It seems like it’s raining billions

Jérôme CreelXavier Ragot, and Francesco Saraceno

The second meeting of the Eurogroup did the trick. The Ministers of Finance, after having once again laid out their divisions on the issue of solidarity between euro area Member States on Tuesday 7 April 2020, reached an agreement two days later on a fiscal support plan that can be put in place fairly quickly. The health measures taken by the Member States to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic will enjoy better short-term financing, which is good news. The additions to Europe’s tools for dealing with the crisis will be on the order of 500 billion euros – this is certainly not negligible, and note that this comes on top of the efforts already put in place by governments – but this corresponds mainly to a new accumulation of debt by the Member States. The net gain for each of them, as we shall see, is actually quite marginal.

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What do the fiscal stimulus strategies in the United States and Europe reveal?

By Christophe Blot and Xavier Timbeau

In parallel with the decisions taken by the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank (ECB), governments are stepping up announcements of stimulus packages to try to cushion the economic impact of the Covid-19 health crisis, which has triggered a recession on an unprecedented scale and pace. The confinement of the population and the closure of non-essential businesses is leading to a reduction in hours worked and in consumption and investment, combining a supply shock and demand shock.

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Measuring precautionary savings related to the risk of unemployment

By Céline Antonin

The question of how disposable income is shared between savings and consumption involves trade-offs that take place at the household level and has direct implications at the aggregate level. For example, if the propensity to save is higher among wealthy households, a consumer stimulus will be more effective if it targets low incomes. Another example concerns how progressive the income tax system is: if the savings rate rises with income, then making income tax more progressive will have a more than proportional effect on the decline in national savings, with consequences for investment. Continue reading “Measuring precautionary savings related to the risk of unemployment”

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Trump’s budget policy: Mortgaging the future?

By Christophe Blot

While the momentum for growth has lost steam in some countries – Germany, France and Japan in particular – GDP in the United States is continuing to rise at a steady pace. Growth could even pick up pace in the course of the year as a highly expansionary fiscal policy is implemented. In 2018 and 2019, the fiscal stimulus approved by the Trump administration – in December 2017 for the revenue component, and in February 2018 for the expenditure side – would amount to 2.9 GDP points. This level of fiscal impulse would come close to that implemented by Obama for 2008. However, Trump’s choice has been made in a very different context, since the unemployment rate in the United States fell back below the 4% mark in April 2018, whereas it was accelerating 10 years ago, peaking at 9.9% in 2009. The US economy should benefit from the stimulus, but at the cost of accumulating additional debt. Continue reading “Trump’s budget policy: Mortgaging the future?”

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What strategy for internally rebalancing the euro zone?

By Sébastien Villemot and Bruno Ducoudré

The euro zone has made significant efforts to reduce its trade imbalances since the outbreak of the financial crisis. In 2009, only Germany, the Netherlands and Austria had a current account surplus, while all the other countries, in particular France, Italy and Spain, ran current account deficits, resulting in a deficit for the zone as a whole (-0.7% of GDP). Five years later, in 2014, the situation had changed radically. The euro zone had a large current account surplus –3.4% of GDP – with almost all the countries running a surplus (figure). Continue reading “What strategy for internally rebalancing the euro zone?”

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The potential headache of measuring economies in public expenditure

By Raul Sampognaro

Since 2009, the French budget deficit has been cut by 3.3 GDP points, from 7.2 percent of GDP in 2009 to 3.9 points in 2014, even though the economic situation has been weighing heavily on the public purse. This improvement was due to the implementation of a tighter budget policy. Between 2010 and 2013, most of the consolidation effort came from higher taxes, but since 2014 the effort has largely involved savings in public expenditure. In 2014, public expenditure excluding tax credits[1]  recorded its weakest growth since 1959, the year when INSEE began to publish the national accounts: in value, spending excluding tax credits increased by 0.9%, though only 0.3% in volume terms (deflated by the GDP deflator). Continue reading “The potential headache of measuring economies in public expenditure”

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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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Greece: When history repeats itself

By Jacques Le Cacheux

The duration of the Greek crisis and the harshness of the series of austerity plans that have been imposed on it to straighten out its public finances and put it in a position to meet its obligations to its creditors have upset European public opinion and attracted great comment. The hard-fought agreement reached on Monday 13 July at the summit of the euro zone heads of state and government, along with the demands made prior to the Greek referendum on 5 July, which were rejected by a majority of voters, contain conditions that are so unusual and so contrary to State sovereignty as we are used to conceiving of it that they shocked many of Europe’s citizens and strengthened the arguments of eurosceptics, who see all this as proof that European governance is being exercised contrary to democracy.

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Argentina’s experience of debt crisis

By Augusto Hasman and Maurizio Iacopetta

There is still a lot of uncertainty around the possible paths that Greece can follow in the near feature. One possible path, which may be still averted by the current negotiation, is that Greece will default on the upcoming debt obligations (see graphics here for a detailed list of the upcoming Greek debt deadlines), thus spiraling into a currency and credit crisis and possibly resulting in a “Grexit”[1].

The Greek debt crisis shares some similarity with the Latin American debt crisis of the 1990s and early 2000s. In both Greece and Latin America, debts are mostly bond debts or debts to international institutions. Similarly to Greece, many Latin American countries had become more and more open in the decades before the crisis. The series of financial crises started with Mexico’s December 1994 collapse. It was followed by Argentina’s $95 billion default (the largest in history at that time, although later on Argentina resumed some of the payments), Brazil’s financial crisis (1998-2002) and Uruguay’s default (2002). Continue reading “Argentina’s experience of debt crisis”

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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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