Thirty years ago, a distinguished group of economists advocated a ‘two-handed’ approach to unemployment that targeted supply as much as demand. This column examines recent work on the effectiveness of cyclical and structural policies – the two ‘hands’ – targeting unemployment in Europe. It further considers the pressures from greater integration of capital and labour markets on the success of these reforms. Cyclical measures, particularly the easing of monetary policy, have been successful, but further structural reforms are still needed in many countries where average unemployment remains too high.
Nauro Campos, Karim El Aynaoui, Prakash Loungani, 05 December 2016
Peter Gal, Alexander Hijzen, 27 September 2016
Product market reforms are seen as a way to boost output in advanced economies, but we know little about their short-term impact. This column presents data from 18 advanced economies that reveal large differences in the potential upside of reform depending on the sector in which a firm operates, its size, and its financial health.
Ramon Xifré, 29 August 2016
Spain implemented a host of structural reforms following the Global Crisis. But questions remain about whether the current economic condition is due to the reforms or to ‘automatic’ adjustment in public and private sectors. This column sheds light on these questions by examining changes in a set of economic indicators following the introduction of the reforms. Five stylised facts are presented that suggest limitations of the reforms. Much of the current climate appears to reflect inherent limitations of the Spanish economy.
Barry Eichengreen, Charles Wyplosz, 12 February 2016
When the newly elected Greek government of George Papandreou revealed that its predecessor had doctored the books, financial markets reacted violently. This column discusses the steps implemented by policymakers following this episode, which were essential in resolving the Crisis. What is remarkable, in hindsight, is the combination of pragmatism and reasoning based on sound economic principles displayed by European leaders. Instead of finger pointing, they acknowledged that they were collectively responsible for the Crisis.
Alessandra Bonfiglioli, Gino Gancia, 19 December 2015
The Great Recession highlighted the prominent role that economic uncertainty plays in hindering investment and growth. This column provides new evidence that economic uncertainty can actually play a positive role by promoting the implementation of structural reforms with long-run benefits. The effect appears to be strongest for countries with poorly informed voters. These findings suggest that times of uncertainty may present an opportunity to implement reforms that would otherwise not be passed.
Jayant Menon, Thiam Ng, 01 October 2015
Malaysia’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse in recent years, both in manufacturing and across the economy in general. This column argues that the country is moving back to processing its agricultural and mineral resources, and that such ‘premature deindustrialisation’ is mostly policy driven. The biggest concern with such structural shifts is that they lead to low-productivity, low-wage manufacturing. Malaysia must address these issues and improve its business environment if it wants to realise its aspirations.
Barry Eichengreen, Peter Allen, Gary Evans, 07 September 2015
Greece needs debt restructuring. Yet, to get debt reduction, the Greek government is required to implement structural reforms. This column proposes a way to square the circle by introducing a Structural Reform Index in Greek loan contracts. The central feature of the proposal is the linkage of debt relief to progress in structural reforms. The features and conditions of the proposal should make it desirable both for Greece and the German government and other creditors.
Thomas Philippon, 31 August 2015
The Eurozone crisis continues to take centre stage. This column discusses how deep the EZ crisis is, how long it will last, and what should be the policy priorities. A number of findings emerge. First, the difference in labour market performance between the US and the Eurozone is one of degree but not of kind. Second, the economic consequences of the sovereign debt crisis will be mostly gone by 2018, but the political crisis will continue. Third, enforcing fiscal rules via political arm twisting is a recipe for disaster. Market discipline must instead be brought back, but without financial fragmentation. Limited and conditional Eurobonds are the best way to do so.
Tito Boeri, Juan Jimeno, 27 July 2015
Structural reforms of labour markets are almost universally advocated by international institutions. This column argues that some of the labour market reforms implemented in Europe during the Crisis were misguided. One problem is that when reforms are imposed on national governments by international institutions, they can backfire. To address this, the authors propose a new way to promote employment policies in Europe, which is based on positive conditionality.
