The European Semester: More power to eurozone governments
The sovereign debt crisis prompted a raft of new EU regulations overseeing member states’ fiscal and budgeting processes. At first, the rules gave a lot of power to the European Commission, but eurozone governments now tend to use the coordination process to place themselves above the Commission and the peripheral member states. There is still no credible institutional backup, however, against debt contagion.
EU budget plan offers progress and pitfalls
The European Commission is finally taking steps to trim unproductive spending in areas like agriculture in its budget framework for 2021-2027. But while the new emphasis on fighting waste is promising, the fiscal plan also contains troubling proposals. One of the most disturbing is to reduce cohesion payments to countries that violate European "values," based on the arbitrary interpretations of the Commission and a few powerful member states.
Opinion: Where is Italy headed?
For two months, Italy’s Five Star Movement and its leader Luigi Di Maio have tried to assemble a cabinet with the mainstream parties of the center-right (Silvio Berlusconi) or center-left (Matteo Renzi). So far, they have failed. But those who assume Italy is doomed to return to the polls underestimate the capacity of Italian politicians for compromise – especially since a weak government suits nearly everybody.
New narratives emerging on EU finances
The European Union’s inflexible budget process – constrained by seven-year Multiannual Financial Frameworks (MFFs) – has left the bloc almost incapable of handling major crises. The resort to ad hoc solutions over the past decade has only made the situation worse. Now, reformers are considering new revenue sources, and even more revolutionary steps such as EU taxes or a separate eurozone budget.
Trump’s trade war is poised for a Pyrrhic victory
The flip side of the Trump administration’s drive to reduce the U.S. foreign trade deficit is that it will leave the rest of the world with fewer dollars to finance its budget deficit. President Trump could cut spending drastically or persuade the Federal Reserve to buy more bonds, but neither seems likely. More probably, he will do nothing as domestic rates rise and the dollar strengthens – widening the trade deficit again.
Emmanuel Macron’s shrinking revolution
French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to abolish France’s left/right political divide and shake up the country’s bloated bureaucracy. Yet his promised spending and tax cuts have been underwhelming, while his timid attempts to downsize the “layer-cake” administration have only stirred up fierce opposition. Time is running out for Mr. Macron to create a “shock of confidence” to get the economy moving.
Opinion: Europe’s misguided tax crusade
While the United States cuts taxes to spur growth, the European Union is blacklisting countries regarded as threats its fiscal system. The contrast speaks volumes about the economic priorities on both sides, and does not bode well for the long-term viability of Europe’s welfare states.
African countries move toward fiscal consolidation
Stung by falling commodities prices and growing donor fatigue, many African countries are expanding their tax bases. While at first blush this looks like a good move to liberate their economies from aid and resource dependence, it could also be a recipe for reducing investment and tamping down economic growth.
Global Outlook 2018: Dangerous waters ahead for the world economy
All around, the wind seems to have filled the sails of the world economy. From consumer spending to investment to stock market indices, the sailing seems smooth. But some dangerous currents, including debt-fueled liquidity and low productivity, are converging below the surface. Without an effort by the captains of the world economy to right the ship, it could be pulled under.
Opinion: Mario Centeno’s useful ambiguities
New Eurogroup Chairman Mario Centeno is known as a socialist, but despite his “anti-austerity” reputation, he slashed government spending and deficits while he was finance minister of Portugal. This earned him trust on both sides of the fiscal policy divide, and will allow him either to keep the Eurogroup as a low-profile talking shop, or to help it raise its stature to eurozone policymaking body.