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  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Thomas Philippon, Jean Pisani-Ferry
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The measures that most governments took in response to the sudden collapse in economic activity during the COVID-19 lockdowns nearly exclusively focused on protecting vulnerable workers and firms. These measures included unemployment benefits, grants, transfers, loans at low rates, and tax deferrals. As lockdowns are lifted, governments must shift policies toward supporting the recovery and design measures that will limit the pain of adjustment while preserving productive jobs and firms. This Policy Brief explores how such measures can be designed, with particular emphasis on Europe and the United States. The authors propose a combination of unemployment benefits to help workers, wage subsidies and partially guaranteed loans to help firms, and debt restructuring procedures for small and medium-sized companies handicapped by excessive legacy debt from the crisis.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Government, Labor Issues, Unemployment, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jeromin Zettelmeyer, Christoph Trebesch, Mitu Gulati
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The Greek debt restructuring of 2012 stands out in the history of sovereign defaults. It achieved very large debt relief— over 50 percent of 2012 GDP—with minimal financial disruption, using a combination of new legal techniques, exceptionally large cash incentives, and official sector pressure on key creditors. But it did so at a cost. The timing and design of the restructuring left money on the table from the perspective of Greece, created a large risk for European taxpayers, and set precedents—particularly in its very generous treatment of holdout creditors—that are likely to make future debt restructurings in Europe more difficult.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece
  • Author: C. Randall Henning, Martin Kessler
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: European debates over reform of the fiscal governance of the euro area frequently reference fiscal federalism in the United States. The “fiscal compact” agreed by the European Council during 2011 provided for the introduction of, among other things, constitutional rules or framework laws known as “debt brakes” in the member states of the euro area. In light of the compact and proposals for deeper fiscal union, we review US fiscal federalism from Alexander Hamilton to the present. We note that within the US system the states are “sovereign”: The federal government does not mandate balanced budgets nor, since the 1840s, does it bail out states in fiscal trouble. States adopted balanced budget rules of varying strength during the nineteenth century and these rules limit debt accumulation. Before introducing debt brakes for euro area member states, however, Europeans should consider three important caveats. First, debt brakes are likely to be more durable and effective when “owned” locally rather than mandated centrally. Second, maintaining a capacity for countercyclical macroeconomic stabilization is essential. Balanced budget rules have been viable in the US states because the federal government has a broad set of fiscal powers, including countercyclical fiscal action. Finally, because debt brakes threaten to collide with bank rescues, the euro area should unify bank regulation and create a common fiscal pool for restructuring the banking system.
  • Topic: Debt, Financial Crisis, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: William R. Cline
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Contagion from Greece, together with domestic political uncertainty in Italy, caused interest rates on Italian sovereign debt to spike in the second half of 2011. As shown in figure 1, the risk spread above German bunds for 10-year Italian government bonds rose from 200 basis points in early July 2011, to a range of 300 to 400 basis points after the July 21 Greek package with its new emphasis on private sector involvement. There was a second surge to the 400 to 500 basis point range in November through January, following the October 27 Greek package that insisted on a 50 percent reduction in private sector claims.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany, Italy
  • Author: Anders Åslund
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The response of the ten new eastern members of the European Union to the global financial crisis has valuable lessons of crisis resolution for the euro area. These countries were severely hit by the crisis in the fall of 2008 and responded with extensive reforms. Crisis made the unthinkable possible. This paper outlines the main reform measures that the ten Central and East European (CEE) countries carried out. It then quantifies to what extent the CEE countries resolved the macroeconomic crisis and explores the effects of the reforms on future growth prospects. The fourth and major section discusses how the political economy of the crisis resolution actually worked. Finally, the author examines what lessons euro area countries can learn from the crisis resolution of the newest members of the European Union.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Political Economy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: C. Randall Henning
