Current publications

Cover of EconPol Policy Brief 38

High Public Debt in an Uncertain World: Post-Covid-19 Dangers for Public Finance

Daniel Gros (EconPol Europe, CEPS)

In this EconPol Policy Brief Daniel Gros cautions countries with high debt ratios not to simply rely on low interest rates to make their (Covid-19) debt sustainable. Now that the health emergency is subsiding, governments have to chart a new course for public finance. The starting point is a higher level of public debt. However, high debt ratios represent a danger, even when interest rates are low. The key reason is increased uncertainty of growth prospects in a post-Covid-19 economy, coupled with an uncertainty regarding the probability of future large shocks. A prudent policy would therefore be to start reducing debt levels to pre-crisis levels as soon as the economy normalizes, according to the author.

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Cover of EconPol Working Paper 69

60%, -4% And 6%, a Tale of Thresholds for EU Fiscal and Current Account Developments

António Afonso and José Carlos Coelho (EconPol Europe, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics & Management, Universidade de Lisboa; REM/UECE)

This paper investigates the relationship between the budget balance and the current account balance for European Union countries with a quarterly data set from 1995 to 2020, using various time series and panel data empirical methodologies. The analysis shows that the impact of the budget balance on the current account balance is greater for those Eurozone countries with an average current account balance-to-GDP ratio outside the range of -4 to 6%, and in Eurozone countries with debt-to-GDP ratios above 60%. Hence, from a policy perspective, to avoid such unwelcome effects on the current account balance, governments should try to contain both, budget deficits and big current account deficits. Economic policy measures to mitigate the resulting macroeconomic imbalances should be tailored to individual countries but - given the feedback effects between economies as a whole - they also require coordination at EU level.  

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Cover of EconPol Policy Brief 37

All for One and One for Green Energy: Community Renewable Investments in Europe

Valeriya Azarova (ifo Institute), Jed Cohen (Salt River Project Integrated System Planning and Support), Andrea Kollmann (Johannes Kepler University), Johannes Reichl (Johannes Kepler University)

Community renewable energy (CRE) projects are gaining momentum in Europe and could play a significant role in reaching the EU’s accelerated decarbonisation goals. This is a key message that can be derived from this EconPol Policy Brief. Based on a survey across 31 European countries the authors find a high interest in community renewable investments, especially in countries where this model is not yet very common. However, the design of the project matters. The study finds that certain attributes lead to higher incentives for citizen investment. One decisive attribute is the form of the administrative entity. Most respondents prefer CREs to be run by a local cooperative rather than by a utility company. Another important finding of the survey is that the belief in economic benefits of renewable energy projects is a more important driver for citizen investment than the belief in general environmental benefits. Hence, if project developers and policymakers tailor CRE projects and campaigns according to local interests, this could lead to a significant increase in the uptake of CRE schemes throughout Europe.

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Cover of EconPol Working Paper 68

Current Account Targeting Hypothesis versus Twin Deficit Hypothesis: The EMU Experience of Portugal

António Afonso and José Carlos Coelho (EconPol Europe, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics & Management, Universidade de Lisboa; REM/UECE)

This Working Papaer analyses the relation between Portugal’s government budget balance and current account balance from 1999 (Q1) – when Portugal joined the Euro – until 2019 (Q4). The study arrives at three main conclusions: First, a tightening of fiscal policy improves the external balance of the Portuguese economy, although not substantially. Second, the share of public consumption on GDP has a negative impact on the current account balance. This means, that any policy that stimulates economic activity leading to an increase in public consumption needs to be applied carefully. Finally, the research shows that the investment rate negatively affects the cyclical component of the current account balance, suggesting a high degree of integration of the Portuguese economy in international financial markets. Even though public policy measures promoting investment have a negative impact on external accounts in the short-term, they contribute to the structural improvement of the government balance in the long-run.

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Cover of EconPol Working Paper 67

European Structural Funds and Resilient and Recovery Facility Governance

Carlos San Juan Mesonada (EconPol Europe, Universidad Carlos III Jean Monnet Chair and the UC3M Economics Institute), Carlos Sunyer Manteiga (EconPol Europe, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

The implementation of recovery funds under the EU’s Covid-19 recovery program NextGenerationEU should be aligned with business cycle phases. This could ensure that financial support will have the most even and efficient impact across regions. This is one of the key conclusions derived from this EconPol Working Paper. The study analyzed the impact of the European Structural and Investment Funds on regional development over the period 1986–2018, identifying lessons for the EU's Covid recovery program NGEU. The study finds that European Structural and Investment Funds distributed between 1986 and 2018 had a positive impact overall on regional growth in the recipient regions: In the long run, an increase of 1% in the EU aid led to permanent increases of personal income around 0.03% - 0.04%. However, the research shows that the business cycle affects the speed of convergence of the regions. The funds were least effective during downturn phases, especially in the least developed regions. This effect can partially be attributed to lower absorption rates in these regions and liquidity traps. According to the research, one way to mitigate this effect is to ease co-financing requirements during economic downturn phases and to adapt funds to the business cycle phase.

