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  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Budget consolidation is dominating the political agenda. The Hungarian government has embarked on an ambitious four-year consolidation programme following another election-year peak in the deficit in 2006 at 9.2% of GDP. The immediate revenue increases and spending cuts are temporarily damping growth. However, if all goes according to plan, the programme will bring dividends to the economy in the longer term. This payoff is crucially dependent on: Discipline in budgetary processes. Work needs to continue on strengthening budgetary mechanisms. A system of binding medium-term spending limits should be considered. Budgetary reform also needs to extend to the sub-national governments. Success in maintaining spending freezes. The re-scheduling that brought forward part of the 13th month payment to public-sector workers this year does not affect achievement of the 2007 fiscal target in accrual terms. Nevertheless, looking forward, strong resistance to spending pressures arising from revenue windfalls is of key importance. Implementation of the structural reform programme. The healthcare reforms that are expected to deliver a large share of fiscal savings are reasonably well advanced and a welcome cut in gas-price subsidies is already reducing government spending. The reforms in education are positive but the changes to the tuition–fee system in particular should go further. It is more uncertain, however, whether all the planned cuts in government administration will be realised. Successful reform of public spending requires the participation of the counties and municipal governments. There are potential savings in administrative overheads here too and sub-national governments are responsible for providing many government services. In-depth review of these issues in this Survey reveals a need to: Capture economies of scale. Political constraints preclude widespread mergers among the large number of small municipalities. However, the joint provision of services is widespread and should be encouraged further. Efforts to rationalise through replacement of county-level governments with regional assemblies should continue. Reform financing systems. The financing of sub-national government needs simplification and greater transparency and oversight in accounts. Also, the benchmarking of services via output and performance indicators needs to become more widespread. Reform of local taxation should include widening of property tax and removal of the local business tax. Hungary's low employment rate remains a key structural handicap to economic performance. There has been welcome reform of unemployment benefits and early-retirement pensions. Planned reforms to disability pensions look promising and a concrete proposal for old-age pension reform is in the pipeline. This Survey looks in depth at the issue of prolonged parental leave and other aspects of family policy: Current efforts to boost childcare services are welcome. Future reform needs to consider further strengthening of central-government provision requirements on municipalities regarding these services, matched by appropriate funding. A system of childcare vouchers for parents would be one way of increasing efficiency in the provision of services. Reform to the very long parental leaves should be considered, along with changes to the attendant system of additional cash benefits. Savings could be used to help fund increased childcare services.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Growth performance over the last decade has been among the best in the OECD, though a precise calibration is not yet possible following the recent revisions to GDP data. High growth has been driven by a range of factors, some of which are transitory. It is particularly encouraging that growth has been sustained over the last two years, despite substantial fiscal consolidation, mainly being driven by investment and exports. However, significant further reforms are needed to ensure that good performance is sustained in the years to come. It is imperative to use this period of strong performance to tackle remaining weaknesses in product and labour markets and move fiscal policy further towards a sustainable position by vigorous continued consolidation and pension reform. The key challenge, in terms of political economy, is to manage the required reforms in a context where society may be unduly complacent because the “good times” appear to be continuing.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: A welcome economic recovery is under way in Italy. In part, this reflects the cyclical upswing in the rest of Europe, but there are also early signs of a more fundamental improvement, notably in terms of export and labour market performance. Even so, medium-term prospects remain challenging: Total factor productivity shows little signs of resurgence, high public indebtedness threatens fiscal sustainability and population ageing looms large. Without further reforms to restore economic dynamism, living standards will be dragged down relative to other countries. This Survey discusses policies undertaken by the government to address these challenges, notably to boost competition on product markets, achieve fiscal sustainability and make fiscal federalism work – all in support of growth and adjustment.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Sweden's 1993 Competition Act (CA) remains the foundation of a broad policy approach that includes prohibitions against restrictive agreements and abuse of dominance, control of concentrations, advocacy and support for academic research. Enforcement of this legislation by the Swedish Competition Authority (SCA) marked a shift towards a judicial, rules-based approach.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Sweden
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Following major economic reforms, the Slovak economy has grown strongly in recent years, driven by rapid productivity growth, but still has far to go to catch up to the per capita income levels in the advanced European countries. The incoming government has made achieving a more equal distribution of income a priority insofar as this can be done without damaging long-term growth prospects. There is considerable scope both to strengthen growth prospects and to reduce income inequality by raising employment rates, improving education outcomes (including by reducing the impact of socio-economic background), and by removing barriers to product-market competition. The new government has also reiterated its commitment to Slovakia's entry into the euro area in January 2009 and has taken steps to make it probable that Slovakia will satisfy the Maastricht criteria for entry on a sustainable basis. Policies may need to be adapted to support macroeconomic stability in the currency union.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Poverty
