacking up to now.

French GDP will grow by 1.4% in 2015, with the pace accelerating in the course of the year (to 2% yoy). The second half of 2015 will mark the turning point in the recovery, with the corporate investment rate picking up and the unemployment rate beginning to fall, ending the year at 9.8% (after 10% in late 2014). 2016 will then be the year of recovery, with GDP growth of 2.1%, a 4% increase in productive investment and the creation of nearly 200,000 private sector jobs, pushing the unemployment rate down to 9 5% by end 2016. In this positive context, the public deficit will fall significantly, and is expected to be 3.1% of GDP in 2016 (after 3.7% in 2015).

Obviously this virtuous cycle will only take effect if the macroeconomic environment remains favourable (low oil prices, a competitive euro, no new financial tensions in the euro zone, etc.) and if the government limits itself to the budget savings already announced.

 

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Flexibility versus the new fiscal effort – the last word has not been spoken

By Raul Sampognaro

On 13 January, the Juncker Commission clarified its position on the flexibility that the Member States have in implementing the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). The new reading of the SGP should result in reining in the fiscal consolidation required for certain countries[1]. Henceforth, the Commission can apply the “structural reform clause” to a country in the corrective arm of the Pact[2], whereas previously this was only possible for countries in the Pact’s preventive arm[3]. This clause will allow a Member State to deviate temporarily from its prior commitments and postpone them to a time when the fruits of reform would make adjustment easier. In order for the Commission to agree to activate the clause, certain conditions must be met: Continue reading “Flexibility versus the new fiscal effort – the last word has not been spoken”

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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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