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The Problem with Europe’s Austerity Debate Anders Åslund Senior Fellow Cato Institute June 5, 2013 1.

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Presentation on theme: "The Problem with Europe’s Austerity Debate Anders Åslund Senior Fellow Cato Institute June 5, 2013 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Problem with Europe’s Austerity Debate Anders Åslund Senior Fellow Cato Institute June 5,

2 2

3 What Is Austerity? Fiscal responsibility! = Money is not free The real questions: 1. Fiscal responsibility: Now or later? 2. Who is prepared to pay? 3. To frontload or backload? 3

4 Six Reasons why early fiscal adjustment preferable 1. Early return to growth 2. Politically easier 3. Better fiscal adjustment 4. More structural reform 5. Financial sustainability 6. Earlier restoration of confidence 4

5 1. Early Return to Growth & Higher Growth Trajectory 5

6 2. Politically Easier Rahm Emmanuel: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Latvia: One riot in January PM Valdis Dombrovskis – reelected twice & longest serving PM in Latvia: “In this situation we have only two alternatives – one bad and a worse one. I prefer the bad one.” Greece: years of riots, strikes & demonstrations; radicalization of electorate; is democracy in danger? 6

7 3. Better Fiscal Adjustment: Get ahead of the curve! Latvia 2/3 expenditure cuts, 1/3 tax hikes Greece: Little decline in public expenditures, lingering around 54% of GDP – GDP falls faster than expenditure cuts… Greece: Little prospect for growth 7

8 Latvia: Public Expenditure as % of GDP Normalizing 8

9 Latvia Brought Down Budget Deficit, Greece Stuck at Huge Deficit 9

10 4. More Structural Reforms Expenditure cuts drive growth Vested interest are not mobilized early on More deregulation More public sector reform – Latvia sacked 30% of civil servants instantly – Greece just starting 10

11 Latvia: Sharply Falling Real Unit Labor Cost, 20%, , Greece Less 11

12 5. Financial Sustainability Vital Public debt in euro area on average 91% of GDP, end 2012Public debt in euro area on average 91% of GDP, end 2012 Nine of 27 EU countries have lost market access and needed assistanceNine of 27 EU countries have lost market access and needed assistance Financial assistance limitedFinancial assistance limited If no financing, little choiceIf no financing, little choice 12

13 6. Confidence Restored Early In Latvia bond yields peaked in June 2009 but in February 2012 in Greece Much lower yields and market interest rates in Latvia More domestic and foreign investment 13

14 Greatest Mistake: Greece May 2010 Program Too large credits given caused default No structural reforms No reduction of public expenditures as %GDP Too small fiscal adjustment No confidence & no growth 14

15 Focus on Education! The key problem of Southern Europe: Little education Education of poor quality Only 38% of the Portuguese labor force has graduated from high school (US: 88%) 15

16 Share of Labor Force That Has Graduated from High School,

17 Performance on PISA Math Test,

18 Conclusions Europe’s fiscally conservative north thrives: Latvia’s GDP growth 5.5% in 2011 and 2012 The backloaded South suffers: Meanwhile Greece GDP fell about 6% each year IMF advice seriously flawed Overestimated fiscal space in Spain, Cyprus & Slovenia Intentionally delays crisis resolution in the South 18


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