Vincent Aussilloux, Adam Baïz, Matthieu Garrigue, Philippe Martin, Dimitris Mavridis, 19 February 2021

The Covid-19 crisis has presented policymakers across the euro area with an unprecedented challenge, not least of all because the shock has come to both the supply side and the demand side of the economy. This column presents a preliminary analysis of different nations’ responses so far, focusing on which measures have been deployed to address each side of the economic shock and where a ‘mixed approach’ has been taken to work in tandem. At a time where coordinated action may be needed, there is a concerning level of inconsistency in strategy. 

Cristiana Belu Manescu, Elva Bova, 07 February 2021

Expenditure rules are recognised as one of the most effective tools to manage budgetary aggregates, and many EU members have recently chosen to add an expenditure rule to their national frameworks. In many cases, the 2012 introduction of the expenditure benchmark at the EU level was a major catalyst. Against this background, this column takes stock of the current design of national expenditure rules across EU member states and provides new evidence on their effectiveness in reducing the procyclicality bias of fiscal policy.

Thiess Buettner, Boryana Madzharova, 27 October 2020

Facing the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments all over the world are considering providing a fiscal stimulus. A potentially powerful instrument to do so is a broad-based consumption tax such as VAT. This column argues that changes in VAT may have some effect in stimulating spending on certain consumer durable goods such as household appliances. However, these effects may be heterogenous across different product types and the timing and perceived credibility of the announcements are also important factors for policymakers to consider.

Joshua Aizenman, Hiro Ito, 27 October 2020

The economic policies of the US in the post-COVID era will have important implications for the global economy. This column outlines two different exit strategies for the US from the COVID-related debt-overhang and analyses their implications for emerging markets and global stability. A strategy of continuing loose fiscal policies and accommodating monetary policies may spur short-term growth but would also increase the risks a deeper crisis in the future. Alternatively, the US could adopt a two-pronged approach of shifting fiscal priorities towards expenses with high social payoffs and then promoting fiscal adjustments aimed at a primary surplus and debt resilience. The post-WWII success story illustrates the feasibility of, and gains from, a two-pronged fiscal strategy.

Niels Thygesen, Roel Beetsma, Massimo Bordignon, Xavier Debrun, Mateusz Szczurek, Martin Larch, Matthias Busse, Mateja Gabrijelcic, Eloïse Orseau, Stefano Santacroce, 26 October 2020

This year’s annual report of the European Fiscal Board provides new evidence that the EU fiscal framework does not deliver the goods. This column argues that it should be reformed without delay. As forging consensus among EU member states takes time, the activation of the general escape clause until end-2021 offers a window of opportunity to build a simpler, leaner and more effective fiscal contract. The year 2019 illustrated once again how EU member states largely failed to build buffers in good times, those very buffers that would have been welcome in the face of the Covid-19 shock. In 2019, and despite sustained economic growth, the aggregate EU government deficit has increased for the first time since 2011 while cases of non-compliance with the preventive arm of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). Like other common shocks before, the pandemic has exposed three long-standing gaps in EMU’s architecture: (1) the lack of a genuine and permanent central fiscal capacity; (2) adverse incentives to maintain or scale up growth-enhancing government expenditure; (3) an intractable set of rules and benchmarks poorly tailored to country-specific debt reduction needs and capacities.

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The Centre for Economic Policy Research, the Graduate Institute, Geneva and the International Monetary Fund invite you to a joint seminar on:

Public Investment for the Recovery
IMF October 2020 Fiscal Monitor

Wednesday 21 October, 2020
08:30-09:30 ECT (Washington)
13:30-14:30 BST (London)
14:30-15:30 CEST (Geneva)

This chapter of the IMF October 2020 Fiscal Monitor argues that governments need to scale up public investment to ensure successful reopening, boost growth, and prepare economies for the future. Low interest rates make borrowing to invest desirable. Countries that cannot access finance will however need to prioritize spending and increase investment efficiency. The chapter explains how investment can be scaled up whilst preserving quality. Increasing investment by 1 percent of GDP in advanced and emerging economies could create 7 million jobs directly, and up to 33 million jobs indirectly. Investments in healthcare, housing, digitalization, and the environment would lay the foundations for a more resilient and inclusive economy.