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Slovakia
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Regulatory reform contributes to promoting sustained economic growth, complementing sound macro-economic policies. While Sweden has made significant progress on regulatory reform since the early 1990s and enjoyed major productivity gains as a result, it should instil more competition in the public sector, cut red tape and liberalise labour markets if it is to meet the challenge of an ageing population and maintain its high standards of social welfare.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: Europe, Sweden
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Belgian economy is in a strong recovery phase. The balancing of the budget since the start of the decade has allowed public debt to fall fast relative to GDP, providing a favourable macroeconomic background for the recovery. Moreover, structural reforms, particularly in the labour market, are showing signs of success. Output has accelerated and was by mid-2006 growing at 3% – the fastest pace since 2000. With growth well above potential, some production factors are already under strain. The challenge will be to persist with stability and reform-oriented policies to bolster the economy's trend growth, a challenge made more acute by the impending ageing of the population.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: Europe, Belgium
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Randstad is the poly-centric urban area in western Netherlands, comprising Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and several smaller cities. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the OECD, which has developed into an advanced urban economy with many leading sectors, such as logistics, horticulture and financial services. The Randstad has one of the lowest unemployment rates in all OECD countries and is one of the most attractive metropolitan areas for foreign direct investment.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Netherlands, Rotterdam, Amsterdam
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Sweden enjoys excellent macroeconomic performance with high rates of growth, low unemployment and stable inflation expectations. Early steps in regulatory reform, taken in the 1990s, are paying off in terms of productivity and GDP growth. However, tensions are visible at the margin. Employment rates have not recovered to traditionally high levels since the crisis of the early 1990s. Joblessness is widespread among immigrants and youngsters, and disability and sickness rates are comparatively high. As well, renewed regulatory reform is needed, inter alia to address the low rate of enterprise formation and enterprise growth that may weaken the economy's ability to venture into new business fields.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: Europe, Sweden
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The economy is experiencing a favourable period of robust growth, low unemployment and moderate underlying inflation. This largely reflects the effects of globalisation, of which Norway has been a prime beneficiary, supplying energy and other commodities at high prices and increasingly importing products from low-cost countries. Sizeable labour migration inflows, together with sustained productivity growth, have kept cost inflation at a moderate pace. A tradition of foreign trade openness, domestic competition, a good policy framework and sound macroeconomic management have meant that Norway was well prepared to take advantage of these international trends.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: Europe, Norway
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Spain's economy has managed a remarkable performance in terms of growth, employment and public finances over more than a decade. A combination of expansionary monetary conditions, fiscal prudence, beneficial structural reforms and the positive supply-side effects of the strong rise in immigration has contributed to these outcomes. But these favourable developments are tempered by deterioration in several areas: the still high inflation differential has harmed competitiveness, and the resulting low real interest rates entail excessive domestic demand, which has been supported, jointly with employment growth and immigration, by ongoing rapid increases in household indebtedness and house prices. Despite some improvement, growth has therefore remained unbalanced as manifest in the large external deficit. Looking ahead, productivity gains are still modest, risking a substantial weakening in output and per capita income growth in the coming years.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Migration
  • Political Geography: Europe, Spain
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: After several false starts, the economic recovery has taken hold. Activity was strong in 2006, firms and households are more confident about the future, business investment has picked up and unemployment has fallen below 8% for the first time since 2001. There are encouraging signs that the recovery is broadening to embrace household consumption as well. If in addition structural reforms continue, the expansion will become durable and self-sustaining, a prospect also supported by sound corporate and household balance sheets and favourable financing conditions. All this is good news, though it should be kept in perspective. Growth of around 2¼ per cent per annum projected for 2007 and 2008 is still modest by OECD standards, although the growth gap is smaller when measured on a per capita basis. Still, it could take until 2008 for cyclical slack to be fully absorbed.