Ashoka Mody, 18 June 2015
The Greek crisis continues to take centre stage in policy debates. This column provides insight on the topic using evidence from three recent IMF studies. A suggested programme for Greece includes debt relief (debt equal to 50% of GDP and payable over 40 years), scaling down the banking system, and setting a flat 0.5% of GDP primary surplus over the next three years.
Andreas Müller, Kjetil Storesletten, Fabrizio Zilibotti, 27 May 2015
In the policy circles, there are confronting positions regarding Greece’s assistance programme and the structural reforms it should implement. This column argues that the best response is pragmatism and sequential compromise. Efficiency requires an assistance programme providing the country with debt relief with an intervention of an institution such as the IMF. Thus, misconceived economic principles could bring large welfare losses for Greece and renewed financial instability in the Eurozone.
Jean Pisani-Ferry, 07 November 2014
A triple-dip recession in the Eurozone is now a distinct possibility. This column argues that additional monetary stimulus is unlikely to be effective, that the scope for further fiscal stimulus is limited, and that some structural reforms may actually hurt growth in the short run by adding to disinflationary pressures in a liquidity trap. The author advocates using tax incentives and tighter regulations to encourage firms to replace environmentally inefficient capital.
Charles Goodhart, Philipp Erfurth, 03 November 2014
There has been a long-term downward trend in labour’s share of national income, depressing both demand and inflation, and thus prompting ever more expansionary monetary policies. This column argues that, while understandable in a short-term business cycle context, this has exacerbated longer-term trends, increasing inequality and financial distortions. Perhaps the most fundamental problem has been over-reliance on debt finance. The authors propose policies to raise the share of equity finance in housing markets; such reforms could be extended to other sectors of the economy.
Ramon Xifré, 12 September 2014
As the most acute phase of the Eurozone crisis is over, the current-account balances of France, Italy, and Spain have improved. This column warns against complacency about this improvement, pointing at some structural factors that impede growth and damage competitiveness. Resources should be relocated towards the tradeable sectors and to those firms most prepared to grow and compete. If not, these three countries are likely to aggravate the dysfunctional duality of their economies.
Camilo Umana Dajud, Camilo Umana Dajud, Camilo Umana Dajud, 29 August 2014
Countries facing rising risk premiums on their debt have recognised the need for structural reform, but some politicians have argued that austerity is necessary in the short run because structural reform takes too long. This column argues that financial markets can bring forward the benefits of structural reform, and therefore that such reforms should be given greater weight in the package of crisis responses.
Marco Buti, Philipp Mohl, 04 June 2014
Investment in the Eurozone is forecast to remain below trend until 2015, with a particularly large shortfall in the periphery. Low investment reduces aggregate demand, thus lowering short-term growth, and it also hampers medium-term growth through its effect on the capital stock. This column highlights three causes of low Eurozone investment – reduced public investment, financial fragmentation, and heightened uncertainty – and proposes a series of remedies.
Marco Buti, Maria Demertzis, João Nogueira Martins, 30 March 2014
Although progress has been made on resolving the Eurozone crisis – vulnerable countries have reduced their current-account deficits and implemented some reforms – more still needs to be done. This column argues for a ‘consistent trinity’ of policies: structural reforms within countries, more symmetric macroeconomic adjustment across countries, and a banking union for the Eurozone.
Natasha Che, Antonio Spilimbergo, 11 July 2012
A major cause of the Eurozone crisis is the difference in income and productivity between the core and the periphery. This column presents evidence suggesting that structural reforms can be instrumental in fostering the development of lagging regions within a country. It argues that this in turn can accelerate the rate of convergence across countries within a currency union.
Lúcio Vinhas de Souza, 13 June 2008
Russia has enjoyed impressive economic performance in recent years. This column takes stock of its success, identifies its growth drivers, and highlights the need for microeconomic and structural reforms.