Will Italy Sink Europe
Comment of the Day

October 23 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Will Italy Sink Europe

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Jim O’Neill for Project Syndicate. Here is a section:

For its part, the EU should do more to help Italy take the tough steps it needs. The European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the German government have erred in insisting on rigid enforcement of the EU Stability and Growth Pact, particularly the 3%-of-GDP cap on fiscal deficits.

Although some countries have been allowed to breach the deficit cap during challenging times, Italy is almost never afforded much accommodation, owing to its high debt levels. Yet as the experience of Belgium and Japan shows, high government debt can be reduced only through sustained economic growth.

Complicating matters further, some reforms to boost long-term productivity can actually reduce growth in the short term. Thus, any government enacting such measures will need to have the option of pursuing counter-cyclical stimulus.

Another problem concerns monetary policy. The ECB could stand to be more broad-minded in how it pursues its inflation target of just under 2%. That target, along with Germany’s own 2% target, leaves Italy locked into a state of low inflation, even when it could benefit from more monetary-policy stimulus.

Under these conditions, the EU authorities would do well not to oppose the current Italian government’s plans too aggressively. If mainstream liberals are worried about the implications of a democratically elected populist government, then they should worry even more about what could come next if economic circumstances worsen. At this stage, Italy needs stronger nominal GDP growth – plain and simple.

Eoin Treacy's view

There has been a lot of commentary about the rise of populism what that means for the state of the social democratic centrism which has been the dominant force in European politics for decades. However much less discussion of the demands put on Eurozone consumers, particularly on the periphery as a result of the sovereign wealth crisis.

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