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Milan ranks among wealthy OECD metropolitan regions and is often identified with the “Made in Italy” brand on the international arena, notably for fashion and design. Once a successful industrial city, Milan has grown into the core of a wider industrial metropolitan region that is home to more than 7 million people. Industrial activities still drive the region's periphery while the centre of Milan is veering towards becoming a service platform for a significant share of northern Italy. Milan's historical skills endowment and its advantageous geographic location could underpin its ambition to become a southern European and Mediterranean capital, supplying advanced services and new technologies while remaining an international capital of fashion and design.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Russian economy has been enjoying a period of robust growth, thanks largely to steadily rising terms of trade. The challenge confronting policy-makers is to facilitate Russia's transition into a period of self-sustaining, investment- and innovation-led growth. This will require a sound macroeconomic policy framework to manage the economy's adjustment to sustained high oil prices and a range of structural reforms aimed at creating better framework conditions for business.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Ireland has continued its exemplary economic performance, attaining some of the highest growth rates in the OECD. After a remarkable decade, per-capita income has caught up with and overtaken the EU average. Further progress will require strong productivity growth and continued increases in labour supply. These challenges are familiar to most OECD economies. But it also faces some issues that are less common: it is going through a transition phase in upgrading its social services; infrastructure levels need to catch up with the boom in activity and population that has occurred over this period; and it has to manage some sizeable macroeconomic risks.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: Europe, Ireland
  • Publication Date: 10-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The stability and resilience of the economy has been impressive and labour and product markets are among the most flexible in the OECD, but structural economic performance judged against a range of indicators can be further improved.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Sound macroeconomic policy, assertive product, capital and labour market liberalisation, and fundamental tax and welfare reform have transformed the Slovak business environment in recent years. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has responded particularly well, becoming the prime engine of capacity and productivity growth, and helping to put the economy on a strong and well-balanced growth path.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 08-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Norwegian economy continues to recover strongly from its 2002-2003 slowdown. Low interest rates, competition induced productivity gains, high investments by the booming oil sector, terms-of-trade gains and supportive macroeconomic policies are the main drivers. Inflation is low and labour inputs in terms of hours worked are rising briskly. Strong growth is likely for the remainder of this year and possibly during 2006.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Emerging Markets
  • Political Geography: Europe, Norway
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Economic policy in the euro area pursues the objectives of achieving solid economic growth, a better performance of labour markets and restoring sound public finances in the context of a single monetary policy which aims at maintaining price stability. Although inflation has remained just above the ECB's definition of price stability, longer-term inflation expectations remain firmly anchored to price stability. However, progress towards the other goals has been disappointing thus far partly owing to adverse shocks such as higher oil prices or exchange rate shifts. On unchanged policies and with population ageing the euro area's potential output growth is set to decelerate over the next decades and eventually stabilises at around 1% per annum by about 2020, as illustrated in the following scenario:
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Recent and prospective growth performance is good. The Greek economy has continued to grow vigorously, buoyed especially by low nominal and real interest rates and an expansionary fiscal policy stance, largely reflecting public works in preparation for the Olympic Games in 2004. The outlook is for some slowing activity in the near term, triggered by fiscal consolidation, but a subsequent pick-up in growth thereafter. However, inflation is likely to remain above the euro-area average, to a certain extent eroding Greece's international competitiveness. Fiscal consolidation is the main priority. The fiscal audit, performed by the new government in close collaboration with Eurostat has revealed a very loose fiscal policy since the late 1990s, culminating in a general government deficit of 6% of GDP in 2004. The government debt-to-GDP ratio has remained stubbornly above 100%, despite uninterrupted strong growth during the past eleven years. Reining in government deficits is of vital importance both to meet the fiscal objectives of EMU, and to prepare for demographically-related budget pressures that will start emerging in a decade's time. Moreover, sustained high public debt makes Greece relatively more vulnerable to changes in interest rates and market sentiment, while it's servicing threatens to crowd out public spending in areas important for Greece's ambitions to reach income levels elsewhere in the EU.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece
  • Publication Date: 06-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: France has high productivity per hour worked and a sophisticated social welfare system, but it also suffers from low labour force participation and high structural un employment. This poor labour market performance contributes to a persistent budget deficit which is exacerbating, rather than alleviating, the fiscal pressures arising from ageing. Rising public debt threatens fiscal sustainability. It is partly a result of insufficient public expenditure control an d insufficient public understanding of the need to meet long-run challenges as well as short-term targets. Aspects of the labour code designed to protect employees, and some aspects of the system of social transfers have had some unintended but perverse consequences leading to structurally high levels of unemployment and low participation rates. Dynamism and growth of activity and employment are held back by a lack of competition in a large number of service sectors.
