Thursday, June 17, 2010

Completing the Eurozone rescue

VoxEU has published a new eBook on the current economic situation in Europe. The book is called "Completing the Eurozone rescue: What more needs to be done?". The book contains 13 short articles with an analysis of what went wrong and some concrete policy proposals to ensure a successful recovery and avoid similar crisis in the future.

Here is a summary of some of the findings:

"Although the essays were largely uncoordinated – and the authors hark from diverse backgrounds – a remarkably coherent message emerges. The authors unanimously believe that the crisis is not over, and that the Eurozone rescue is not finished. More needs to be done.

As Charles Wyplosz puts it, the Eurozone is levitating on the hope that European leaders will find a way to end the crisis and take steps to avoid future ones. Unless more is done, however, this levitation magic will wear off and the Eurozone crisis will resume its destructive, unpredictable path.

The crisis, in our view, is a thorny tangle of incipient debt and banking crises. Until this tangle is sorted out, any further shock could threaten the Eurozone as we know it. After all, Eurozone bank systems remain in a parlous state. Confidence in the financial system has not been restored. The losses from the Spanish real estate binge have only partially emerged. Greek public finances have still not been stabilised. Large competitiveness imbalances persist.
In short, none of the underlying causes of the crisis have been addressed.

Massive shocks could come from any number of sources ranging from the Spanish banking sector to political crisis in member countries facing fiscal austerity. Indeed, we already see ominous signs. Risk premiums on some Eurozone government debt have resumed their upwards trend despite the two May packages.

We also know that even small shocks can lead to a major crisis given the interconnected fragility of the Eurozone. Remember that it started with fiscal problems in a country which accounts for only 2.5 % of Eurozone GDP. Banking crises in a number of European countries could cause sovereign debt crises – a la Reinhart and Rogoff (2009) – which could spark contagion, thus triggering more bank crises. Trying to muddle through would be like sleepwalking through a minefield.

The time for action is now, for, as Barry Eichengreen puts it, “financial crises feed on uncertainty. The longer uncertainty is allowed to linger, the greater the damage to confidence…”.

Ilian and I wrote on of the essays where we are argue in favor of an institutional solution to the fiscal problems of the Eurozone. Our essay can be found here. The full set of essays can be found on this link.

Antonio Fatás