Join Raphael Espinoza, Giancarlo Corsetti and Beatrice Weder di Mauro in this joint seminar on the IMF's latest Fiscal Monitor.

Register online

Jeffrey Clemens, Stan Veuger, 28 September 2020

The COVID-19 shock has significant negative consequences for the finances of US state and local governments, especially since they are bound by balanced-budget requirements. Estimates of (expected) revenue shortfalls are therefore an important input in the allocation of federal funds to offset the pandemic’s effects on state and local government revenues. This column uses Congressional Budget Office projections of consumption and personal income to forecast sales and income tax bases and revenue for all of the states. Based on May and July projections, it estimates a total shortfall of $106 billion and $105 billion, respectively.

Lars Calmfors, 28 September 2020

High employment is an important objective for all governments. This column makes the case for numerical employment targets, arguing that such targets can help balance fiscal objectives while also strengthening the incentives for reforms that raise structural employment. For the case of Sweden, the author recommends two targets: the actual employment rate for 20–68-year olds, and the actual annual hours worked per person in the population.

João Guerreiro, Sérgio Rebelo, Pedro Teles, 09 September 2020

Immigration policy has become a hot-button issue in both Europe and the US, with questions concerning optimal policy as well as the welfare state dominating discussions. This column revisits the idea of the immigration surplus, exploring a number of possible scenarios in terms of how policymakers should address the challenge. Correctly configuring fiscal policy so as to capture the benefits of both high- and low-skill immigrant (and native) workers is at the heart of optimal policy design and may help to address the swelling anti-immigrant sentiment that continues to exist in many countries today. 

Andrea Presbitero, Ursula Wiriadinata, 05 August 2020

As interest rate-growth differentials (r-g) have turned negative in many countries, now could be the time for governments to pursue fiscal expansions. However, the downside risks of such policies should not be disregarded. Using a large sample of economies, this column finds that high and increasing public debts, especially when denominated in foreign currencies, can lead to more volatile r-g dynamics. In particular, this is associated with higher probabilities of r-g reversals, tail risks, and an increased exposure to domestic and global shocks. Policymakers should take note of these risks when designing future fiscal expansions.

Henrique Basso, Omar Rachedi, 03 August 2020

Advanced and developing economies are experiencing a swift process of population ageing that will shape both long-run macroeconomic trends, such as economic growth, as well as short-term business cycle fluctuations. Although the implications of population ageing on countries’ fiscal capacity have been extensively analysed, this column argues that secular shifts in demographics can also influence the effectiveness of fiscal policy as a demand-management tool. Using a New Keynesian model with a lifecycle structure,  it shows that output fiscal multipliers are larger in younger economies.

Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 14 July 2020

One of the most urgent economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis is on labour markets. Widespread job losses, drastic increases in unemployment benefit claims, and the rise of working from home have dominated the discussion during the pandemic so far. This column presents evidence from the US, arguing that the pandemic itself represents reallocation of labour within the economy. As different sectors and occupations are hit with variable severity, the authors argue that policymakers should be wary of this variation, responding with policies that will hold firm over time.

Yothin Jinjarak, Rashad Ahmed, Sameer Nair-Desai, Weining Xin, Joshua Aizenman, 06 July 2020

There is an importance relationship between prevailing market factors and the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic across the euro area. This column presents evidence to suggest that during the pandemic, adjustments in euro area credit default swap spreads diverge substantially from levels implied by theoretical models. Mortality outcomes and fiscal announcements account for a proportion of this divergence. Results also imply ‘COVID dominance’, whereby the widening spreads can lead to unconventional monetary policies that primarily aim to mitigate the short-run distress of the worst economic outcomes, temporarily pushing away concerns over fiscal risk.

