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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ricardian Equivalence is bunk ... in Greece!

Well,  Ricardian Equivalence is most certainly not to be observed applying in Greece. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Neither, methinks, as it is irrelevant for Greece.
Thomas Grennes and Andris Strazds at voxeu are having another look at the topic, focusing, mainly, on the EZ.
First, a quote from their, admittedly interesting, column:
The logic behind it is that as the government gets more indebted, people would put aside more money in expectation of higher taxes in the future. 
 The inclusion of Greece in the sample of countries they chose to test the correlation between Government-Debt/GDP  and Houshold-Net-Fianancial-Assets/GDP proved very unfortunate, as it produced R-squared value of 0.2172
When they wisely took Greece out of the sample of countries, the R-squared value jumped to 0.526 (!)

Now, this might be an interesting topic for domestic academic economists to goad some graduate students of theirs to produce a thesis or two!

Not being an academic economist myself, I can propose one -I am sure there are more than one- possible explanation.
In Greece the households with Net Financial Assets have exempted themselves from paying taxes. The tax-paying households accumulated Net Financial Obligations.
As the saying goes: Greece is a Special Case !!!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

the 2013 EEAg report

Italian election results...

A!, well! It seems that all that is worth said about the election results in Italy, has already been said.
Let's turn to the popolo who more than 50% voted for a clown and/or a comedian.
The Italian economy is ticking thanks to Draghi's whatever-it-takes-to-save-the-EURO pledge. Italy has a small primary surplus, just enough to cover interest payments on her debt at current interest on her ten year bonds. Without Draghi's bazooka on the table, markets would dump her bonds. Merkel and Co. of the core EZ say so and whoever doesn't like it might go their own way.
Now it seems that the Italian popolo does not like it and the clown and the comedian are about to bring the house down. It is all very democratic! The popolo spoke: "no more Teutonic austerity ... "
Angela, being a very democratic soul and having her own people in mind, is just about fed up and ready to make the big shift: "Right, let's dump the EURO and bring back our beloved DeutscheMark. And, hey! Weidmann, don't forget to collect the TARGET2 balances before we go".

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Great quote

"The key concepts with which to approach any problem were to understand the choices available to those involved, to define the relevant costs, and to understand the constraints under which choices are made, ... "
David Glasner  , economist at the Federal Trade Commission, Washignton, DC , on Armen Alchian 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Επιχειρηματολογία ή Αγγιτάτσια;

Στα μέσα των '90'ς παρακολουθούσα σεμινάριο πάνω στην Διαπραγμάτευση στο INSEAD όταν ο καθηγητής/εισηγητής εμφατικά είπε:
'Αν δέν έχεις τρία ισχυρά αντεπιχειρήματα στην θέση, που υποστηρίζεις, δέν έχεις μελετήσει το θέμα επαρκώς... μελέτησέ το κι άλλο!
Έ, λοιπόν, πρίν απ' αυτόν, ο John Stuart Mill είχε γράψει

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.

His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”

Friday, February 22, 2013

"Προσδεθείτε για την Απογείωση" Α.Σαμαράς

Η Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs of the European Commission δημοσιοποίησε την πρόβλεψη της Επιτροπής για την πορεία της οικονομίας στην ΕΕ. (pdf)
Το καλύτερο που έχουμε να περιμένουμε είναι μήπως και βρούμε το πάτωμα στην πτώση. Τα περι "απογείωσης" είναι μάλλον προοπτική 10ετίας!

Beppe Grillo and ... A. Tsipras !!!

Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider has a little scary post citing a note to clients by JPMorgan.
Check out the quoted table:
beppe grillo
"Populists of the world, unite!"

A good exposition of the pre-election farcical goings-on in Italy is Gianni Riotta's piece at the Foreign Policy site. Funny or sad reading?

Foreign Affairs Report: The Future of The Eurozone

A collection of pieces that appeared in Foreign Affairs on the topic

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On Fiscal Multipliers

Methinks that Jonathan Portes has the definitive post on the topic both in terms of argumentation and links to other posts and sources. By the way he hangs O.Rehn to dry!

