Kot običajno, dobro umerjen komentar v The Economistu o sporu med Italijo, ki je največja poraženka evrskega projekta, in Evropsko komisijo. Z nekaj več fleksibilnosti v fiskalnih pravilih EU (SGP in FP), bi se zadnji zaplet glede italijanskega proračuna lahko hitro razrešil, pritisk finančnih trgov bi se zmanjšal in rast bi se lahko odlepila iz skoraj ničle. Vztrajanje pri rigidnih pravilih na eni in trmi italijanske populistične, skrajno leve – skrajno desne koalicije na drugi strani lahko privede do bistveno večjih težav za celotno EU.
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Italians are frustrated. Real incomes in Italy have fallen since joining the euro area; inequality and poverty have risen. Economic growth briefly rose to almost 2% in mid-2017 but has since slipped back to close to zero. At 10.1%, the unemployment rate is well above the pre-crisis low of 5.8%. Economic weakness is re-emerging even as the European Central Bank reduces its stimulative asset purchases and prepares for eventual interest-rate rises. Recent indicators of service-sector and manufacturing activity suggest that the economy is at risk of falling back into contraction. A return to recession would prove disastrous for Italy’s politics and its long-run budget position. And a bit more spending now would probably not spark a bond-market panic, since the government’s debt has an average maturity of nearly seven years and most is held domestically. A little forbearance on the part of the EU might therefore enable a dangerous political moment to be defused at little economic cost.
There is a path through this impasse. The euro zone shares a monetary policy but lacks a correspondingly coherent fiscal approach. The Italian dispute offers a timely opportunity to address that. Across the euro area as a whole, fiscal policy is arguably too tight. The ratio of debt to GDP is a relatively modest 86.3% and falling fast, by three percentage points in the past year alone. In countries with big budget surpluses, such as Germany and the Netherlands, higher spending on growth-boosting investments would slow the shrinking of debt burdens, but not stop it altogether. Some of the resulting fiscal boost would spill over into Italy through increased tourism and consumption of its exports, boosting demand without straining the Italian public purse. In exchange, the EU could ask Italy to moderate its fiscal plans.
Though it would be anathema to northern Europeans, a further sweetener, in the form of limited debt mutualisation, should also be considered. Italy’s debt is an old problem. It reached 100% of GDP almost three decades ago; but the country has run a primary surplus every year for the past quarter-century, except for the two years immediately after the financial crisis. Taking a hard line with Italy today does nothing to discipline the governments of the 1980s but adds to the bitterness felt by young people, who have fared worst under the euro and must accept towering budget surpluses in perpetuity or face ejection from the single currency. A plan to swap some national bonds for Eurobonds backed by all euro-area governments might be pie-in-the-sky, politically. Yet that policy would acknowledge that euro-area countries share a fiscal fate, relieve young Italians of doing penance for their forebears’ sins and make fiscal probity for Italy a less Sisyphean task—and, perhaps, more politically tolerable.
European integration is meant to build a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The euro area could wield its combined fiscal capacity to deal with the Italian threat while building a sense of shared fiscal responsibility. Instead, Europe and Italy are heading towards confrontation. The euro zone’s greatest weakness is not its spending, but its politics.
Vir: The Economist