Yuliya Kasperskaya, Ramon Xifré, 01 July 2020

In the aftermath of crises, the state of public finances typically regains prominence in policy agendas. This column advances the hypothesis that three properties of the budgetary setup – reliability of projections, openness to scrutiny, and transparency – facilitate the exercise of the ‘budgetary analytical capacities’ of the government, legislature, and the wider public. It constructs an index of such capacities from the OECD Survey on Budget Practices. For the period 2012-2016, a simple measure of fiscal discipline is correlated with the index and is not correlated with other standard political-economy variables that are generally used to explain fiscal discipline.

Aida Caldera, Shashwat Koirala, 30 June 2020

International cooperation amplifies individual countries’ efforts; in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, international cooperation is not only useful, but indispensable. This column discusses eight priorities to strengthen international cooperation against COVID-19, both in the short term for crisis response, and to facilitate an inclusive and sustainable recovery. In the short run, cooperation between governments is needed to curb the pandemic and expedite exit from the crisis. In the medium and long run, internationally coordinated policies can facilitate recovery and the rebuilding of socioeconomic systems in inclusive and sustainable ways and help prepare for future risks and pandemics.

Stefania Fabrizio, Vivian Malta, Marina M. Tavares, 20 June 2020

The COVID-19 crisis is depressing growth globally, and lockdown measures are causing widespread job losses. This column illustrates that women are amongst the worst affected. Women are vulnerable not only because of their jobs, but also because of gender inequalities within housework division, education, and health. There is an urgent need to support women, repair gender disparities aggravated by crisis, and to reduce women’s vulnerability going forward. Gender-responsive fiscal measures are viable tools that work in the interests of women, as well as supporting economic growth and reducing poverty and inequality.

Sebastian Barnes, Eddie Casey, 09 June 2020

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the role of fiscal policy and transformed the outlook for public finances. This column explores economic and fiscal scenarios for a small euro area country to 2025. Due to the high uncertainty, it argues for a state-contingent approach to policy. Low interest rates, if maintained, along with ‘high-altitude’ debt dynamics could create substantial headroom for the fiscal response and make future adjustments to put the debt ratio on a downward path more manageable.

Çağatay Bircan, Ralph De Haas, Helena Schweiger, Alexander Stepanov, 03 June 2020

As lockdown measures continue, or are relaxed only gradually, many small businesses continue to experience significantly reduced turnover. This column reports on a firm-level analysis across 16 emerging markets, and three Western European comparator countries, in order to gauge the potential risks associated with debt-driven COVID-19 support. The overall goal is to prevent a wave of bankruptcies that could break valuable relationships between firms and their suppliers and employees. However, liquidity support in the form of additional bank lending may create debt-overhang problems in the future and therefore requires careful targeting.

Lilas Demmou, Guido Franco, Sara Calligaris, Dennis Dlugosch, 23 May 2020

There is widespread concern that the COVID-19 induced liquidity shortages may cause firm bankruptcies on a large scale. This column examines the financial vulnerability of firms associated with confinement measures, and discusses the immediate steps that governments can take to reduce the risks of such crisis. Without policy actions, around 30% of European firms would face liquidity shortages after two months of confinement measures. A decisive public intervention, and especially the support to wage payments, is found to be crucial in order to avoid the temporary shock implied by the COVID-19 crisis permanently scarring the corporate landscape.

Jeffrey Chwieroth, Andrew Walter, 23 May 2020

Although necessary, many of the economic policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis may end up damaging political incumbents in the medium and long term. This column presents evidence suggesting that voters expect great things from their leaders in deep crises. Yet the potential for great disappointment arises from the inevitable perceived inequities that will follow from the coronavirus crisis bailouts. As the pandemic exacerbates existing divisions within societies, the political costs predicted implies that only a minority of the most skilled political leaders are likely to survive this crisis.

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