  • Topic: Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, France
  • Publication Date: 06-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Swedish economy has undergone impressive changes and has delivered a remarkable surge in productivity since the mid-1990s. Consequently, per capita incomes are slowly making up the ground lost in earlier decades. Labour market performance, however, has been less inspiring. Employment rates have yet to recover to their 1990 peaks and hours of work need to increase to support the welfare state.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Sweden
  • Publication Date: 05-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: A modest recovery is under way. A recovery has been under way since early 2004 and is expected to proceed at a moderate pace in 2005 and 2006, with domestic demand continuing to rise faster than GDP. Real growth is projected to remain somewhat slower than the EU average. The gap in consumer price inflation is expected to widen again in 2006. The current-account deficit has increased and export market share losses were substantial until recently. Employment growth has been impressive throughout the slowdown, but the growth of productivity, including that of total factor productivity, has been very weak.
  • Topic: Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Publication Date: 03-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Spanish economy has enjoyed many years of brisk growth and has recovered swiftly from the recent international slowdown. Activity has been boosted by low interest rates and strong job creation, and underpinned by structural reforms and a sound fiscal policy. As a result, the income gap with the euro area steadily narrowed. However, tensions have arisen that could undermine the strong growth performance as inflation is relatively high, eroding competitiveness, while the surge in house prices does not yet show signs of abating. Also productivity gains have remained meagre and unemployment is still high.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Spain
  • Publication Date: 03-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The dominant challenge for Belgium in the years to come is to prepare for population ageing. This entails putting in place policies to attenuate its effects on economic growth and public finances. The few years left before large numbers of baby boomers retire provide a window of opportunity to push ahead with such policies and so preserve the essential elements of the system of social protection. First, further budget consolidation is required to put public finances on a sustainable path. Second, reforms are needed to increase employment rates, especially for the older working age-population, school leavers and ethnic minorities, and to slow the decline in working time. Finally, reforms are required to raise productivity growth.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 02-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Denmark has been near the top of the OECD's income rankings for many years. It has the most equal income distribution among member countries, partly because of its comprehensive welfare state. Given an ageing population, the key economic challenge is to maintain growth in living standards while preserving the welfare system. To achieve this, Denmark will need to raise labour supply and productivity growth. If they do not improve from here, the growth rate of per capita GDP will be dragged down to just ½ per cent per annum within a couple of decades.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Denmark
  • Publication Date: 02-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Iceland's impressive economic performance has continued to show the benefits of the refocusing of policies on financial stabilisation and market liberalisation in the 1990s. The most recent recovery, which began in 2003, has been much more vigorous than expected, as buoyant household demand has reinforced the stimulatory effect of the large-scale aluminium-related investment projects underway. Imbalances in the economy – specifically, the large current account deficit and inflation pressures – have mounted and – with GDP growth averaging over 5% in 2004-06 – they may well be similar in size to those seen in the last overheating episode in 2000-01, which resulted in a mild recession. Limiting instability over the next few years is a demanding task for macroeconomic policymakers, and efforts underway in this regard need to be strengthened. There are also challenges for structural policies, notably with respect to the proper assessment of future investment projects and in the environ-mental area. In a longer-term perspective, sustaining the faster productivity growth that structural reforms in the 1990s have brought about will require further action, especially in the education and competition policy fields.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 02-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Danmark har i mange år ligget nær toppen på OECD's rangliste over BNP pr. indbygger. Danmark har den mest lige indkomstfordeling blandt medlemslandene, delvist so m følge af dets vidtfavnende velfærdsstat. I lyset af befolkningsaldringen er den primære økonomiske udfordring at fastholde væksten i levestandarden og samtidig bevare velfærdssystemet. For at opnå dette er det nødvendigt at øge arbejdsudbuddet og væksten i produktiviteten. Uden forbedringer på disse to områder vil væksten i BNP pr. indbygger fa lde til blot ½ procent om året i løbet af et par årtier.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Denmark
