In 2007 China set up its sovereign wealth fund, the China Investment Corporation, with an initial capital fund of $200 billion. Since then, Asia’s other emerging economic power – India – has been wondering if it should follow. This column argues that such a move is ill-advised and that India has more worthy investment opportunities at home.
As protestors occupy Wall Street and financial centres around the world, among the grievances are “socially useless” investment banks. This column argues, however, that investment banking is critical to any effective economy – the idea that policymakers can safeguard retail banking alone is not only tragically mistaken but also horribly dangerous.
With the sovereign debt crisis spreading across Europe, there is no shortage of suggestions on how to save the Eurozone. This column says exit rules are the silver bullet. It argues that exit rules would decrease the probability of a breakup of the Eurozone by enhancing market discipline, increasing the political bargaining power of EZ members vis-à-vis the profligate countries, enhancing internal discipline in the profligate countries, and reducing market uncertainty.
This week the world population is projected to reach seven billion. Yet in some countries the prospect of a decline in population is worrying policymakers far more. This columns asks what the people think, focusing on a survey from the Netherlands. It turns out that most people are in favour of global population decline, but “not in my backyard”.
Stress in the interbank market has increased dramatically since July 2011, and bank stock market valuations have fallen by 22% on average for 60 of the most important banks subject to stress tests. This column argues that bank stock valuation has been affected by the banks’ exposure to Greek debt and that Greek banks were particularly affected. Holdings of debt of the other four periphery countries does not, however, appear to be a strong determinant of stock price movements.
With all the focus on Europe, it is easy to ignore the argument that global imbalances remain a drag on economic recovery. This column decomposes international capital flows into public and private components and claims that upstream flows from emerging to advanced economies and global imbalances in general are the result of the same underlying factor.
Thorsten Beck talks to Viv Davies about the recently published Vox eBook on ‘The Future of Banking’ – a collection of essays by leading European and US economists that provide solutions to the current financial crisis and proposals for medium- to long-term regulatory reforms. The authors call for a forceful resolution to the current crisis in the Eurozone, better incentives for banks to internalize risk and a more credible resolution regime. The interview was recorded on 27 October 2011. [Also read the transcript]
The relationship between financial openness and economic growth remains the subject of heated controversy. This column examines the links between economic growth and FDI, portfolio investment, equity investment, and short-term debt in the last 20 years. It finds a large and robust relationship between growth and FDI but not with other types of financial flows.
This updated column, first published in October 2010, takes on new resonance following recent scandals in the UK surrounding allegations that lobby groups may have gained undue influence among senior politicians. The column investigates how much former US government officials cash in on their political connections when working as lobbyists. It finds that once the politician for whom they worked leaves office, lobbyists’ revenue falls 20% – suggesting that lobbyists are paid more for who they know than what they know.
Markets loved the EZ rescue. This column argues that it was short-term good news in that it defused ‘the bomb’ – the possible catastrophe vortex of failing banks and defaulting sovereigns. The bad news is that it will induce a recession. Banks will create a credit crunch in trying to meet capital adequacy ratios, and the new austerity will create a fiscal contraction. The recession will weaken banks, sovereigns, and Greece. We’ll be needing another crisis summit by Spring 2012.
Economists make it their business to know about incentives. Indeed they devote entire blogs to the subject. But what are the incentives for top economists to ‘waste’ time on these blogs in the first place? This column calls on researchers out there to find out.
EU leaders are at it again. This column argues that the crisis won’t be over until the underlying flaw of the euro is fixed – namely the separation of monetary and fiscal policy. German public opinion has to realise that the euro was built on imperfect foundations and that these imperfections must be corrected. Meanwhile, the Italian president of the ECB will need all his technical and political expertise to keep the Eurozone together.
At 4am today, EZ leaders agreed the rough outline of a package of measures designed to end the EZ crisis. This column argues that a central pillar of the package will not work. The so-called first-loss insurance of EZ sovereign debt relies on an incomplete analysis of the underlying problem and the proposed solution.
The dissent brewing throughout Europe hinges on the question of whether the financial burdens of the Eurozone crisis should be shared between weak and strong. This column presents a new paper arguing that the wealthier, more stable economies don’t have much choice.
