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Policy Options to Durably Resolve Euro Area Imbalances


  • Yvan Guillemette


  • David Turner



A simple econometric framework is presented linking current account balances of euro area countries to intra and extra euro area competitiveness, cyclical positions, fiscal positions and the oil price. The framework is then used to cyclically-adjust observed current account balances and illustrate the scale of the additional adjustments to competitiveness and/or fiscal balances required in the euro area periphery to bring structural current account balances to levels compatible with sustainable net external debt levels. In Spain and Portugal, cost competitiveness relative to the rest of the euro area would need to improve by about 30%, and by more than twice that in Greece. In peripheral countries, a combination of structural reforms to boost productivity and enhance the flexibility of labour markets, ambitious fiscal consolidation and reductions in labour taxes could substantially facilitate the rebalancing process and reduce the extent to which the burden of adjustment is reliant on further prolonged demand weakness. Surplus and/or strong competitiveness countries could help by likewise making labour and product markets more flexible, accepting above-normal inflation for an extended period and boosting demand, perhaps through reduced fiscal austerity. Options de politiques publiques pour réduire durablement les déséquilibres de la zone euro Un cadre économétrique simple est développé qui lie la balance au compte courant des pays de la zone euro à la compétitivité intra et extra euro, aux positions cycliques, aux positions budgétaires et au prix du pétrole. Ce cadre est ensuite utilisé pour corriger les balances courantes observées pour le cycle économique et pour illustrer la taille des ajustements additionnels à la compétitivité et/ou aux budgets nécessaires dans la périphérie de la zone euro pour amener les comptes courants structurels à des balances compatibles avec des niveaux durables de dette extérieure nette. L’Espagne et le Portugal nécessiteraient une amélioration de leur compétitivité par rapport au reste de la zone euro de l’ordre de 30%, et la Grèce de plus de deux fois cela. Dans la périphérie de la zone euro, une combinaison de réformes structurelles pour stimuler la productivité et améliorer la flexibilité du marché du travail, de consolidation budgétaire ambitieuse et d’allègement de la taxation du travail pourrait faciliter substantiellement le processus de rebalancement et réduire la mesure dans laquelle le poids de l’ajustement repose sur une faiblesse de la demande prolongée. Les pays en surplus ou avec une forte compétitivité pourraient aider en rendant eux aussi les marchés du travail et des produits plus flexibles, en acceptant une inflation plus élevée que normal sur une longue période et en stimulant la demande, peut-être en atténuant l’austérité fiscale.

Suggested Citation

  • Yvan Guillemette & David Turner, 2013. "Policy Options to Durably Resolve Euro Area Imbalances," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1035, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1035-en

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Nicholas Crafts, 2014. "What Does the 1930s' Experience Tell Us about the Future of the Eurozone?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(4), pages 713-727, July.
    2. Mariarosaria Comunale & Jeroen Hessel, 2014. "Current account imbalances in the Euro area: Competitiveness or financial cycle?," DNB Working Papers 443, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    3. Federico Steinberg & Mattias Vermeiren, 2016. "Germany's Institutional Power and the EMU Regime after the Crisis: Towards a Germanized Euro Area?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2), pages 388-407, March.
    4. Wagener, Hans-Jürgen & Eger, Thomas, 2014. "Interne vs. externe Abwertung: Außenwirtschaftliches Ungleichgewicht im Eurosystem," Beiträge zur Jahrestagung 2014 (Goettingen) 107398, Verein für Socialpolitik, Ausschuss für Wirtschaftssysteme und Institutionenökonomik.

    More about this item


    Allemagne; competitiveness; compte courant; compétitivité; coûts unitaires; current accounts; dette extérieure; déséquilibres; Espagne; euro area; external debt; Germany; Greece; Grèce; imbalances; Ireland; Irlande; Italie; Italy; periphery; Portugal; Portugal; périphérie; Spain; unit labour costs;

    JEL classification:

    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination
    • F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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