Ten years of EMU: convergence, divergence and new policy priorities
As the tenth anniversary of EMU is approaching, a debate is underway as to whether the single currency has promoted or hindered convergence among the countries of the Eurozone. On the one hand, there is wide agreement on the fact that asymmetric shocks have subsided after the creation of the single currency and that FDI has been substantially promoted both in and outside of EMU as a result of reduced exchange rate volatility, more integration and better institutional functioning. But if one moves to examine the catching-up process between the less and more-affluent countries of the Eurozone, the evidence in support for convergence is fading away after the EMU was initiated in 1999. A process of divergence in per capita GDP is underway, in contrast with the substantial progress that has taken place during the nineties. Regional convergence is also found to wane, though the evidence is not as conclusive. Moreover, post-EMU divergence in per capita GDP appears to be far more pronounced than that of per capita GNI, due to the risk-sharing strategies implemented after the EMU to face asymmetric shocks and the resulted relocation of capital. Another worrying development in the Eurozone is the emergence of unprecedented CA deficits in the Southern Eurozone countries, while the Northern Eurozone group enjoys substantial surpluses. Although both groups of countries have attracted increased FDI flows after EMU, there seems to be a sharp differentiation regarding size and composition. In the Southern countries, the housing sector has attracted relatively more investment than the production sector, while the reverse seems to be the case in the Northern group. Thus, investment in the Northern (Southern) Eurozone countries increased the traded (non-traded) output and caused an improvement (deterioration) in the trade balance. To face such imbalances, new policy priorities are required in the Eurozone that put more emphasis on convergence and competitiveness.
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