Macroeconomic policy

Richard Hughes, 29 March 2020

The coronavirus outbreak requires action from governments around the world. This includes policies to protect the health of citizens and to support the economy, all while safeguarding governments’ financial stability. This column draws on experiences from past viral outbreaks to outline ten lessons for calibrating the correct policy response. Funding for health care systems should be prioritised, and targeted support for households and businesses is crucial. The rising costs and decreasing revenues for governments will also be challenging, and will likely require assistance from central banks as well as international and regional institutions. 

Ethan Ilzetzki, 28 March 2020

The economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic is already tangible. In response, fiscal and monetary policies have been introduced by many major economies. This column discusses results from a latest Centre for Macroeconomics survey on the policies best suited for dealing with the economic crisis in the UK. Broad consensus exists on the need to support households and businesses, through unemployment benefits, credit support, and direct transfers. Likewise, a substantial share of economists agree that higher public debt burdens should not be a concern in the process of supporting the economy.

Alexander Dietrich, Keith Kuester, Gernot Müller, Raphael Schoenle, 24 March 2020

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy are still largely unknown. The short-term economic impact will depend importantly on people’s expectations of the overall effect, and the amount of uncertainty thereof. This column uses a survey of US households to show that the expected economic effect is negative, large, and highly uncertain. An asset-pricing equation is used to quantify the implication of these expectations for the natural rate of interest. The natural rate declines by several percentage points, suggesting a role for monetary accommodation to (partially) offset the shock.

Aida Caldera, Alessandro Maravalle, Lukasz Rawdanowicz, Ana Sanchez Chico, 23 March 2020

Global economic growth is expected to remain weak and significant downside risks persist. As room for conventional monetary policy is limited or exhausted, policymakers will need to rely increasingly on fiscal policy to stabilise the economy during the next economic downturn. This column presents new OECD estimates which suggest that automatic stabilisers on average offset 60% of a specific shock to market income across 23 OECD economies. However, there are marked differences across OECD countries leaving scope to make automatic stabilisers more effective.

Thiemo Fetzer, Lukas Hensel, Johannes Hermle, Chris Roth, 21 March 2020

There is a risk that economic anxiety over the coronavirus crisis will fuel a long-term economic downturn. This column uses Google search activity and individual survey data to document a rapid increase in economic anxiety in the US in response to the initial global spreading of the virus. Survey respondents tended to overestimate the mortality and contagiousness of COVID-19, but underestimated the non-linear nature of how infectious diseases spread. This suggests that information and public education may play a central role in containment and in managing the negative economic impact of increased economic anxiety.

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