It’s currently very trendy in Italy to blame Angela Merkel, Mario Monti, and austerity measures for the current recession. This column argues that while the severity of the downturn is clearly a cyclical phenomenon, the inability of the country to grow out of it is the legacy of more than a decade of a lack of reforms in credit, product and labour markets. This lack of reform has suffocated innovation and productivity growth, resulting in wage dynamics that are completely decoupled from labour productivity and demand conditions.
Paolo Manasse, 19 June 2013
Francesco Giavazzi, Richard Portes, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, Charles Wyplosz, 12 June 2013
An ongoing German Constitutional Court case threatens to make the Eurozone Crisis much worse. This column argues that a Eurozone breakup could well be self-fulfilling given the absence of large-scale fiscal backstopping. The ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme has so far blocked speculation that could lead to such a breakup. A German court ruling against the OMT would destroy the programme’s credibility. The court would be wise to dismiss the case, if it does not want to risk becoming a threat to Eurozone stability and to taxpayers in Germany and beyond.
Charles Wyplosz, 14 October 2013
Exiting from unconventional monetary policies is a key challenge facing policymakers in advanced nations and a key worry for everyone else. This column introduces the new 'Geneva Report' on the subject, Exit Strategies, by Alan Blinder, Thomas Jordan, Donald Kohn and Frederic Mishkin. The report considers what the post-exit world will look like, how we can get there and the long-run impact on central banking.
Sascha Becker, Peter Egger, Maximilian Von Ehrlich, 06 June 2013
The EU encourages regional cohesion through transfers for structural changes and development. This column presents new research suggesting that some poorer countries don't benefit as well as we might expect. This is likely to be because of worse technological and institutional absorptive capacity. Structural transfers need reform, and policymakers would do well to focus on recipients’ absorptive capacity.
Harald Benink, Harry Huizinga, 05 June 2013
Europe has been postponing the recapitalisation of its banking sector. This column argues that it has been doing so for far too long. Without such a recapitalisation, the danger is that economic stagnation will continue for a long period, thereby putting Europe on a course towards Japanese-style inertia and the proliferation of zombie banks.
Giancarlo Corsetti, Luca Dedola, 05 June 2013
Spain and Britain have similar debt problems. So why does Spain face far higher sovereign-interest rates? Is this because Eurozone membership makes national economies vulnerable to self-fulfilling debt crises? This column argues that EZ membership does not fully explain this discrepancy. A central bank can provide an effective backstop to national debt both in monetary unions and in countries with their own currency. EZ members are more vulnerable to debt crises to the extent that the ECB cannot count on the joint support of national fiscal authorities.
Luis Garicano, John Van Reenen, 30 May 2013
France has a raft of labour-market regulations that kick in for firms with 50 workers or more. This column uses this threshold to identify the economic effects of size-contingent regulations. Such policies seem to subsidise small firms at the expense of larger firms. But since small firms are on average less productive than large firms, the French economy loses out.
Joshua Aizenman, Ilan Noy, 29 May 2013
What do macroeconomic shocks do to public and private saving? This column argues that it is only truly dramatic shocks that have a long-lasting effect on saving behaviour. Past crises tend to increase savings among households, but they also lead to decreased public-sector saving. However, the evidence suggests that this decrease in public saving is about a third of the magnitude than the corresponding increase in household saving.
Viral Acharya, Sascha Steffen, 23 May 2013
A pernicious aspect of the Eurozone crisis is the ‘doom loop’ linking European banks and governments. This column argues that poor European policy choices in the wake of the 2008 Global Crisis worsened the problem. Rather than being forcefully recapitalised as in the US and UK, many Eurozone banks were left undercapitalised and free to gamble for redemption. In what may be the greatest carry trade ever, they borrowed cheap, first in short-term debt markets and then from the ECB, to invest in high-yield but risky sovereign debt. Substantial bank recapitalisations against sovereign-bond losses is the way forward.
Jon Danielsson, 21 May 2013
Icelandic voters recently ejected its post-Crisis government – a government that successfully avoided economic collapse when the odds were stacked against it. The new government comprises the same parties that were originally responsible for the Crisis. What’s going on? This column argues that this switch is, in fact, logical given the outgoing government’s mishandling of the economy and their deference towards foreign creditors.
