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”

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Does housing wealth contribute to wealth inequality?

par Guillaume Allègre and Xavier Timbeau

In a response to Capital in the twenty-first century, Odran Bonnet, Pierre-Henri Bono, Guillaume Chapelle and Etienne Wasmer (2014) attempt to show that the conclusion of the book in terms of the explosion of wealth inequality is not plausible. They point out what they see as an inconsistency in the thesis: according to the authors, the capital accumulation model used by Piketty is a model of accumulation of productive capital, which is inconsistent with the choice to use housing market prices to measure housing capital. To correctly measure housing capital, one should use rent and not housing prices. By doing this, the authors conclude that capital/income ratios have remained stable in France, Britain, the United States and Canada, which contradicts the thesis of Piketty. Continue reading “Does housing wealth contribute to wealth inequality?”

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The infinite clumsiness of the French budget

By Xavier Timbeau, @XTimbeau

In the draft budgetary plan presented to the European Commission on 15 October 2014, it is clear that France fails to comply with the rules on European governance and its previous commitments negotiated in the framework of the European Semester. As France is in an excessive deficit procedure, the Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, has no choice a priori but to reject the country’s budget plan. If the Commission does not reject the plan, which departs very significantly, at least in appearance, from our previous commitments, then no budget could ever be rejected. Continue reading “The infinite clumsiness of the French budget”

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Doesn’t real estate capital really contribute to inequality?

By Guillaume Allègre and Xavier Timbeau

In a response to Capital in the twenty-first century, Odran Bonnet, Pierre-Henri Bono, Guillaume Chapelle and Etienne Wasmer (2014) attempt to show that the book’s conclusions regarding an explosion in wealth inequality are “not plausible”. The authors point out an inconsistency in Thomas Piketty’s thesis: the model of capital accumulation is implicitly a model of the accumulation of productive capital, which is inconsistent with the decision to include real estate capital at its market value in measuring capital. If valued correctly, the ratio of capital to income would have remained stable in France, Britain, the United States and Canada, which contradicts the thesis of Piketty’s work. Continue reading “Doesn’t real estate capital really contribute to inequality?”

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Unemployment insurance for the euro zone?

By Xavier Timbeau

In the latest publication of France’s Treasury Department,  Lettre Trésor-Eco, no. 132, June 2014 (Ministère des Finances et des Comptes publics and Ministère de l’Économie du Redressement productif et du Numérique), Thomas Lellouch and Arthur Sode develop the operating methods and the merits of a common unemployment insurance for the euro zone. They specify the main steps of how it would be applied, which would ensure neutrality between the Member States. They argue for harmonized employment and labour market policies, leading in the long term to a single contribution rate in the euro zone: Continue reading “Unemployment insurance for the euro zone?”

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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. Continue reading “The critique of capital in the 21st century: in search of the macroeconomic foundations of inequalities”

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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. Continue reading “The responsibility pact’s obligation of a result”

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Manic-depressive austerity: let’s talk about it!

By Christophe Blot, Jérôme Creel, and Xavier Timbeau

Following discussions with our colleagues from the European Commission [1], we return to the causes of the prolonged period of recession experienced by the euro zone since 2009. We continue to believe that premature fiscal austerity has been a major political error and that an alternative policy would have been possible. The economists of the European Commission for their part continue to argue that there was no alternative to the strategy they advocated. It is worth examining these conflicting opinions. Continue reading “Manic-depressive austerity: let’s talk about it!”

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Important change of course at the Elysée Palace. Austerity is no longer the priority

By Xavier Timbeau, Twitter: @XTimbeau

(published in Le Monde on Thursday 16 January 2014, p. 17)

When he was elected François Hollande made fiscal discipline his main goal. The 2008 crisis was continuing to have an impact on the developed economies; in the face of a sovereign debt crisis, Europe’s governments had been implementing austerity measures that were to cause a second recession, a “double dip”, to use the language of economists. For example, when François Hollande came to power, the situation in France seemed disastrous: the public deficit was 5.2%, with a rise in the public debt of more than 600 billion euros since 2008 along with a 2-point rise in unemployment (to 9.6% of the workforce). The pressure was intense, and, the euro zone states were falling like dominos, with Spain and Italy in danger of following Greece, Portugal and Ireland. In this context, it seemed that only budgetary discipline could help Germany to support a faltering euro zone. Continue reading “Important change of course at the Elysée Palace. Austerity is no longer the priority”

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From austerity to stagnation

By Xavier Timbeau

Since 2010, the European Commission has published the Annual Growth Survey to stimulate discussion on the occasion of the European semester, during which the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Commission, and civil society discuss and develop the economic strategies of the various European countries. We considered it important to participate in this debate by publishing simultaneously with the Commission an independent Annual Growth Survey (iAGS), in collaboration with the IMK, a German institute, and the ECLM, a Danish institute. In the 2014 iAGS, for instance, we estimate the cost of the austerity measures enacted since 2011. This austerity policy, which was implemented while the fiscal multipliers were very high and on a scale unprecedented since the Second World War, was followed simultaneously by most euro zone countries. This resulted in lopping 3.2% off euro zone GDP for 2013. An alternative strategy, resulting after 20 years in the same GDP-to-debt ratios (i.e. 60% in most countries), would have been possible by not seeking to reduce public deficits in the short term when the multipliers are high. In order to lower the fiscal multipliers again, it’s necessary to reduce unemployment, build up agents’ balance sheets and get out of the liquidity trap. A more limited but ongoing adjustment strategy, just as fiscally rigorous but more suited to the economic situation, would have led to 2.3 additional points of GDP in 2013, which would have been much better than under the brutal austerity we find ourselves in today. This means there would not have been a recession in 2012 or 2013 for the euro zone as a whole (see the figure below: GDP in million euros). Continue reading “From austerity to stagnation”

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