Blanchard: EU mora spremeniti fiskalna pravila

Olivier Blanchard, dolgoletni glavni ekonomist IMF v času krize, že nekaj časa trdi, da v času ničelnih obrestnih mer in ko je stopnja gospodarske rasti višja od obrestnih mer na dolg, mora glavno vlogo pri stabilizaciji gospodarstva prevzeti fiskalna politika. Zdaj gre še korak naprej in za EU trdi, da mora nujno spremeniti rigidna in kontraproduktivna fiskalna pravila. In še huje, Blanchard ni samo za odpravo meje dolga pri 60% BDP in odpravo meje proračunskega deficita pri 3% BDP, pač pa tudi za to, da Evropska komisija povsem preneha menedžirati fiskalne politike posameznih držav. EK bi smela poseči le, kadar bi trajektorija dolga posamezne članice drastično zašla v polje nevzdržnosti. Če EU ne spremeni fiskalnih pravil, bo populizem s svojimi simplicističnimi “rešitvami” porastel čez mejo vzdržnega.

Earlier this year, I argued that in countries where interest rates are extremely low and public debt is considered safe by investors – making it less costly from both a fiscal and economic standpoint – larger fiscal deficits may be needed to make up for the limitations of monetary policy. The eurozone has now reached this stage.

After the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent euro crisis, monetary policy in stabilizing and reviving the eurozone. It took pragmatism, creativity, and political flair on the part of European Central Bank President Mario Draghi to accomplish this feat. But while monetary policy hasn’t quite run out of fuel, it cannot be expected to serve the same role again.

By contrast, fiscal policy, the other key component of sound Keynesian macroeconomic management, has been underused as a cyclical tool, with the result that eurozone output still is not at its potential level. This is an urgent problem that cannot be solved by any one country alone; it demands a concerted eurozone response. But while the need for a common eurozone budget from which to draw additional spending is more pressing now than in the past, this would entail risk-sharing among the member states, which is a politically difficult issue.

Still, there are other measures the eurozone could pursue, starting with a fiscal rule change. With interest rates so low, a 60% debt-to-GDP limit is not the right target (if it ever was to begin with). Not only should it be higher, but the requirement that member states that exceed the limit adjust back to it at a certain speed should be loosened. Moreover, because monetary policymakers have little room to maneuver, the European Union must grant governments more freedom to stimulate demand through fiscal policy. That means loosening the 3%-of-GDP limit on fiscal deficits, too.

To be sure, governments should not be given carte blanche; but they should not have their hands tied so tightly, either. What the EU needs is a new rule-making philosophy. The eurozone has gone so far in piling up constraints, on the assumption that governments will always misbehave or try to cheat, that the result is sometimes incomprehensible.

As a first step, the European Commission should stop micromanaging member states’ fiscal policies. The Commission should intervene only when a government is on a trajectory toward amassing truly unsustainable debt (which certainly can happen under irresponsible leadership). Otherwise, the Commission’s main job should be to provide information to the markets about the health of a member state’s economy and its likely path of debt.

The stakes are high. Without higher limits on debt and better coordination – through a new mechanism or a common budget – fiscal policy will remain too tight, economic activity too low, and the risk of populists emerging to offer simplistic solutions too high. That is the last thing the eurozone needs.

Vir: Olivier Blanchard, Project Syndicate

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