Macroeconomic policy

Stephan Haroutunian, Sebastian Hauptmeier, Nadine Leiner-Killinger, Philip Muggenthaler, 13 May 2022

The economic landscape has changed dramatically since the European fiscal rules were designed some 30 years ago. This column contributes to the debate on reform by proposing a two-tier fiscal framework combining an expenditure rule that accounts for the ECB’s inflation objective with a lower speed of adjustment under the Stability and Growth Pact’s debt rule. Counter-cyclicality may be improved by automatic modulation of adjustment requirements, creating fiscal space when domestic inflation is low and constraining more when inflation is above target. The link to the debt anchor ensures a gradual phasing-in of debt reduction in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Scott Baker, Efraim Benmelech, Zhishu Yang, Qi Zhang, 11 May 2022

China’s high household savings rate remains a puzzle, with potential explanations including demographic, policy, and financial causes. This column investigates China’s savings rate using individual income and spending transactions linked to demographic characteristics and financial information on loan applications and credit availability. The authors match bank customers to administrative records covering marriage and births to obtain a unique insight into consumption and savings patterns around important life events. The results point to income growth, financial instability, and credit access, rather than directives such as the one-child policy, as the primary drivers of high savings among Chinese households.

Francesco D'Acunto, Ulrike Malmendier, Michael Weber, 07 May 2022

Inflation has surged to historic levels around the globe. Designing the correct policy responses requires a deep understanding of how consumers form and update their inflation expectations, and how expectations influence economic behaviour. This column summarises key findings in the literature on inflation expectations, particularly how they deviate from the full-information rational expectations paradigm. Household inflation expectations are typically biased upwards, systematically skewed, and correlated with social/demographic characteristics. Studying these heterogeneities and their impact on aggregate outcomes is a key challenge for policymakers going forward. 

Marco Pelosi, Giacomo Rodano, Enrico Sette, 04 May 2022

Governments around the world enacted unprecedented measures to support firms impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This column focuses on Italy to examine the extent to which these measures ended up also benefitting non-viable but still active firms. The authors find that ‘zombie firms’ were less likely than healthy firms to access public support measures in the form of either grants, debt moratoria, or government-guaranteed loans, suggesting that these measures did not contribute to a zombification of the economy.  

Dimitris Georgarakos, Geoff Kenny, 28 April 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic shock posed an enormous challenge to fiscal policy in supporting household consumption. This column discusses the extent to which the pandemic-related fiscal interventions influenced consumers’ spending behaviour. Using new high-frequency data, the authors find that improving perceptions about the adequacy of fiscal interventions incentivised spending. Importantly, this perceptions channel operated equally strongly for consumers who received government support and for those who did not. Consumers who viewed the adequacy of fiscal packages more favourably also expected higher future incomes and easier access to credit, and did not anticipate an increase in taxes.

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