Giovanni D'Alessio, Romina Gambacorta, Giuseppe Ilardi, 24 May 2013
The ECB’s recent survey on household finances and consumption threw up some unexpected results – counter-intuitively, the average German household has less wealth than the average Mediterranean household. In line with a recent VoxEU.org contribution from De Grauwe and Ji, this article analyses the principal differences in wealth and income between the main Eurozone countries.
Erik Feyen, Ines Gonzalez del Mazo, 12 May 2013
Before the global financial crisis, European banks had rapidly expanded their foreign-lending activities. However, this column argues that financial stress in Europe has put this process into reverse and negatively affected credit conditions in developed and emerging markets alike. As European banks repair their balance sheets and rethink their business models in a context of stricter regulatory requirements, financial fragmentation, and a deteriorating European economy, they continue to retrench to home markets.
Richard Wood, 11 May 2013
The world economy seems to be acting in unexpected ways. This column argues that austerity and quantitative easing do not seem to be working out as advertised. There is an urgent need to review the effectiveness of alternative macroeconomic policy approaches, and prepare an internationally agreed pro-growth plan to reflate distressed economies. The outlines of one such plan are presented.
Nicholas Crafts, 12 May 2013
The UK escaped a liquidity trap in the 1930s and enjoyed a strong economic recovery. This column argues that what drove this recovery was ‘unconventional’ monetary policy implemented not by the Bank of England but by the Treasury. Thus, Neville Chamberlain was an early proponent of ‘Abenomics’. This raises the question: is inflation targeting by an independent central bank appropriate at a time of very low nominal-interest rates?
Balázs Égert, 10 May 2013
France has recorded one of the lowest real per capita income growth levels in the OECD over the last 20 years or so. One of the many structural weaknesses causing this weak performance is the French tax system. This column argues that complexity, instability and non-neutrality coupled with very high effective tax rates in many areas of the French tax system put a heavy burden on the economy.
Jeffrey Chwieroth, Andrew Walter, 10 May 2013
The economic consequences of financial crises have been systematically explored. Their political consequences haven’t. This column argues that without paying attention to politics, crises will remain poorly understood. After all, politics shapes policy choices, market sentiment and, ultimately, economic outcomes. Evidence from the effects of banking crises over the past century show that crises have a dramatic impact on the survival prospects of governments.
Reda Cherif, Fuad Hasanov, 03 May 2013
Europe’s austerity-first approach has triggered research-based efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of debt-reduction strategies. This column, based on a US empirical study, suggests that an ‘austerity shock’ in a weak economy may be self-defeating. Public-debt reduction historically occurs gradually amid improved growth. If policymakers, firms and households respond as in the past, we should expect lower deficits amid higher growth and, eventually, decreasing debt ratios.
Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, Luis Garicano, Tano Santos, 24 March 2013
This paper studies the mechanisms through which the adoption of the euro delayed, rather than advanced, economic reforms in the Eurozone periphery and led to the deterioration of important institutions in these countries. The authors show that the abandonment of the reform process and the institutional deterioration, in turn, not only reduced their growth prospects but also fed back into financial conditions, prolonging the credit boom and delaying the response to the bubble when the speculative nature of the cycle was already evident.
Rossana Merola, Javier Pérez, 01 May 2013
Who should we trust when it comes to fiscal forecasts: governments or independent agencies? This column argues that this question is, in fact, a red herring: empirical evidence suggests that in the past, international agencies’ fiscal forecasts were partially affected by the same problems that the literature widely acknowledges for governmental forecasts. An attractive solution is independent national forecasters.
Alexandr Hobza, Stefan Zeugner, 26 April 2013
Current-account deficits have caused problems in several Eurozone countries, but surpluses are also an issue. This column argues that surpluses are detrimental to the welfare of the population to the extent they are driven by structural weaknesses affecting demand. Addressing these issues through structural reforms, while letting wages and prices respond flexibly to market signals, would be welfare-enhancing for the surplus countries.