Overview publications

Cover of EconPol opinion

30 Years of Mercosur – Status Quo and Future Integration Steps

Andreas Baur, Lisandra Flach and Feodora Teti (ifo Institute and LMU Munich)

Thirty years after its foundation, Mercosur’s member countries have little reason to celebrate. On the one hand, trade liberalization within Mercosur in the first years after its foundation have led to an intensification of intra-Mercosur trade and can be regarded as an early success. On the other hand, the transition from a trade agreement to a customs union has failed and deeper integration steps hardly seem feasible. In the past 10 years, China has overtaken the EU as Mercosur’s most important trading partner, resulting in trade flows shifting away from Europe to the Chinese market. What’s more, integration into global supply chains has been successful only in places. In light of this, the EU-Mercosur trade agreement could play an important role – argue Andreas Baur, Lisandra Flach and Feodora Teti.

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Do Financial Markets Reward Government Spending Efficiency?

António Afonso (EconPol Europe; ISEG; REM/UECE), João Tovar Jalles (EconPol Europe; ISEG; REM/UECE; Economics for Policy and Centre for Globalization and Governance; IPAG Business School), Ana Venâncio (ISEG; ADVANCE/CSG)

To mitigate the economic impact of the corona crisis many governments have heavily engaged in counter-cyclical policies contributing to record high deficit and debt levels. Therefore, the more efficient use of public resources will be given special attention by financial markets’ participants. For a sample of 34 OECD countries over the period 2007-2018, this study finds that increased public spending efficiency is indeed rewarded by the three main rating agencies Standard & Poors, Moody´s and Fitch through higher sovereign credit rating notations. And these in turn naturally imply lower funding costs for governments in capital markets - an important policy implication to consider in times of Covid-induced scarce budgetary resources.


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Removing Welfare Traps: Employment Responses in the Finnish Basic Income Experiment

Jouko Verho (VATT Institute for Economic Research), Kari Hämäläinen (VATT Institute for Economic Research), and Ohto Kanninen (Labour Institute for Economic Research)

Replacing minimum unemployment benefits with a guaranteed basic income of equal size has minor employment effects in an advanced country, researchers from the Finnish VATT Institute for Economic Research and the Labour Institute for Economic Research find. The study examined 2,000 benefit recipients in Finland who were randomized to receive a monthly basic income between 2017 and 2018. The experiment sought to remove potential welfare traps that unemployed persons face by diminishing administrative barriers through a monthly basic income combined with a considerable improvement in the monetary incentives for employment. The authors of the study find that the 95% confidence interval of the first-year primary outcome estimate, measured in annual employment days, ranges from -2.3 to 5.4, concluding that the experiment had minor employment effects at best.

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Corruption and Economic Growth: Does the Size of the Government Matter?

António Afonso (EconPol Europe; ISEG – School of Economics and Management, Universidade de Lisboa; REM – Research in Economics and Mathematics, UECE), Eduardo de Sá Fortes Leitão Rodrigues (ISEG – School of Economics and Management, Universidade de Lisboa)

Corruption has a negative effect on the economy - specifically on the level and growth of GDP - and large governments register less benefit from reducing corruption than small governments. This working paper from António Afonso and Eduardo de Sá Fortes Leitão Rodrigues finds that developing economies, regardless of government size, benefit less from reducing corruption and government size is not sufficient to explain the influence of corruption on economic activity - although the level of effectiveness of public services is crucial. The findings suggest that private investment is a potential transmission channel for corruption. 

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Incentives for Accelerating the Production of Covid-19 Vaccines in the Presence of Adjustment Costs

Claudius Gros (Goethe University Frankfurt), Daniel Gros (EconPol Europe, CEPS)

Delays in the availability of vaccines are very costly for society but existing fixed price contracts provide no incentives for producers to speed up delivery: a dose delivered tomorrow receives the same price as a dose delivered in the next quarter. The benefits for early delivery are huge for society, but non-existent for suppliers. A better contract would have the price fully  variable over time. In this policy brief, the authors show that it is straightforward to design an optimal contract, which aligns the time paths of the price with that of the social value of a vaccination. There is a clear policy conclusion: contracts should contain incentives for accelerated production. Vaccines delivered early should command a higher price.

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Survey-Based Structural Budget Balances

Marcell Göttert, Timo Wollmershäuser (EconPol Europe, ifo Institute – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich)

The budget dispute between Italy and the European Commission in 2018 gave new impetus for the debate about the reliability of output gap estimation methods and their use for calculating structural budget balances. In this paper, Marcell Göttert and Timo Wollmershäuser review the main properties of the mainstream approaches. They show that the structural budget balances resulting from the production function approach and the time series approach are imprecise, subject to large revisions and often biased. Apart from these technical flaws, the mainstream approaches also suffer from political economy problems. As the computation of structural budget balances in the mainstream approach is difficult and model-dependent, it is not easy to explain to the public and prone to manipulation. In addition, the first ex post estimation is only available late with the first publication of GDP. The authors propose an alternative approach to calculate structural budget balances on the basis of a business survey.

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Robots at Work? Pitfalls of Industry Level Data

Karim Bekhtiar, Benjamin Bittschi, Richard Sellner (EconPol Europe, Institute for Advanced Studies [IHS], Vienna)

An analysis of data from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), currently the most widely used data on the economic effects of robotization, has found that robotization has significantly lower productivity effects than previously assumed and may cause falling wages. Authors Karim Bekhtiar, Benjamin Bittschi and Richard Sellner (EconPol Europe, IHS Vienna) claim that using the data can be misleading if information on sectors that are either unaffected by or only marginally exposed to robotization is combined with those which are heavily affected, such as manufacturing.The study also rejects previous research findings that the technology causes skill-biased technological change and instead finds the opposite to be true.

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EEAG Report on the European Economy 2021 - Beyond the Coronavirus Crisis: Investing for a Viable Future

Torben M. Andersen, Giuseppe Bertola, Clemens Fuest, Cecilia Garcia-Peñalosa, Harold James, Jan-Egbert Sturm, Branko Uroševic

The coronavirus crisis has led to the sharpest economic downturn in modern times and poses unparalleled challenges to policy both on a national and an EU level, as well as globally. The European Union has launched the ground-breaking Next Generation EU (NGEU) program, which involves common burden-sharing and explicitly aims to strengthen social cohesion within the European Union. If it succeeds, it will strengthen both the role of the European Union and cohesion within the European Union. If it fails, it will be yet another example of a promising project that remains on paper, and only serves to erode social capital in the European Union. New resources will need to be well invested with an overall aim of overcoming market failures. This year's report shows how the crisis is affecting existing structures and makes recommendations for potential future investments in childcare, education, environment, firms and the economy as a whole.

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The Role of Fiscal Policies for External Imbalances: Evidence from the European Union

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

This research from António Afonso and José Carlos Coelho studies the existence of a causal relationship between the general government balance and the current account balance (assessed as a percentage of GDP) for 28 European Union countries, using annual data for 1996 to 2019. They find that an increase in budget deficit of 1 pp of GDP results in a deterioration of the current account deficit of 0.318 pp of GDP, which supports the Twin Deficits Hypothesis.

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Cover of EconPol opinion

Vaccines: How to Use Market-Based Incentives to Ramp Up Production

Clemens Fuest and Daniel Gros

Economic incentives to accelerate vaccine production would be much more productive than the empty threat of suing AstraZeneca. The additional cost for boosting vaccine supply for Europe might run into a couple of billions of euros, but this would be a lot less than the cost of prolonged disruption to the economy and society, let alone the lives lost. Clemens Fuest and Daniel Gros examine the EU's mistakes. 

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