There is great diversity to Europe’s tax systems, reflecting the choices of sovereign States with differentiated destinies. Since the Treaty of Rome, the Member States have steadily refused to give up national authority over taxation, with the exception of a minimum level of coordination on value-added tax (VAT). Europe now faces a real risk of a rise in non-cooperative tax strategies, with each country seeking to improve its economic performance at the expense of the others. This kind of aggressive strategy is being fuelled by two factors: on the one hand, a drive for competitiveness (fiscal devaluation), aimed at reducing the tax burden on businesses so as to improve price competitiveness; and on the other, a drive for fiscal advantage, aimed at luring the rarest factors of production to the national territory. On a macroeconomic level, it is difficult to distinguish clearly between these two factors. However, one way of understanding how the European states have improved their position may be to look at how the tax burden on business has evolved in comparison with the burden on households.
How to put public finances on a good track when (almost) all measures regarding spending cuts and tax increases have been already exhausted? Croatia’s government has been seeking to solve this tricky problem since mid-November when an excessive deficit procedure (EDP) was launched against the country. Let us explain what an EDP means: the public deficit of Croatia currently exceeds 3% of GDP; the breach is neither exceptional nor temporary; consequently, the government of Croatia has to curb its public deficit in a lasting way.
On 28 January 2014, the EU Council will propose (1) the time limits within which Croatia must reduce its deficit below 3% of GDP and (2) the average annual amounts of deficit reduction during the period. Yet, (3) the EU council will invite formally the government of Croatia to propose concrete measures towards reducing the deficit-to-GDP ratio below 3%. Continue reading “Croatia under the Excessive Deficit Procedure: which measures should be implemented?”
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 , 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  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”
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”
By Marion Cochard and Danielle Schweisguth
On 29 May, the European Commission sent the members of the European Union its new economic policy recommendations. In these recommendations, the Commission calls for postponing the date for achieving the public deficit goals of four euro zone countries (Spain, France, Netherlands and Portugal), leaving them more time to hit the 3% target. Italy is no longer in the excessive deficit procedure. Only Belgium is called on to intensify its efforts. Should this new roadmap be interpreted as a shift towards an easing of austerity policy in Europe? Can we expect a return to growth in the Old Continent? Continue reading “Austerity in Europe: a change of course?”
By Marion Cochard and Danielle Schweisguth
On 29 May, the European Commission sent the members of the European Union its new economic policy recommendations. As part of this, the Commission granted France an additional two years to reach the deficit reduction target of 3%. This target is now set for 2015, and to achieve this the European Commission is calling for fiscal impulses of -1.3 GDP points in 2013 and -0.8 point in 2014 (see “Austerity in Europe: a change of course?”). This would ease the structural effort needed, since the implementation of the previous commitments would have required impulses of -2.1 and -1.3 GDP points for 2013 and 2014, respectively. Continue reading “France: why such zeal?”
Under pressure from the financial markets and Europe’s institutions, the government felt obliged to present a new pension reform in 2013. However, reducing the level of pensions should not now be a priority for French economic policy: it is much more urgent to re-establish satisfactory growth, reform the euro zone’s macroeconomic strategy, and give a new boost to France’s industrial policy as part of an ecological transition. Establishing a committee of senior officials and experts is a common practice that is used these days to depoliticize economic and social choices and distance them from democratic debate. In this respect, the Moreau report, released on 14 June 2013, seems like a bad compromise. Although it does not call into question the public pension system, it weakens it and does not give itself the means to ensure the system’s social viability. Continue reading “Pensions: the Moreau report’s poor compromise”
The crisis affecting the euro zone is the result of macroeconomic and financial imbalances that developed during the 2000s. The European economies that have provoked doubt about the sustainability of their public finances (Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy ) are those that ran up the highest current account deficits before the crisis and that saw sharp deteriorations in competitiveness between 2000 and 2007. Over that same period Germany gained competitiveness and built up growing surpluses, to such an extent that it has become a model to be emulated across the euro zone, and especially in the countries of southern Europe. Continue reading “Competitiveness: danger zone!”
The main challenge of the Bretton Woods agreements was to reconcile social justice and full employment to be achieved through domestic policies with an international discipline and progress toward trade liberalization (Rodrick 2011). After more than six decades, such division of objectives between international and domestic policies has been questioned by the current economic crisis, characterized by high debt levels, remarkable global imbalances and low global demand. It can hence be useful to reopen an old debate by reconsidering ideas that were discarded in the past, such as the proposal of Keynes to create global demand stabilizers. Our suggestion is that a global stabilizer that prescribes surplus countries to gradually increase their wages can have both a direct positive effect on global demand, without increasing public debts, and an indirect one by favouring a reduction in income disparities. Continue reading “Inequality and Global Imbalances: reconsidering old ideas to address new problems”
While France has just reaffirmed that it will meet its commitment to reduce its budget deficit to below 3% by 2014 (see Eric Heyer), the Netherlands has announced that it is abandoning this goal on the grounds that additional austerity measures could jeopardize growth. The country plunged into recession in 2012 (-1%), and GDP will fall again in 2013 (see the analysis of the CPB, the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis). In these circumstances, the social situation has deteriorated rapidly, with a 2 percentage point rise in unemployment in five quarters. In the first quarter of 2013, 7.8% of the workforce was out of work. Beyond the implications for the Netherlands itself, could this rejection of austerity (finally) signal a shift in Europe’s strategy of fiscal consolidation? Continue reading “In the Netherlands, change is for now!”