  • Publication Date: 11-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Following accession to the European Union the big issue for the Czech Republic is to strengthen growth prospects. Growth potential at present is somewhat above 3 per cent, implying a moderate pace of catch-up to living standards in the EU and elsewhere. There is room for greater ambition in growth performance, and it is welcome to see this reflected in the programme of the new Czech government. This Survey underscores four main challenges. Fiscal consolidation is the dominant challenge for macroeconomic policy, and is not only necessary to cope with ageing and to bring down the tax burden but is also needed to fulfil euro-area entry conditions. A welcome programme of fiscal reform has begun, including proposals for a system of multi-year aggregate spending ceilings and significant expenditure cuts. However, to date, mainly revenue-raising measures have been implemented while the full impact of expenditure measures is yet to be realised. The attempt to secure broad political consensus on pension reform is commendable, but it must be underscored that whatever reform is finally implemented, it will have to bring considerable fiscal savings. Health-care reform also has to deliver savings, but concrete proposals have yet to be made. To facilitate assessment of the true fiscal position, extra-budgetary funds need to be more fully integrated in mainstream government budgeting procedures. Also, with the further decentralisation of public services, the need for good budgeting practices and accountability in regional and municipal governments is all the more important. The Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance have formulated a transparent strategy for entering the euro area, that foresees minimising the time spent in ERM II. Annual reports will assess the economic conditions in relation to the Maastricht Criteria and a request to enter ERM II will only being made if the probability of a positive first assessment by the EU authorities is high. The choice of a 3 per cent inflation target for the run-up to euro entry is justifiable on medium-term grounds. However there may be some difficulty communicating the consistency of this target with the Maastricht criterion for price stability. The Czech authorities should therefore pay close attention to how the Maastricht criteria are interpreted and applied by the European Commission and the ECB and adjust their communication strategy accordingly. Most of the catch-up in living standards will have to come from boosting productivity growth. This means swifter re-allocation of resources across firms as well as stronger in-firm productivity growth. While the Czech Republic is a strong competitor for attracting foreign direct investment, policy towards poorly performing firms and business start-ups has problems, slowing down the exit and entry of firms. Bankruptcy procedures are cumbersome, often long and usually end up in liquidation, with asset stripping not uncommon. Reforms have long-since been planned, and it is welcome that new legislation looks finally set to go ahead. The legislation aims at strengthening the role of creditors, speeding up proceedings and allowing composition to play a bigger role. Likewise, efforts to streamline business registration are welcome and should be implemented as soon as possible. The general business climate is also damaged by issues in network industry competition, as some services, notably internet, are expensive in international comparison. Mobility between jobs and regions is weak. Administrative extensions of collective wage agreements, strict employment protection legislation (EPL) on individual dismissals, rent control, severe poverty traps (particularly for families) and a high tax wedge have contributed to considerable long-term unemployment. The Roma population is hit especially hard in this respect. Migration is to some extent mitigating the labour-market rigidities with Slovaks filling skilled vacancies and other eastern Europeans (mainly Ukrainians) taking up unskilled jobs that are unattractive for locals. Tackling the unemployment problem requires measures across a wide front, but most notably social benefit reform is needed along with reduction in the tax wedge as well as easing of EPL. The widespread social and economic exclusion of the Roma needs more attention, particularly in the education system. A more open immigration policy is needed to address immediate issues such as the inconsistency between granting work permits as well as for better alignment of immigrants' skills with those needed on the Czech labour market.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Ukraine, Czech Republic
