Germany

A Eurozone-wide IMF programme could save both

Note: This piece has been built on Re-Define's public call for an IMF programme for the Eurozone as published in the FT in 2012.

The IMF, historically the purveyor of crisis management for countries in financial trouble, is stuck in Europe. The IMF has, as today’s Charlemagne column in the Economist points out , become the junior partner in the ‘Troika’ arrangement and is often over-ruled, as was clear from the leaked IMF report on Greece. It was not always so.

The IMF is a body that is used to being in-charge. It has, over several decades, dictated policies to tens of countries that found themselves in a financial pickle. A visit from the IMF was an unpleasant experience and often involved a school-masterly dressing down of a country’s policy-making elite. For example, this image of the then IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus standing, arms folded, over Suharto, appearing to dictate terms on the bailout during the Asian crisis is burned into the collective memory of Indonesians. It was even credited with helping hasten the end of the dictatorship.

Germany Must Embrace its Crown of Thorns

Note: This piece was originally published in the Economist as the opening piece in the Debate on Germany's role in Europe

Germany's pole position in the handling of the euro crisis is evident from the fact that everything is on hold until after the German elections, even as German red lines continue to define the contours of current policies in the euro area. Without Germany's economic might behind it, no solution to the euro area crisis is possible.

However, its influence on the political, intellectual and economic aspects of the handling of the euro crisis belies Germany's lack of leadership on these dimensions. The failure of intellectual leadership is perhaps the most pernicious of the three.

The absence of diversity and depth in the German debate on the euro crisis is striking. The inaccurate 'lazy southerner' narrative dominates public and private discussions, and the need for austerity is taken as a given, no matter what the evidence. 'Fuzzy' matters, such as the danger that sharp fiscal adjustment poses to social cohesion and political stability in crisis countries, get short shrift.

Eurocrisis Conversation with Peter Bofinger

Note: Peter Bofinger and Sony Kapoor wrote the original Growth Compact for the EU in late 2011, which was then adopted albeit in a very watered down format. Download as PDF.

Sony: Peter, the markets are quiet, but the Eurocrisis is still with us, No?

Peter:  Well, the crisis is continuing and the recession is getting worse, especially as it is affecting more and more counties. It has spread from the peripheral countries into the core of Europe.  It has affected France, which is in recession, and it has also affected Germany, which has seen a severe decline in output in the fourth quarter of last year and more or less stagnated in the first quarter of this year. 

Sony:  When we were talking earlier you mentioned that this may bring new realisation in Germany and may change the debate in Germany somehow.  Up until now the crisis has not actually been felt in Germany, it has just been on the TV.  But is there not a danger that this may make a solution harder?

Personally, I can see it going both ways.  On the one hand, Germans could realise that it is a systemic crisis and they are not immune, and therefore need to do something different. Or, on the other hand, ‘oh my God, we are in trouble ourselves and here are these countries asking us for help; we cannot actually afford to help them’. This could make it less likely that Germany does anything to help them.  Which way is it more likely to go?

The Eurozone needs a grand political bargain

Linda Zeilina: Good Morning Sony, welcome to the first in our new series of 'Conversations with Re-Define'. So, market confidence seems to have returned and there is certain optimism in the air and ECB president Draghi has said that there are signs of ‘positive contagion’. Would you say that the Eurocrisis is finally over?

Sony Kapoor: I think that the optimism has gone too far. The Eurozone real economy is continuing to contract and the situation in Italy and Spain, both of which are amongst the biggest economies in the Eurozone, is particularly dire. France is not doing well either; the Greek economy is now 20% smaller than it was at the start of the Eurocrisis. Nor are Ireland and Portugal in great shape. These are just the countries that we already knew were in trouble. If you cast your net a bit broader, Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, which are supposed to be the stronger economies, are also in trouble and Germany is not immune when all economies around it are shrinking.

Yet Another European Council! Rescuing the Eurozone?

What is the outlook for this summit?

At the eve of what is now being unofficially billed as the summit to save the Euro, things are not looking good at all.

To put it mildly, no one is expecting miracles from this summit. It would be enough if they can avoid this being a disaster.

The political space is now much smaller and the size of the economic problem now much bigger than at the last such comprehensive summit in March 2011. Despite this, the summit will devote far too much time on a highly ambitious political integration agenda, much of which is unachievable in the near future and devote far too little time to tackling the growing economic problems, where action is urgently needed now.

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