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Cover of EconPol Policy Brief 36

Who Will Pay Amount A?

Michael Devereux and Martin Simmler (Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation)

The latest OECD tax reform will affect only 78 of the world’s 500 largest companies and only about 37 European companies, this EconPol Policy Brief reveals. The number of companies is so low, mainly because the tax applies only to companies with revenues above USD 20 billion which earn a rate of return on revenue above 10%. Reducing the revenue threshold for multinational companies from USD 20 billion to EUR 750 million would increase the number of companies affected by a factor of 13. The relative gain of reducing the threshold below USD 5 billion is small relative to the increase in the number of companies involved, the authors estimate. These are some of the key findings of the study examining the consequences of the OECD’s Pillar 1 reform.

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Cover of EconPol Working Paper 66

The Existential Trilemma of EMU in a Model of Fiscal Target Zone

Pompeo Della Posta (University of Pisa), Roberto Tamborini (University of Trento)

The EMU should create monetary and fiscal mechanisms to safeguard its irreversibility in exceptional situations, according to this EconPol Working Paper. The financial crisis and the coronavirus crisis have shown that the EMU's integrity can only be saved by relaxing either monetary orthodoxy, or fiscal orthodoxy, or both, when exposed to large, systemic shocks. The authors illustrate how such monetary and fiscal mechanisms could be designed by using a fiscal target zone model, where EU member governments are willing to abide with the commitment to debt stability under the no-bailout clause only up to an upper limit of their feasible fiscal effort. The study also shows that EMU completion means providing a monetary and/or fiscal emergency backstop to the irreversibility principle. The alternative to such mechanisms is to include an explicit exit clause in the treaties, the authors conclude.

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Cover of EconPol Working Paper 65

CO2 Emissions and Energy Technologies in Western Europe

J. Barrera-Santana (Universidad de la Laguna and CEDESOG), Gustavo A. Marrero (Universidad de la Laguna and CEDESOG), Luis A. Puch (Universidad Complutense de Madrid and ICAE), Antonia Díaz (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

Economic upswing phases are strongly linked to a rise in CO2 emissions. The effect is strongest in countries that depend on energy-intensive sectors, this latest EconPol Working paper finds. The research further shows that an increase in the share of renewable energy in the primary energy supply during an upswing has the greatest impact on reducing CO2 emissions. According to the authors, the study’s results lead to an important conclusion: European environmental policy should be adjusted over the economic cycle, e.g. by introducing procyclical green taxation.  

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Cover of EconPol Working Paper 64

Calamities, Common Interests, Shared Identity: What Shapes Altruism and Reciprocity?

Cevat Giray Aksoy (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, King's College London and IZA), Antonio Cabrales (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid), Mathias Dolls (ifo Institute, CESifo, IZA and ZEW), Ruben Durante (ICREA, UPF, IPEG, Barcelona School of Economics, and CEPR), Lisa Windsteiger (Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance

Information on the Covid-19 pandemic increases altruistic behavior and reciprocity towards compatriots, citizens of other EU countries, and non-EU citizens. This is one key result of a large-scale survey experiment conducted in August 2020 by EconPol Europe network members in nine European countries. The study also finds that priming common European values boosts altruism and reciprocity, but only towards compatriots and fellow Europeans. In contrast, priming common economic interests (EU trade) has no tangible impact on behaviour. The survey experiment provides novel evidence on how trust, reciprocity, and altruism are affected by a major health crisis (Covid-19), common economic interests (EU trade) and shared values (EU ideals).

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Cover of EconPol Policy Brief 35

Taxing the Residual Profit of Multinational Enterprises: A Critique of Formulaic Apportionment and a Proposal

Wolfram F. Richter (TU Dortmund University, CESifo Munich, IWH Halle, IZA Bonn)

In the context of a changed digital economy, the OECD has put forward a proposal that requires large multinational companies to pay some of their income taxes where revenue is generated; i.e. in countries where the consumers or users are located. It is suggested that taxing rights should be allocated using a revenue-based formula. This policy brief argues against the use of such a rule that requires the multilateral assessment of MNEs’ worldwide profit. The need to define a common consolidated tax base would disproportionately complicate the search for political agreement within the Inclusive Framework. Instead, the OECD should apply more practical rules that rely on unilateral profit splitting and do not require uniform international rules on ac-counting. Countries could be granted the right to impose a withholding tax on outbound pay-ments, such as payments for digital services. To the extent that there are allocable costs, as for example with pharmaceuticals and vaccines, these should be tax-deductible on the condition that the country receiving the payments adopt the new tax regime.  

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