  • Publication Date: 10-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The transformation of the Finnish economy over the last decade represents one of the few examples of the "new economy" taking hold in Europe. Output and productivity growth over the second half of the 1990s was among the highest in the OECD, and the recovery from the global downturn has been much stronger than for the euro area as a whole. However, imminent population ageing threatens to expose weaknesses in the labour market. Demographic developments, which over past decades have been broadly neutral, could reduce the growth rate of GDP per capita by 1/4 of a percentage point per annum over the remainder of this decade and by almost 1 percentage point over the next decade. This, combined with the likelihood of smaller productivity gains in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector, a continuation of falling ICT prices as well as the mediocre performance in the sheltered sectors, threatens the future growth of living standards. Within a decade, and in the absence of further policy changes, these developments together could imply that Finland not only loses its top performer status but could face a protracted period of slow growth, as illustrated in the following scenario.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 09-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Deregulating labour markets – for example making it easier for firms to hire and fire employees – is at the heart of the employment debate in many OECD countries. Laws on firing or layoffs and other employment protection regulations are thought by many to be a key factor in generating labour market "rigidity", as well as one reason for the large differences in labour market performance among OECD countries, notably between the United States and some of the larger European countries.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 09-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Convergence of the Portuguese economy toward the more advanced OECD economies seems to have halted in recent years, leaving a significant gap in per capita incomes. The proximate cause is low labour productivity, as employment rates across the board are substantially higher than the EU average. Nor is there a shortage of capital goods in aggregate. But capital equipment in the business sector is not always efficiently used or allocated, and new technologies are not readily adopted. Furthermore, the Portuguese labour force – even its younger members – have had less formal education than workers in other EU countries, including among the new entrants from Central and Eastern Europe, and workers in Portugal also have less access to training than in many other countries. Traditional Portuguese low value-added highly labourintensive products now face increasing competition from developing countries and from the new EU entrants.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe
  • Publication Date: 08-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: With the effects of adverse external shocks diminishing, a strong and competitive export industry is helping the German economy out of a three-year period of near stagnation. Domestic demand has been declining over the last couple of years, as poor labour market performance has weighed on consumer sentiment and business confidence. The labour market still suffers from weak economic growth and distorted incentives, with both contributing to problems in taking up work and providing employment. Productivity growth is not high enough to compensate for the adverse effect of low labour utilization on economic growth. Fiscal targets have been missed on account of both cyclical and structural factors. The government has launched a major reform initiative to reinvigorate economic growth. These reforms are welcome, have to be continued and need to be broadened further to reduce government debt, remove fiscal distortions, and improve incentives to supply and demand labour. Furthermore, there remains considerable scope to foster the creation of new enterprises and widen product market competition, thereby also maintaining the strong innovative capacity of the economy. The major challenges are to link fiscal consolidation to public sector reform and to increase the capacity of the economy to create employment and increase productivity growth. To create confidence and to restore Germany's traditional economic strength it is necessary that reforms reflect a coherent vision about the reorientation of economic policy – combining a growth and stability oriented macroeconomic policy with structural reforms – and are implemented according to a transparent and predictable roadmap.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Industrial Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Publication Date: 06-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Poland has made impressive progress in the transformation of its economy and the accession to the European Union on 1st May 2004 marks another historical event. It follows 15 years of profound change and accomplishment. More than 75 per cent of GDP is now produced in the private sector, the economy is well integrated with those of western European nations and inflation has been brought down to low levels. After an initial fall, output has been growing continuously for more than 10 years and, on average, Poles are much better off now than they were then. However, the striking drop in employment since 1998 is suggestive of serious remaining problems. To address these, much more needs to be done, notably in terms of raising productivity, expanding employment and increasing per capita income, which is 41 per cent of OECD levels.