The global crisis crippled advanced economies, but it also freed up financial resources that flooded emerging markets. This column introduces an index to identify the post-crisis winners and losers, digging into the causes of the new economic geography and exploring the vulnerability of emerging economies to a recurrence of a Lehman-type virus.
According to the IMF, Iceland has graduated from its Fund-supported programme with unqualified success. This column begs to differ.
The Eurozone crisis plays on to a familiar tune. Finance ministers meet on the weekend only for markets to dismiss their efforts the following Monday. This column argues that Europe’s leaders have lost touch, that the ECB has the firepower but is not prepared to use it, and that the outcome of all this is depressingly clear: Defeat by the financial markets.
Much of macroeconomic policymaking is trial and error. This column discusses calamitous error on the part of Iceland’s policymakers, in the hope that others can at least try something else.
Newly named Greek PM Lucas Papademos wrote this Vox column on 26 October 2011 on the Greek debt problem. He argues that the most effective and prudent way to reduce Greece’s debt burden is to implement the July agreement, reinforced by ‘firewalls’ to protect financial institutions and avoid contagion. Both require a substantial increase in EFSF ‘firepower’. Bank recapitalisation is necessary, but not sufficient.
For the Arab Spring it was Twitter; for the summer riots in London it was BlackBerry Messenger. This column explores how the latest technology is helping to accelerate ‘information cascades’, where people make decisions based on what they see other people doing – and getting away with.
Responses to the financial crisis have largely been along national lines. Governments rescued banks headquartered within their borders, and supervisors are requiring banks to match their assets and liabilities at a national level. This column says stable cross-border banking is incompatible with national financial supervision, which means the European banking market needs European authorities.
The Vickers Commission recommends separating commercial and noncommercial banking activities in order to protect core financial functions from riskier activities. This column warns that such ring-fencing may fail because there are still incentive problems in traditional banking activities. The accompanying risk-weighted capital requirement recommendations will address this only if we do a better job of measuring risks.
The financial sector has become increasingly complex in terms of its speed and interconnectedness. This column says that market discipline won’t stabilise financial markets, and complexity makes regulating markets more difficult. It advocates substantial intervention in order to restructure the banking industry, address institutional complexity, and correct misaligned incentives.
How can Europe fix its sovereign-debt crisis? Many favour euro bonds, but those seem politically impractical because they would require supranational fiscal policies. This column proposes creating safe European assets without requiring additional funding by having a European debt agency repackage members’ debts into `euro-safe-bonds’.
Recent financial regulatory reforms target banks’ risk-taking behaviours without considering their ownership and governance. This chapter argues that bank governance influences how regulations alter bank’s incentives. Banks with more powerful owners tend to take more risks, and greater capital requirements actually increase risk-taking in banks with powerful shareholders. Bank regulation should condition on bank governance.
Financial systems support and spur economic growth. But does financial innovation foster financial development? While recent innovations have done damage, this column says the long-run story is that financial innovation is essential for economic growth.
Do low interest rates encourage excessive risk-taking by banks? This column summarises two studies analysing the impact of short-term interest rates on the risk composition of the supply of credit. They find that lower rates spur greater risk-taking by lower-capitalised banks and greater liquidity risk exposure.
Macroprudential regulation aims to reduce systemic risk by correcting the negative externalities caused by breakdowns in financial intermediation. This column describes the shortcomings of the Dodd-Frank legislation as a piece of macroprudential regulation. It says the Act’s ex post charges for systemic risk don’t internalise the negative externality and its capital requirements may be arbitrary and easily gamed.
A series of policy mistakes have put Europe on the wrong path. This column says that the current plan to enlarge the EFSF and recapitalise banks through markets will fail. The twin crises linking sovereign debts and banking turmoil need to be addressed simultaneously for Europe to avoid economic disaster.
The global financial crisis has hurt banks in both advanced and emerging economies, but this column says the turmoil has favored the emerging-market entities in relative terms. It predicts a growing role for emerging-market banks in the global financial system, particularly in their own regions.
New taxes on banks are likely. The European Commission has proposed a financial transaction tax and a financial activities tax. This column evaluates those proposals and identifies other potential taxation mechanisms the EC has overlooked. It says that the proposed measures are poorly suited to curb excessively risky trading and eliminate undertaxation of the financial sector.
For better or worse, banking is back in the headlines. From the desperate efforts of crisis-struck Eurozone governments to the Occupy Wall Street movement currently spreading across the globe, the future of banking is hotly debated. This column summarises a new VoxEU.org eBook containing essays by leading economists that discuss both immediate solutions to the on-going financial crisis and medium- to long-term regulatory reforms.
If there is a thing that most policymakers are happy to receive, no matter where they are in the world, it is foreign direct investment. But how do you attract companies to your country if unionisation is pushing up wages? Surprisingly, countries with strong unions have been relatively successful. This column explains how.
How should financial regulators address problems stemming from liquidity risk? This column argues that the liquidity coverage and net funding ratios proposed for Basel III are economically and politically impractical. It recommends using those ratios as long-term targets while imposing ‘prudential risk surcharges’ on deviations from the targets.
For better or worse, banking is back in the headlines. From the desperate efforts of crisis-struck Eurozone governments to the Occupy Wall Street movement currently spreading across the globe, the future of banking is hotly debated. This VoxEU.org eBook presents a collection of essays by leading European and American economists that discuss both immediate solutions to the on-going financial crisis and medium- to long-term regulatory reforms.
UPDATED: EZ leaders are working on a plan to save the euro. This column updates the column posted on 22 August 2011 by evaluating the steps EZ leaders took this weekend. Things don’t look good. By rejecting any major role for the ECB, leaders have guaranteed that any package will be too little too late. After all, imagine what the US crisis package in 2008 would have looked like if the Fed had refused to use its massive firepower to stabilise markets.
Eurozone leaders are struggling to put together a rescue package to save the single currency. This column, which arose from discussions among many experts at the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council Summit in Abu Dhabi, presents the outlines of a plan to put out the flames that threaten the euro’s existence while simultaneously setting the Eurozone on a medium-term sustainable path.
It is a well-documented fact that the time between submission and publication at most journals has been increasing over the last few decades. This column documents and discusses various implications of this publication slowdown on research productivity and the careers of economics PhD recipients.
This column launches a new Vox Debate titled “Why do we need a financial sector and how much should we pay for it”. The column argues standard measures of the financial sector’s economic contribution overestimate its true value to a modern economy. As such, regulation that makes it more difficult for the sector to perform some activities is not necessarily a bad thing.
Public-health interventions in Ireland during the 1940s were successful in dramatically reducing infant mortality. This column argues that in addition to any immediate benefits, they also had long-run effects by improving the health of the adults who were affected as children, especially those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Instead of resisting, regional organisations have chosen to constructively engage with the G20. At the summit last year in Seoul, the G20 initiated institutional reforms to enhance its “input” legitimacy. This column argues that the Cannes Summit should complete the agenda and institutionalise a G20 Plus.
Policymakers’ choices dominate headlines in the global crisis. This column distinguishes between economic uncertainty and economic policy uncertainty, constructs an index to measure policy-related uncertainty, and argues that improving policy uncertainty would create millions of US jobs.
Anne Krueger of Johns Hopkins University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about the issues around globalisation and the crisis covered in her forthcoming book, ‘Struggling with Success: Challenges facing the International Economy’. She discusses the eurozone crisis, US debt issues, the threat of rising protectionism and the role of the multilateral institutions. The interview was recorded at the Global Economic Symposium in Kiel, Germany, in early October 2011. [Also read the transcript.]
A growing body of evidence indicates that certain modern management practices increase firm profitability. What remains largely unknown is their effect on workers’ wellbeing. This column uses data from Finland and suggests high-involvement management – that is, engaging workers more fully in their jobs – is associated with higher job satisfaction, non-tiredness, and a lower probability of accident.
The August 2011 meeting of the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee produced new language describing the expected path of interest rates over a two-year horizon. That language spurred a variety of interpretations, as some saw it as describing what was already expected and others interpreted it as a significant policy shift. This column examines the expected path of future interest rates and says that the new language was wholly consistent with past Fed practice.
The EU is presently a source of great instability that leaders have yet to tackle. This column argues the current policy response is misguided. The adjustment programmes are bound to fail to achieve sustainable budget deficits, and may result in an unprecedented destruction of economic activity. Rather, the EU policy response should explicitly target improvements to trade and income balances, and address high external debt through debt restructuring.