In case I overlooked to mention before, here is a CETS Commentary by C.Alcidi and D.Gross on the subject that is a must read

Πρός Ομοσπονδιοποίηση της ΕΕ

Σημερινό ρεπορτάζ του Reuters απο το Ευροκοινοβούλιο.
EU lawmakers backed the new powers for the Commission, the EU executive, to further 
strengthen euro zone budget discipline and prevent another sovereign debt crisis.
Μετά την έγκριση του Κοινοβουλίου, τον επόμενο μήνα θα βγεί η "ντιρεκτίβα" για την υποχρεωτική εποπτεία των Εθνικών Προϋπολογισμών απο την Επιτροπή.
Δηλαδή: πρίν την υποβολή στο εθνικό κοινοβούλιο και μέχρι την 15η Οκτ. η κάθε χώρα θα υποβάλλει το Σχέδιο Προϋπολογισμού στην Επιτροπή για ... έγκριση.
Σε αντάλλαγμα το Ευροκοινοβούλιο πήρε την δέσμευση απο την Επιτροπή οτι θα υπάρξει Σχέδιο για την συλλογική εγγύηση του χρέους πάνω απο 60% του εθνικού ΑΕΠ και βοήθειας για την αποπληρωμή του σε 20 χρόνια!
Με αυτή την εξέλιξη ασχολείται και ο Joshua Chaffin στο BrusselsBlog του FT και αναφέρει:
 the heart of the agreement is a commitment by the commission, the EU’s executive arm, to set up a high-level working group to study the feasibility of creating a debt redemption fund for eurozone countries – an idea that some view as a step towards mutually guaranteed eurozone bonds.
Δηλαδή η δέσμευση είναι μόνο για Υψηλού Επιπέδου Ομάδα Εργασίας που θα μελετήσει το θέμα.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ερώτηση Χουντή και Απάντηση Ντράγκι

Διαβάζω  την ερωτο-απόκριση στο tvxs 18/02/13 περί Δημοσιονομικού Πολλαπλασιαστή και του Προγράμματος.
Ρωτάει λοιπόν ο Χουντής: " ... δηλώσεις κορυφαίων οικονομολόγων του ΔΝΤ, ότι το πρόγραμμα που εφαρμόστηκε στην Ελλάδα, ήταν λάθος,  γιατί βασίστηκε σε λανθασμένους υπολογισμούς, στον λεγόμενο πολλαπλασιαστή».
Θα ήταν χρήσιμο, όταν λέγονται τέτοια πράγματα να αναφέρονται και οι πηγές. Πού το βρήκε γραμμένο; Αυτές οι "δηλώσεις" μάλλον βρίσκονται στο θωλομένο μυαλό του Ευρωβουλευτή 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Minimum Wage

I think that, all in all, I had a productive Saturday afternoon thanks to Mark Thoma   who has loads of links on the subject: all good and interesting reads. Don;t miss his link to Robert Reich .
One more link from yours trully: Keith Hennessey , who is strictly against the idea.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ο Διανέλος Γεωργούδης σχολιάζει Βαρουφάκη!

Ο Γιάννης Βαρουφάκης έχει ενδιαφέρον ρεπορτάζ απο Νομικό Συνέδριο στο Austin, Tx. USA που ασχολήθηκε με την επωαζόμενη Τραπεζική Ένωση, εδώ στην ΕυρωΖώνη.
Το πιό ενδιαφέρον όμως είναι το σχόλιο #1 και #2 του Διανέλου Γεωργούδη, το οποίο θα προσυπέγραφα.

On Debt and! Multipliers

I came across posts by  Nick HubbleKeith Fitz-Gerald, and James McKeigue on the subject of Sovereign Debt with some interesting points... P.Krugman is accused of being a flat-earther!
The basic idea is that Debt (1) is a problem and (2) has to be repaid someday.

Of course (2) is not an iron-rule. Debt may never be repaid as long as (a) it is being serviced without "pain", i.e. not holding back economic growth, and (b) the markets deem it as sustainable and it is recycled ad infinitum,

The case of Greece is one where neither (a) nor (b) held.

