Inequality and Global Imbalances: reconsidering old ideas to address new problems

by Jean-Luc Gaffard and Francesco Vona

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”

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In the Netherlands, change is for now!

By Christophe Blot

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!”

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What kind of pension reform for 2013?

In a speech on 28 March, Francois Hollande raised the 20 billion euro deficit forecast for 2020 in order to announce a further extension of the pension contributions period, while refusing to end the indexation of low state pensions and pensions in the statutory pension system. Francois Hollande and the French government also pledged to re-balance the public finances by 2017. As they no longer wish to increase the tax burden in a period of weak or even non-existent growth, this means cutting public spending by at least 70 billion euros, or about 7%. As pensions account for a quarter of public expenditure, they cannot be spared the austerity axe. There is a major risk that the goal of re-balancing the public finances will result in lowering the level of pension payments. When negotiating the supplemental pension arrangements in March 2013, the MEDEF managed to obtain pension increases of 1 percentage point below the inflation rate for 3 years, meaning a 3% loss in purchasing power. In a recently published note (Notes de l’OFCE, no. 26 dated 24 April 2013), Henri Sterdyniak explains that there are other possible approaches to reform.

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The chalice of austerity, right to the dregs

Céline Antonin, Christophe Blot and Danielle Schweisguth

This text summarizes the OFCE’s April 2013 forecasts

The macroeconomic and social situation in the euro zone continues to cause concern. The year 2012 was marked by a further decline in GDP (-0.5%) and a continuing rise in the unemployment rate, which reached 11.8% in December. While this new recession is not comparable in magnitude to that of 2009, it is comparable in duration, as GDP fell for the fifth consecutive time in the last quarter of 2012. Above all, for some countries (Spain, Greece and Portugal), this prolonged recession marks the beginning of deflation that could quickly spread to other countries in the euro zone (see The onset of deflation). Finally, this performance has demonstrated the failure of the macroeconomic strategy implemented in the euro zone since 2011. Continue reading “The chalice of austerity, right to the dregs”

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Family benefits: family business?

By Hélène Périvier

Bertrand Fragonard has submitted his report to the Prime Minister; it aims, first, to enhance the redistributive nature of family policy and, second, to rebalance the accounts of the family branch, which have recently been running a deficit, by 2016. A realignment of family benefits towards low-income families is proposed as the first objective. As for the second, the two options proposed are adjusting benefits based on means, or taxing them. How can 2 billion euros be found in today’s lean times? Continue reading “Family benefits: family business?”

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Cyprus: Aphrodite to the rescue?

By Céline Antonin and Sandrine Levasseur

For two weeks Cyprus sent tremors through the European Union. If the banking crisis that the island is going through has attracted much attention, it is essentially for two reasons. First, because the dithering over the rescue plan led to a crisis of confidence in deposit insurance, and second, because it was the first time that the European Union had allowed a bank to fail without coming to its aid. While the method of resolving the Cyprus crisis seems to represent an institutional advance [1], insofar as investors have been forced to face up to their responsibilities and citizens no longer have to pay for the mistakes of the banks, the impact of the purge of the island’s real economy will nevertheless be massive. With its heavy dependence on the banking and financial sector, Cyprus is likely to face a severe recession and will have to reinvent a growth model in the years to come. In this respect, the exploitation of natural gas resources seems an interesting prospect that should not be ruled out in the medium / long term. Continue reading “Cyprus: Aphrodite to the rescue?”

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And what if the austerity budget has succeeded better in France than elsewhere? [1]

By Mathieu Plane

Faced with a rapid and explosive deterioration in their public accounts, the industrialized countries, particularly in Europe, have implemented large-scale austerity policies, some as early as 2010, in order to quickly reduce their deficits. In a situation like this, several questions about France’s fiscal policy need to be examined:

– First, has France made a greater or lesser fiscal effort than other OECD countries to deal with its public accounts?

– Second, is there a singularity in the fiscal austerity policy implemented by France and has it had more or less effect on growth and the level of unemployment? Continue reading “And what if the austerity budget has succeeded better in France than elsewhere? [1]”

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Zero interest loans: only for the rich?

By Pierre Madec

On 1 January 2013, a new version of the zero-interest loan (prêt à taux zéro – PTZ) came into force. It is more restrictive than previous versions, with lower eligibility ceilings and a sharper focus on new housing (and old “HLM” council housing). Here we review the measure’s possible consequences. Continue reading “Zero interest loans: only for the rich?”

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How to reform the reduction on payroll taxes?

By Mathieu Bunel, Céline Emond, Yannick L’Horty

More than 20 billion euros are spent every year by the State to compensate the general exemptions from social security contributions, making this the leading employment policy plank in France, both in terms of the total budget and the numbers concerned – more than one employee out of two benefits from the reduction in contributions. In these times of fiscal pressure and the inexorable upward trend in unemployment, questions are being raised about the sustainability of such a scheme, whose scale, which was unified by the 2003 Fillon reform, consists of a reduction that shrinks as the wage rises, up to the level of 1.6 times the minimum wage (SMIC). At the level of the SMIC, the reduction comes to 26 points (28 points for firms with fewer than 20 employees). Continue reading “How to reform the reduction on payroll taxes?”

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The death throes of the “Confederation of Europe”?

By Jacques Le Cacheux

Will the institutions that the European Union has developed – from the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, which created it and defined the roadmap that led to the launch of the euro in 1999, to the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, which took up the main articles of the constitutional treaty that the French and Dutch had refused to ratify in referendums in 2005 – be sufficient to resolve the crisis facing the EU today? After five years of economic stagnation and nearly four years of persistent pressure on national debts, it had seemed that fears about the sustainability of the European Monetary Union had been appeased by the determination shown in early autumn 2012 by Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, to ensure the future of Europe’s single currency at any cost. But the results of the recent general elections in Italy have once again unsettled the European sovereign debt markets and revived speculation, while the euro zone has plunged back into a recession even as the wounds of the previous one lay still unhealed. Continue reading “The death throes of the “Confederation of Europe”?”

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