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Recent crises and the expansion of international financial arrangements have dramatically elevated the importance of cooperation between regional institutions and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While the case for coordination between regional and multilateral institutions is generally accepted, however, the need to organize it on an ex ante basis is not fully appreciated. The relatively successful cooperation among the European Commission, European Central Bank, and IMF on the European debt crisis is not likely to be easily replicated in joint programs for countries in other regions, moreover, and the costs of coordination failure could be very large. Recent innovations at the IMF, on the other hand, present opportunities for cooperation with regional facilities. Henning reviews (1) the case for organizing cooperation on an ex ante basis, (2) the policy and institutional matters that should be coordinated, (3) how East Asian arrangements in particular and the IMF might cooperate, and (4) an Interinstitutional Agenda of general principles, modalities, and institutional recommendations. The G-20, member states, and institutions themselves should address this agenda proactively.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Regional Cooperation, International Monetary Fund, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, East Asia
  • Author: Simon Johnson, Peter Boone
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Attempts to resolve the problems in Europe are failing, and the crisis is spreading from Greece, Ireland, and Portugal to larger nations. Europe's financial system relies on moral hazard, i.e., a “no defaults” policy, to attract the funding needed to roll over large amounts of short–term bank and sovereign debt. Now that politicians in creditor nations are calling for private sector burden sharing, investors are demanding higher interest rates to hold these debts. But higher rates may tip banks and nations toward bankruptcy. Europe's banks and financial system are highly integrated across countries. Rising expectations of default in some countries could lead to large-scale capital flight into “safe” countries. This shift will raise concerns regarding solvency and liquidity of many financial institutions. The payments system of the euro area is serving as an opaque bailout mechanism that is currently preventing the euro area from falling apart at this time. If the number of nations in trouble spreads beyond Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, this bailout system will be stressed because of the potential size of accumulated funding. The European Central Bank (ECB) could soon see a vocal debate between inflationist and hawkish (anti–inflation) members. Inflationists will call for large–scale interventions, including bond buybacks and emergency loans, while the hawks will attempt to close loopholes in the payments system that effectively permit each troubled nation to create money needed to finance capital flight and budget deficits. At this stage in the debate, we see little chance that Europe can avoid ending the “moral hazard” regime, in which case it needs to plan for widespread sovereign and bank debt restructurings.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Regional Cooperation, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece, Ireland
  • Author: William R. Cline
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: On July 21, 2011, the heads of government of the euro area announced a new plan to address the Greek debt crisis. This policy brief presents a simulation exercise that examines whether the new arrangements are likely to provide a sustainable solution. The analysis focuses on four key measures: gross debt relative to GDP; net debt relative to GDP; net interest payments relative to GDP; and amortization of medium-and long-term debt coming due during the year in question, relative to GDP. The new Greek package shows prospective future progress on all four measures, and Greek debt looks much more sustainable after the package than before. Debt also appears considerably more manageable if the criterion is net debt or interest burden rather than gross debt ratio, although even for gross debt the ratio is down substantially by 2020. It also becomes clear that the major contribution of the private-sector involvement (PSI) part of the package is in the form of sharply cutting amortization due, although by avoiding large new borrowing at crisis-level interest rates it also alleviates the interest burden that would otherwise occur.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Regional Cooperation, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece
  • Author: Philip K. Verleger
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: When a boat springs a leak far from shore, it is customary for all hands to man the pumps—be they friends or enemies, passengers or crew. Every individual's survival depends on the actions of his or her compatriots. So it is with the global economy today.
  • Topic: Debt, Markets, Oil, International Monetary Fund, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Jacob Funk Kirkegaard
  • Publication Date: 10-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: So far so good for the European Union in preventing the Greek sovereign debt crisis from spiraling out of control in the short term. But with Greece in May 2010 requiring an unprecedented bailout from the European Union/IMF to avoid immediate default and 25 of the European Union's 27 member states currently subject to an “excessive deficit procedure” (European Commission 2010i), it remains evident that the European Union's existing fiscal surveillance framework patently failed both before and during the Great Recession and that Europe's leaders must head back to the drawing board for a required long term reform of the EU fiscal policy and surveillance framework.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece