K spodnjemu zapisu Josepha Stiglitza nimam praktično ničesar dodati, razen jasnejšega naslova. Če članice evro območja želijo rešiti evro, morajo najprej zagotoviti vrnitev k rasti in povečanju blaginje njenih prebivalcev. Sicer bo vzpon populističnih strank posamične države odnesel iz evra. In Italija je dovolj velika, da lahko pokaže pot, kako se to naredi. In to sploh ni slaba stvar.
In 2000, a year after the euro was introduced, the US economy was only 13% larger than the eurozone; by 2016 it was 26% larger. After real growth of around 2.4% in 2017 – not enough to reverse the damage of a decade of malaise – the eurozone economy is faltering again.
If one country does poorly, blame the country; if many countries are doing poorly, blame the system.
And as I put it in my book The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe, the euro was a system almost designed to fail. It took away governments’ main adjustment mechanisms (interest and exchange rates); and, rather than creating new institutions to help countries cope with the diverse situations in which they find themselves, it imposed new strictures – often based on discredited economic and political theories – on deficits, debt, and even structural policies.
The central problem in a currency area is how to correct exchange-rate misalignments like the one now affecting Italy. Germany’s answer is to put the burden on the weak countries already suffering from high unemployment and low growth rates. We know where this leads: more pain, more suffering, more unemployment, and even slower growth. Even if growth eventually recovers, GDP never reaches the level it would have attained had a more sensible strategy been pursued.
Across the eurozone, political leaders are moving into a state of paralysis: citizens want to remain in the EU, but also want an end to austerity and the return of prosperity. They are told they can’t have both. Ever hopeful of a change of heart in northern Europe, troubled governments stay the course, and the suffering of their people increases.
Italy may prove to be another exception – though in a very different sense. There, anti-euro sentiment is coming from both the left and the right. With his far-right League party now in power, Matteo Salvini, the party’s leader and an experienced politician, might actually carry out the kinds of threats that neophytes elsewhere were afraid to implement. Italy is large enough, with enough good and creative economists, to manage a de facto departure – establishing in effect a flexible dual currency that could help restore prosperity. This would violate euro rules, but the burden of a de jure departure, with all of its consequences, would be shifted to Brussels and Frankfurt, with Italy counting on EU paralysis to prevent the final break. Whatever the outcome, the eurozone will be left in tatters.
It doesn’t have to come to this. Germany and other countries in northern Europe can save the euro by showing more humanity and more flexibility. But, having watched the first acts of this play so many times, I am not counting on them to change the plot.
Vir: Joseph Stiglitz, Project Syndicate