Saturday August 23, 2014 Search
Weather | Athens
32o C
25o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Europe needs new investment, not new rules

In the telecoms area, building a better European network makes sense, yet the public hand should not crowd out private spending.

By Guntram B. Wolff *

As the European Council meets in Brussels this week, the big debate on what a new policy deal for Europe could look like has re-emerged. Opponents group themselves around the famous “stability” vs “growth” camps, with the former arguing for the merits of fiscal discipline while the latter argues fiscal flexibility to finance reforms is more prudent. The “growth” camp points to the harsh reality that once the fiscal compact kicks in, it requires substantial savings by the government, while the “stability” camp emphasizes that this is exactly what is needed to render high debt levels and unfavorable debt dynamics more sustainable.

In my view, the EU must avoid another useless fight over its fiscal rules and instead use political capital to foster growth. A deal could be designed along three central elements.

The first element starts with the recognition that debt levels in several countries are already very high. The fiscal space to engage in a new stimulus as a growth instrument is simply not there and one must avoid risking a new financial crisis.

In particular, in countries where the size of the state is already very large and the efficiency of the government sector is questionable, a new fiscal stimulus should be avoided. The most convincing national growth proposition in such circumstances is a serious reform of the state and an adjustment of fiscal expenditure away from rents to much more needed growth enhancing public goods. The current fiscal rules already allow a slow-down in fiscal consolidation in exchange for serious structural reforms.

The second element of a deal would be recognizing that it is very difficult to maintain debt sustainable and primary surpluses high when euro area inflation rates are very low and real economic growth is as anemic as it is currently. Arguably, the euro area needs a different macroeconomic policy stance.

Yet, countries with high debt levels cannot provide a stimulus. The logical consequence is that countries that do have fiscal space, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Finland should start a public investment spending stimulus financed with deficits. Investment areas include the improvement of infrastructures such as roads and railways as well as increased spending in education and R&D.

This would be good for several of the countries and especially for Germany, which in any case is investing far too little, but it would also have positive spill-over effects on the euro area. This boost needs to be combined with an aggressive monetary policy stance.

The third element is recognizing that Europe underinvests in European public goods. An investment boost in trans-European infrastructure would not only be beneficial for Europe’s single market, it would also constitute an important stimulus to economic growth.

Which projects would be worthwhile undertaking and how could they be financed? The European energy network comes first to mind. In fact, with Ukraine’s gas supply crisis, the question of an adequate EU response to a potential gas shortage has become urgent. Building a better European energy network that could address energy shortfalls due to such external shocks is critical.

Yet, much of the energy network as it stands currently is in private hands. A public intervention should prevent to crowd-out private investments or render private investments non-profitable and it therefore must focus on those parts of the network, which the private sector does not deliver.

A further important area to invest public resources in is energy savings. Subsidizing and supporting investment in this area would not only make sense to meet Europe’s climate goals, it also can represent meaningful amounts of resources to have a macroeconomic impact on demand.

Similarly, in the telecoms area, building a better European network makes sense, yet the public hand should not crowd out private spending. Therefore, support for broadband build-up and other networks must be focused on areas, where the private sector would not typically invest, such as rural areas. In addition, more resources for a European mobility scheme for young workers would be useful.

Funding for this investment boost should come from European funding mechanisms. The European Investment Bank as well as project bonds could be used much more aggressively to allow for additional European investments of at least 70 billion euros in 2015.

Instead of wasting political capital on yet another reform of the Stability and Growth Pact, it is time for Europe to design a new deal on investment. Europe sorely needs this growth to meet its fiscal targets.

* The writer is director of Bruegel, a European economics think-tank.

ekathimerini.com , Wednesday June 25, 2014 (10:54)  
On steroids
Time to kick a stupid habit
Self-destructing political system
Welcome movement
New Democracy should look to center ground, says Mitsotakis
Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed opposition on Friday to New Democracy’s apparent plans to bring back into the fold politicians who had left the party in the past...
Education Ministry says almost 180,000 tertiary students ´stagnant´
A total of 178,458 people have failed to complete their tertiary education studies but are still registered as students, the Education Ministry said on Friday. According to the ministry, 139...
Inside News
External factors threatening Greek recovery
At a time when the Greek economy is displaying what appear to be early signs of recovery, following six years of deep recession, a series of external factors are threatening to undermine the...
Vodafone to buy 73 pct more of Hellas Online for 73 mln euros
Britain’s Vodafone has agreed to acquire a further 73 percent stake in Greece’s broadband and fixed-line telephony provider Hellas Online for 73 million euros, to help it better compete in t...
Inside Business
West Brom sign Greek international striker Samaras
West Bromwich Albion have signed Greece striker Georgios Samaras on a two-year contract following his release from Scottish champions Celtic, the English Premier League club said on Friday. ...
SOCCER
Panathinaikos, Asteras Tripolis notch up vital wins in Europa League
Thursday proved a very productive night for two of the three Greek teams performing in the Europa League as Panathinaikos and Asteras Tripolis secured vital wins in the first legs of their p...
Inside Sports
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. New Democracy should look to center ground, says Mitsotakis
2. Education Ministry says almost 180,000 tertiary students ´stagnant´
3. Hardouvelis ready to make changes to property tax after MP talks
4. Ancient Amphipolis tomb unlikely to have been looted, says lead archaeologist
5. Anti-terrorism squad called in after 300,000-euro bank robbery
6. External factors threatening Greek recovery
more news
Today
This Week
1. Aftershocks rattle Halkidiki after strong 5-Richter quake
2. Coast guard intercepts 180 migrants in Aegean in two days
3. Greek peach farmers await Brussels decision on compensation
4. Avramopoulos, Hagel hammer out 'roadmap' of defense cooperation
5. Hardouvelis hears grievances of coalition MPS to unified property tax bill
6. Spanish government bonds rise with Italy's before Draghi speech
Today
This Week
1. Carved sphinxes at Ancient Amphipolis tomb will not be removed
2. The magical mountain
3. Merkel cites euro’s ‘construction flaws’ as economy sputters
4. Greek stock recovery fading away as ASE falls 21 pct on valuations
5. Brussels warns Greece over plans to allow construction near Korinos beach
6. Second man held over double murder in Mani
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.