  • Topic: Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Poland
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The economic downturn in the Netherlands, like the boom that preceded it, has been more marked than in most other European countries. This is partly attributable to greater exposure to international trade, especially with the US, and to greater sensitivity to international stock price movements. But there are also some structural policies – pension fund regulation, housing and wage setting institutions – that have undermined economic efficiency and contributed to the amplitude of the cycle. Furthermore there has been a marked deterioration in public finances, part of which is structural. Longer term growth trends too are unfavourable. In view of these developments, the main challenges are to reform those policies that have reduced efficiency and increased volatility, put public finances on a sustainable path, and, most importantly, increase trend growth by increasing both employment and productivity.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, International Organization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Netherlands
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: Entering its fifth year of existence, the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) has met major headwinds. At the advent of the single currency the euro area experienced solid economic growth, with unemployment falling and public finances rapidly improving. However, a number of structural problems were exposed with the cyclical downturn since 2001, from which the area is recovering only hesitantly. The challenges facing policy makers at present are both of a short-run and medium-run nature. Policy makers are currently grappling with sluggish demand. Responding to this challenge, monetary policy has been eased and fiscal policy reacted through the automatic stabilisers. However, the room for manoeuvre was reduced by lingering inflationary pressures and earlier insufficient fiscal adjustment in several member states. Meanwhile the euro exchange rate has appreciated significantly. Over the medium term, the Community has set ambitious targets and a vast programme for enhancing the performance of labour, product and financial markets. This programme needs to be pursued with vigour, thereby raising the odds of large gains in trend growth and jobs while making it easier to achieve sound fiscal positions.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: After several years of rapid expansion, the French economy has entered into a period of below potential growth, with a negative output gap opening up. Monetary conditions have been relaxed, while fiscal policy has eased excessively, provoking the European Commission to initiate an excessive deficit procedure. As uncertainty dissipates towards the middle of this year, the economy should pick up speed, reaching a growth rhythm of around 2 per cent in 2004. Nevertheless, over the medium term, in the absence of substantial reforms the ageing of the population risks threatening economic and fiscal equilibrium. Current pension and healthcare reform initiatives and plans to redress spending over the medium term go in the right direction. However, in order to ensure medium and long-term fiscal sustainability, additional policies to slow the expansion of health and pension spending are required, while efforts to raise employment rates and potential output are needed to improve the economy's ability to finance future ageing-related expenditure. Here, programmes that offer the possibility of on-the-job training should be expanded so as to reactivate young and lowskilled workers, while reforms to early-retirement schemes and the pension system need to be continued so as to restore work incentives for older workers. Ongoing tax and labour market reforms and policies to facilitate the development of high-tech and fast growing enterprises, which should help promote investment and higher productivity growth, also need to be pursued. The opening of the capital of stateowned enterprises and their eventual privatisation, and planned improvements to governance structures should help promote growth, but revenues from sell-offs ought to be used to reduce debt. Finally, in order to better manage the totality of public expenditures, the authorities need to implement reforms that can be used to ensure that all spending organisms contribute to controlling spending. Here, it will be necessary to implement mechanisms that would improve the effectiveness of measures to control healthcare spending. Moreover, decision-makers need to be more directly confronted with the long-term consequences of their actions. Initiatives such as decentralisation and the new budget framework law should help in this regard. Pursuit of reforms along all of these lines should permit society to meet the fiscal challenge posed by population ageing, while retaining high levels of service.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe, France
  • Publication Date: 05-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: An important obstacle to achieving environmental goals in many countries has been the failure to adequately address the associated financial issues: the costs of achieving goals; how those costs could be minimised; and the challenge of matching costs with available resources. The need for a fresh approach has become evident as central European countries come to terms with mobilising substantial financial resources to comply with challenging EU environmental requirements, and as the countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) struggle to maintain even the low levels of services currently delivered by environmentally-related infrastructure.