South-South trade and trade agreements are booming amid the stalled Doha trade talks and a fragile world economy. In Asia alone, trade agreements have grown from only 3 to 61 between 2000 and 2010. This column examines Asia’s experience and argues that South-South trade agreements should increase their coverage of goods and services and improve consistency with global rules to fully support South-South trade.
Time is running out for EU leaders to put an end to the Eurozone crisis. This column explains how leaders could find a definitive solution to Greece insolvency, isolate solvent countries from possible Greek contagion, improve EU governance by creating a true European parliament, and refocus on a pro-growth policy mix.
How has Africa performed over the long-run in terms of wellbeing? This column aims to answer this question by improving the UN’s Human Development Index. By looking at data stretching from 1870 to 2007, it argues that human development in Africa is lower than previously thought and that compared to the developed world, Africa stopped catching up in 1980 and began to fall behind.
Three years after the beginning of the Great Recession, the US unemployment rate remains at 9%, double its pre-crisis level. This column suggests the credit crunch may be behind this high number. It argues this is not because lower debt impairs the hiring ability of firms, but because it places firms in a less favourable bargaining position, allowing workers to negotiate higher wages, and thus reducing employment.
Given recent budget problems around the world, many governments have proposed sharp cuts to education. What are the likely long-run costs of these cuts? This column reviews a growing body of studies and concludes that crime rates are likely to increase, health and mortality are likely to deteriorate, and political and social institutions may suffer.
It is widely recognised that without a firewall around illiquid but solvent Eurozone countries, a loss of confidence in the markets could increase interest rates to levels high enough to make any country insolvent. The aim of this column is to propose a concrete plan to build such a firewall and halt the spread of contagion of the debt crisis to Italy and Spain.
The 2011 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded to Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims. This column summarises the importance of their contributions to macroeconomic analysis and policymaking.
During the Great Recession, output in the US fell slightly less than in Germany while total hours worked fell nearly 8% in the US but only 1% in Germany. This column constructs a new dataset for total hours worked per quarter for the last 50 years in 14 OECD countries to check whether these patterns are consistent with previous historical episodes. It then suggests the labour-market weakness in the US may be fundamentally tied to the large decline in housing.
Devolution can have incongruous effects on equality. Decentralisation of powers and resources to lower tiers of government can either increase or reduce interpersonal inequalities, depending on characteristics of the devolved region. This column uses data from regions of Western Europe to show that greater fiscal decentralisation is associated with lower income inequality.
As chief economic adviser to President Bush, Edward Lazear was at the heart of the US policy machine in October 2008. He talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about the Eurozone crisis and whether now might be Europe’s Lehman moment. They also discuss the growing significance of the emerging economies and the US political debate about the debt ceiling. The interview was recorded at the Global Economic Symposium in Kiel, Germany, in early October 2011. [Also read the transcript.]
Markets are already prepared for a Greek default. This column says the real question is not whether Greece will default – it is how big a haircut will be imposed on creditors and what the consequences will be.
Europe, and the Eurozone especially, is years into an economic crisis. This column argues that if the euro is to survive, Eurozone citizens will have to accept the surrender of economic policy decision-making on an unprecedented scale.
Iceland’s economic meltdown sparked popular outcry demanding changes to the constitution. This column, by one of the 25 people elected to draft the new document, documents the journey.
What are the financial costs of a sovereign default? This column presents new data on investor losses – haircuts – in all sovereign debt restructurings between 1970 and 2010. Countries imposing high haircuts take significantly longer to reaccess capital markets after the event and subsequently pay higher interest rates.
One of the main objections to the idea of euro bonds is that Germany would be guaranteeing the debt of Greece, among other cross-country subsidies between the core and the periphery. This column argues that this need not be the case.
The Eurozone is staggering under the weight of serious problems, including a democratic deficit for greater fiscal union; missing incentives for the fundamental structural reforms expected but not delivered by monetary union; failure to narrow divergent unit labour costs; burden sharing widely perceived to be unfair; and a loss of confidence among edgy international investors. This column argues that conditional euro bonds could help resolve these problems.
Current macroeconomic policymaking suffers from an inadequate range of instruments and the absence of a comprehensive assignment of responsibilities. This column introduces a new CEPR Policy Insight designed to remedy these shortcomings. It proposes a framework for monetary, macroprudential, and microprudential policies.
