Beyond the Austerity Debate: the Deficit Bias in the post-Bretton Woods Era


By Carlo Cottarelli

(Version in Español)

The austerity vs. growth debate has raged in recent months, pitting those who argue that fiscal policy should be tightened more aggressively now to bring down high levels of debt, even though economic growth remains weak, against those who want to postpone the adjustment to better times. This is a critical issue for policymakers, perhaps the most important one in the short run.

And yet, this debate—which, mea culpa, I have myself contributed to―is attracting too much attention.

This is bad for two reasons:

  • The debate is driven, to some degree, by ideology and is therefore more focused on the relatively limited areas of disagreement than on the far broader areas of agreement. Most economists would agree that fiscal consolidation is needed in advanced economies, and that the average annual pace of adjustment during 2011-12―about 1 percentage point―is neither too aggressive nor excessively slow. Most economists would also agree that countries under pressure from markets have to adjust at a faster pace, while those that do not face such constraints have more time. Of course, there is disagreement on some aspects of the fiscal strategy, but it relates to specific country cases.
  • The debate is detracting attention from policy issues that may seem less urgent, but which are nevertheless critical in the medium term. I am referring to what I would call the institutional gaps in fiscal policymaking that still exist in most advanced and emerging economies. These gaps have contributed to a bias in the conduct of fiscal policy in favor of deficits that is behind many of the current problems.

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Latin America: Making the Good Times Last


By Nicolás Eyzaguirre

(Version in Español)

Last week I attended the Annual Meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank in Montevideo, Uruguay where I gave a preview for growth in the region.

If I had to summarize the global backdrop for Latin America in four words, I would say “favorable, but still risky.” The global setting is favorable for two reasons:

  • First, some of the recent data has come in a bit stronger than expected, particularly figures on U.S. economic activity and employment. In the emerging markets sphere, growth remains fairly solid. Notably, China continues to put in a good performance, even though growth is easing and its exports are down somewhat. Good growth in Asia supports demand for Latin America’s key commodity exports, keeping terms of trade favorable.
  • Second, major countries have taken some important policy steps to underpin global growth and stability. In Europe, the European Central Bank’s Long Term Refinancing Operation has eased liquidity pressures for European banks and sovereigns and headed off a large deleveraging that would have crimped growth. Also, stronger fiscal adjustment programs and progress in resolving Greece’s stresses have supported confidence. In the United States, the Federal Reserve’s lengthening into 2014 of its commitment to maintain ultra-low interest rates, along with the extension of payroll tax relief and unemployment benefits, are bolstering demand and employment.

Overall, conditions and the outlook remain relatively favorable for the region. Commodity prices continue to ride high, despite some recent setbacks, thanks to buoyant emerging-market demand. Accommodative monetary policies in the major countries, and ample liquidity, maintain easy financing conditions for the more creditworthy countries. Indeed, the reemergence of strong capital inflows is again putting unwelcome upward pressure on exchange rates in some financially-open countries.

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Global Growth Hits a Soft Patch


By Olivier Blanchard

(Versions in
عربي,  中文EspañolFrançaisPortuguêsРусский)

Today we’re in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to release our update to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook.

Despite a mild slowdown, the global economic recovery continues but the road to health will be a long one.  Downside risks, both old and new, are increasing.

Our world forecast is 4.3% growth for 2011, and 4.5% for 2012, so down by 0.1% for 2011, and unchanged for 2012, relative to April.  This figure hides very different performances for advanced economies on the one hand, and for emerging and developing economies on the other.  Continue reading

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