Opinion

A temporary, common fiscal stimulus to answer the mayhem of COVID-19

We are not in normal times and we have to surpass, albeit only for the duration of the COVID-19 shock, the hurdles that did not allow the euro-area to endow itself of a common fiscal policy.

By: Date: April 2, 2020 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

A drawback in the design of the euro-area is that we have complete monetary union but no fiscal union, as conclusively argued in the five presidents report of June 2015[1].

In normal times, it has not been possible to achieve fiscal union because of the opposite, but converging in their effects, actions of Italy and Germany, to take the clearest examples. Italy has pursued for many years imprudent fiscal policies and has not implemented the structural measures that would have freed it from economic stagnation. Germany has looked for growth in external current account surpluses rather than domestic demand and has been in the constant fear that some of its European partners were only interested in grabbing its savings.

We are not in normal times and we have to surpass, albeit only for the duration of the COVID-19 shock, the hurdles that did not allow the €-area to endow itself of a common fiscal policy. This can be done using the institutional set-up that we have in an innovative way.

The urgent need to come to common fiscal stimulus derives from two dramatic developments.

First, the euro-area is hit by a very serious economic shock: a fall by 10 per cent of GDP in 2020 is likely.  The ECB has taken appropriate monetary policy measures to deal with the shock and has made clear that it is ready to do more, if needed. A matching common fiscal answer is necessary to deal with such a shock, given the economic integration in the euro-area and the need to properly take into account spill-overs of actions carried out at national level.

Second, some countries may not be able to take the necessary fiscal measures without putting in danger their solvability. Of course, while the shock they are dealing with is not their responsibility, the fact that they are in a precarious fiscal position to deal with it is due to their past wrong policies. They should recognize this.

Three layers are needed to come to a fiscal common policy to deal with COVID-19.

The European Council should declare an economic emergency and set the overall framework of the common fiscal action. This should include:

  • The period over which the fiscal action should take place, being ready to prolong it if needed
  • The overall envelope of the needed funding of the common action, being ready to increase it if needed
  • The general instructions to the second layers on the action to be pursued
  • The agreement to decide, at the two lower layers of action (see below), on a majority basis.

The just mentioned decisions of the European Council should be taken by unanimity and be endorsed by the European parliament and, where needed, by national parliaments.

The implementation of the common fiscal action would be the responsibility of the EU Commission and the Eurogroup. The EU Commission would make proposals to the Eurogroup which could change or reject them on the basis of qualified majority. The Commission would send instructions to national government about the operational implementation of the common fiscal program.

The ESM would function as debt office of the euro-area, raising the funds that are needed for the decided common action. If needed, based on the above-mentioned decision of the European Council, additional guarantees would be given to the ESM to raise the needed funds.

[1] “It is important to ensure also that the sum of national budget balances leads to an appropriate fiscal stance at the level of the euro-area as a whole. “

 


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint.

Due to copyright agreements we ask that you kindly email request to republish opinions that have appeared in print to [email protected].

Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

The Challenges of the Post-Pandemic Agenda

This opinion piece has previously been published in Project Syndicate. PARIS – There is a growing possibility that the COVID-19 crisis will mark the end of the growth model born four decades ago with the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, China’s embrace of capitalism, and the demise of the Soviet Union. The pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of […]

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 28, 2020
Read article More on this topic
 

Opinion

Can households in the European Union make ends meet?

Half the households surveyed by Eurostat see themselves as unable to find the resources they would need to cope with an unexpected expense within a month, estimated by experts at €375 in the case of Greece.

By: Maria Demertzis, Marta Domínguez-Jiménez and Annamaria Lusardi Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 24, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

Having the cake, but slicing it differently: how is the grand EU recovery fund allocated?

The European Commission’s original allocation mechanism really favoured lower-income countries and to a large extent was based on pre-COVID economic data. The modification adopted by the European Council gives more consideration to the country size and the adverse economic impact of COVID-19. As a consequence, by using the Commission’s May 2020 economic forecasts, I estimate that only Germany and France will get more grants from the EU’s recovery fund compared to the Commission’s original proposal, while other countries will get less.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 23, 2020
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

Government-guaranteed bank lending: beyond the headline numbers

Loan guarantees have been a major part of the COVID-19 support packages offered by European governments to companies. The actual take-up numbers so far follow very different patterns from the headline announcements, and might allay early concerns about single market distortions caused by the different sizes of packages in different countries.

By: Julia Anderson, Francesco Papadia and Nicolas Véron Date: July 14, 2020
Read article Download PDF
 

Policy Brief

Greening the recovery by greening the fiscal consolidation

In the wake of COVID-19, some economic recovery policies will help green the economy – for example, energy renovation of buildings. But there are limits to the share of stimulus that can be explicitly green. The European Union should therefore also green the fiscal consolidation by setting out the path to much higher carbon prices than today. This would guide investment and provide revenues to help the fiscal consolidation.

By: Ben McWilliams, Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 8, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

An EU budget for Europe's future with Johannes Hahn

How do we make the EU fit for future?

Speakers: Zsolt Darvas, Johannes Hahn and Mehreen Khan Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: July 7, 2020
Read article More on this topic
 

Opinion

Credible emerging market central banks could embrace quantitative easing to fight COVID-19

Emerging economies are fighting COVID-19 and the economic sudden stop imposed by the containment and lockdown policies, in the same way as advanced economies. However, emerging markets also face large and rapid capital outflows as a result of the pandemic. This column argues that credible emerging market central banks could rely on purchases of local currency government bonds to support the needed health and welfare expenditures and fiscal stimulus. In countries with flexible exchange rate regimes and well-anchored inflation expectations, such quantitative easing would help ease financial conditions, while minimising the risks of large depreciations and spiralling inflation.

By: Gianluca Benigno, Jon Hartley, Alicia García-Herrero, Alessandro Rebucci and Elina Ribakova Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 6, 2020
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

EU recovery plans should fund the COVID-19 battles to come; not be used to nurse old wounds

In its proposed Recovery Fund, the European Commission uses allocation criteria mainly linked to infection rates and past economic performance. To foster an efficient economic rebound post COVID-19 crisis, we propose instead to allocate funds through a forward-looking approach based on specific industrial and economic structure of EU regions.

By: Carlo Altomonte, Andrea Coali and Gianmarco Ottaviano Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 6, 2020
Read article Download PDF More on this topic
 

Policy Contribution

The financial fragility of European households in the time of COVID-19

The concept of household financial fragility emerged in the United States after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. It grew out of the need to understand whether households’ lack of capacity to face shocks could itself become a source of financial instability.

By: Maria Demertzis, Marta Domínguez-Jiménez and Annamaria Lusardi Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 2, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Impact and additionality assessment in the time of COVID-19

Understanding the impact and additionality of policy interventions.

Speakers: Ugo Albertazzi, Benoit Campagne, Andrea Conte, Zsolt Darvas, Maria Demertzis, Francesco Di Comite, John Earle, Matteo Falagiarda, Áron Gereben, Helmut Kraemer-Eis, Hans Peter Lankes, Iana Liadze, Andrew McDowell, Nicola Pochettino, Debora Revoltella, Mattia Romani, Simone Signore, Natacha Valla, Georg Weiers and Marcin Wolski Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 30, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

The need for market-based finance after COVID-19

How do COVID-19-caused financial dislocations inform policy responses?

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Gabriel Makhlouf and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 29, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

Redefining Europe’s role after the Covid-19 Pandemic

How will the Covid 19 crisis change the role of the EU in Europe and the world?

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 25, 2020
Load more posts