As economic protests continue throughout Europe, many wonder whether such efforts will be in vain. This column explores what happened in Iceland, where a “pots-and-pans” revolution in response to the devastating financial crisis gave rise to demands for a new constitution.
A Greek default is widely expected. This column outlines a “win-win” strategy for restructuring Greek debt that it argues would minimise the impact of a default and buy Greece and the rest of Europe some precious time.
Over the last few years, use of China’s currency for international trade has been growing steadily. Some argue this is the start of a journey that will see the renminbi displace the dollar and become the international reserve currency within a decade. This column asks whether such prophecies are realistic by looking at how other international currencies established themselves.
Who benefits from regional trade agreements? This column uses stock-market reactions to news about trade deals to argue that "natural" trading partners and poor economies benefit from such agreements.
Should teachers be on performance-related pay? Will it bring out the best in their abilities and, it is hoped, the children they are educating? What is the best way to measure such performance? This column presents a new proposal for teacher wages: Pay for Percentile.
Real income in sub-Saharan Africa has grown by less than 1% per year over the past half century. Yet within this dismal statistic, there is wide variation. This column explores the policy reforms that may have caused growth to flourish or stagnate.
Philip Lane talks to Viv Davies about Ireland’s export-led recovery; they also discuss the interplay between banking and sovereign risk in Europe. Lane presents his and other economists’ proposals for European Safe Bonds and a reform agenda for the Eurozone. The interview was recorded on 05 October 2011. [Also read the transcript.]
In almost all countries, students are split up by ability at some stage in their education. This column looks at the effect of a change in policy in Northern Ireland that made entry into the elite group easier.
As witnessed during this year’s Arab Spring, democracy doesn’t always emerge smoothly. This column examines the long march toward political freedom since 1800. It argues that while both income and education affect democracy, the rise in primary education has been the main driver of democratisation over 1870-2000.
Today Italian five-year governments bonds are insured at 70 basis points above Spanish ones. In June it was the other way around. This column argues that this increase in Italian spreads is due not only to policy and communication failures but also to Berlusconi’s lack of personal credibility. The costs of such bad handling of the crisis could be of the order of €20 billion.
With the merits of global financial integration in question, this column reviews the policy responses and lessons from two decades of experience in emerging markets in connection with opening up their economies. It also outlines the steps countries have taken to reduce exposure to financial crises and argues that these may be the best option until the collective resolution of global imbalances and capital flow regulation by the G20.
The Great Recession has resulted in sharp exchange-rate changes and threats of ‘currency wars’ linger. Some countries – notably Japan and Switzerland – have shown an interest in foreign-exchange intervention. This column argues that sterilised intervention does not afford monetary authorities a means of systematically affecting their exchange rates independent of their domestic policy objectives. Countries that engage in currency wars run a real risk of shooting themselves in the foot.
No simple solution to the euro crisis exists. This column argues the heart of the Eurozone’s woe is a balance-of-payments crisis whose solution requires real adjustment of prices and wages in the periphery countries. It proposes Ten Commandments that balance the need for discipline with the need to minimise panic when a crisis does strike.
More and more policymakers are talking about stimulating innovation in order to reinvigorate their economies. But how can this be achieved? This column evaluates current industrial policy in France.
Is religion a ‘crutch for the weak’? This column looks at data on religion and life satisfaction from across the globe and argues that it might just be insurance for the unhappy.
A major question facing many governments in the rich world today is whether we should try to stimulate the economy by increasing government spending. This column exploit variation in military spending across US states and identifies a fiscal multiplier of around 1.5. It then suggests that aggregate fiscal stimulus should have large output multipliers when the economy is at the zero lower bound.
One of the many proposals for escaping the Eurozone crisis is to follow in the footsteps of Argentina since its currency fiasco a decade ago. This column points out the realities of such a path: regressive wealth transfers and debt dilution. Against this dismal backdrop, a fiscal union might well be a better option.
Compared to the goods sector, we know relatively little about the effects of trade liberalisation on the services sector, despite this being the main employer in many countries. This column presents firm-level data from the Czech Republic that suggests that services sector reform can improve the performance of domestic manufacturing firms – something that protectionist sympathisers should be wary of.
As jobs losses continue to haunt the headlines, people are left asking if long-term unemployment is to be one of the so-called benefits from globalisation. This column reports on a conference aimed at understanding how globalisation can be made to work for workers.