  • Topic: Economics, Environment, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Central Asia, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Paul Schreyer
  • Publication Date: 02-2002
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: A major event in early 2002 was the arrival of the euro banknotes and coins and the withdrawal of the existing twelve national currencies from circulation. The event has influenced every citizen in the euro area and is clearly a historic change. It heralds a new phase in forging an “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”. In economic terms, however, the introduction in January 1999 of the single currency after determining the irrevocably fixed exchange rates of the national currencies with the euro was a more important event. It meant that decisions on monetary policy moved from national central banks to the Governing Council of the European Central Bank. This Statistics Brief highlights some of the consequences for economic statistics of the creation of the euro area.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 12-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: In its sixth year of expansion, the Dutch economy has continued to perform well, with strong real GDP growth and job creation. But some tensions have appeared, and inflation is close to the upper limit of price stability as defined by the European Central Bank. The outlook is broadly favourable as GDP growth is expected to slow only moderately: this would provide a welcome cooling-off of the economy. However, fiscal policy needs to remain particularly vigilant concerning the risk of overheating, and stand ready to tighten promptly, within the budgetary framework, if so needed. A major challenge facing the authorities is to deal with the important unfinished agenda in the structural area through speeding up the process of structural reform. The announced income tax reform is particularly necessary, not only to improve fiscal efficiency and equity, but also to redress incentives to work. This would enhance labour market policies aimed at increasing the outflow from social security schemes, and would boost the active labour force and potential output. Other necessary actions include reforming the health care system and introducing more market forces in public transport and some other former public utilities. Taking advantage of the favourable conjunctural situation, the authorities should move ahead forcefully along all these lines, thereby contributing to the continuation of strong job creation in an environment of sustainable economic growth.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Netherlands
  • Publication Date: 12-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The euro came into being under mixed auspices. On the one hand, convergence efforts in the run-up to monetary union, particularly in the fiscal area, had helped bring inflation and interest rates down to historically low levels. On the other hand, growth, which had only just started to recover in earnest after several disappointing years, was slowing down in the wake of a series of emerging market crises. The macroeconomic policy mix prevailing in 1999 combined monetary easing and modest fiscal consolidation. It contributed to sustain domestic demand, limiting the extent of the deceleration. With a brightening external environment, growth picked up vigorously in the second half of the year. In hindsight, the new regime's début is commendable, especially when recalling the gloomy predictions of some sceptics and taking into account that this first year has been a period of learning-by-doing for all agents. Major challenges lie ahead, however, both as regards long-run fiscal sustainability in the face of population ageing and as regards market structures. The policy tradeoffs facing European policymakers are harsher in some important ways than those confronting their counterparts across the Atlantic, because of deeply ingrained labour and product market rigidities. Those are being addressed in various ways, and tangible progress is being made. Nonetheless, reform efforts should be stepped up to raise economic performance significantly above the record of the 1990s.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 12-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The new government has set itself the ambitious tasks of lowering unemployment, modernising the economy and the social system, and securing the long term viability of the budget and the health and pension systems. Ecological goals have been given equal prominence in order to ensure the environmental sustainability of economic development. In some fields there has been progress. However, the fiscal package needs to be fully implemented to put public finances on a sustainable path and to create a tax regime that is more business friendly. These policies should be underpinned by structural reforms that strengthen future growth prospects. Such policies can benefit both macroeconomic performance and future fiscal outcomes. While short-term growth prospects are already improving, unemployment remains a major problem. With respect to its strategy for reducing unemployment, the government is seeking to obtain consensus, inter-alia on an employmentfriendly wage policy, via round-table talks with the social partners. It is important that a consistent set of policy instruments emerge that establish clear links between policies and ultimate policy goals. For Germany to attain the employment, growth and environmental aims commensurate with its key position in the European economy, requires not only favourable macroeconomic conditions, including aggregate wage developments, but a policy emphasis which more effectively enhances labour-market flexibility, as well as structural reforms that strengthen individual initiative, economic choice and the role of competition. Since structural and macroeconomic policies tend to have synergies which make them mutually reinforcing, achieving a more flexible and dynamic use of resources will help to assure progress towards the country's social, budgetary, environmental and economic goals.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Publication Date: 12-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Icelandic economy has expanded rapidly over the past five years, bringing output to well above its potential. Clear signs of overheating have emerged, with unemployment below 2 per cent, inflation picking up and a large current external deficit. These developments are projected to continue, raising the risks of a wage-price spiral and financial instability. To guard against such risks, a significant tightening of monetary policy is required, with less priority attached to the exchange rate as a target for policy. This should be complemented by a medium-term fiscal discipline aiming at achieving a structural budget surplus. Such a course would help cope with long-term care spending that will rise with ageing. On the other hand, except for government employees, pensions should not constitute a burden for public finances, as, for the main, they will be provided by the private sector. To enhance future growth prospects, it will be important to maintain and extend the fishing quota regime in the face of legal threats and to increase competitive forces, especially in the telecommunications industry.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iceland