Europe's growth problem (and what to do about it)

by Zsolt Darvas, Jean Pisani-Ferry and Guntram B. Wolff on 12th April 2013

The issue: The European Union's pre-crisis growth performance was disappointing enough, but the performance has been even more dismal since the onset of the crisis. Weak growth is undermining private and public deleveraging,and is fuelling continued banking fragility. Persistently high unemployment is eroding skills, discouraging labour market participation and undermining the EU’s long-term growth potential. Low overall growth is making it much tougher for the hard-hit economies in southern Europe to recover competitiveness and regain control of their public finances. Stagnation would reduce the attractiveness of Europe for investment. Under these conditions, Europe's social models are bound to prove unsustainable.

Policy Challenge: The European Union's weak long-term growth potential and unsatisfactory recovery from the crisis represent a major policy challenge. Over and above the structural reform agenda, which vitally important, bold policy action is needed. The priority is to get bank credit going. Banking problems need to be assessed properly and bank resolution and recapitalisation should be pursued. Second, fostering the reallocation of factors to the most productive firms and the sectors that contribute to aggregate rebalancing is vital. Addressing intra-euro area competitiveness divergence is essential to support growth in southern Europe. Third, the speed of fiscal adjustment needs to be appropriate and EU funds should be front loaded to countries in deep recession, while the European Investment Bank should increase investment.

See the annex for this Policy Brief here.

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