EconomicDynamics Interviews Gita Gopinath on Sovereign Default

Gita Gopinath is Professor of Economics at Harvard University. She has worked on debt issues, emerging markets and international economics. Gopinath's RePEc/IDEAS entry.
EconomicDynamics: The current crisis with Greece and possibly other European countries highlights that it has become more difficult to manage high public debt when currency devaluation is not an option. Aside from drastic austerity measures, what are possible policies?
Gita Gopinath: The interaction between high public debt and the inability to devalue has come up frequently in discussions of the Euro crisis. However, there is an important distinction to be made. There are two channels through which a currency devaluation can help a government repay its debt: One, by reducing the real value of the debt owed and two by stimulating the economy through adjustments of the terms of trade and therefore raising primary fiscal surpluses for the government. The first channel is relevant to the extent that the debt is denominated in local currency in which case the real value of debt owed externally is lower. However, in the case of an individual country in the Euro Area like Greece whose debt is in Euros, even if they were to exit the Euro, as long as they did not default on their debt contracts by re-denominating their liabilities in their local currency, a currency devaluation would do little to reduce the value of debt owed.
As for the second channel through which a currency devaluation can help, namely the expansionary effect it can have on economic output, there is a clear substitute through the use of fiscal instruments. In a recent paper, Farhi, Gopinath and Itskhoki (2011) show that "fiscal devaluations" deliver the exact same real allocations as currency devaluations. Currency devaluations to the extent they have expenditure switching effects do so by deteriorating the terms of trade of the country, that is raising the relative price of imported to exported goods. In the absence of a currency adjustment, a combination of an increase in value added taxes (with border adjustment) and a uniform cut in payroll taxes can deliver the same outcomes. An increase in VAT will raise the price of imported goods as foreign firms face a higher tax and it will lower the price of domestic exports (relative to domestic sales prices) since exports are exempt from VAT. The net effect is a deterioration in the terms of trade equivalent to that following a currency devaluation. To ensure that firms that adjust prices do so similarly across currency and fiscal devaluations an increase in VAT needs to be accompanied with a cut in payroll taxes. We show that the equivalence of currency and fiscal devaluations is valid in a wide range of environments, with varying degrees of price and wage stickiness and with alternative asset market structures.
The increase in VAT can be viewed as an austerity measure but it is important to note that when combined with a payroll tax cut its impact on the economy is exactly the same as that following an exchange rate devaluation. In other words the lack of exchange rate flexibility does not limit the ability of countries in the Euro area to achieve allocations attainable under a nominal exchange rate devaluation.
ED: In the face of the latest debt developments, central banks have been much more proactive than historically. Do you view this as a good development?
GG: The European Central Bank has certainly been proactive in containing the debt crisis in Europe through direct purchases of troubled sovereign debt. At the same time they have been cautious in their role of lender of last resort. Their current stance is that they are not willing to monetize the debt of countries at the risk of future inflation. Given that the crisis has spread to Italy and to a lesser extent France it will be interesting to see how the ECB responds.
The bigger question is what should a central bank do. Should it stick to its mandate of targeting inflation or should it resort to inflating away the debt so as to prevent a default by the country? I do not believe we have the answers here. As recently pointed out by Kocherlakota (2011) if a central bank decides to commit to an inflation target then this effectively makes the debt of the country real. The country can be subject to self-fulfilling credit crisis along the lines of Calvo (1988) and Cole and Kehoe (2000). If lenders expect that governments will default they raise the cost of borrowing for governments who then find it difficult to roll over their debts and this in turn triggers default. The negative consequences for the economy of a default are potentially large.
In this context suppose a central bank is willing to inflate away the debt. Does this firstly rule out the multiple equilbria described previously? Calvo (1988) evaluates several scenarios some of which involve multiple equilibria even when default is implicit through inflation. So it is not obvious whether having the ability to inflate solves the multiplicity problem. Then there are the relative costs of inflation versus outright default. A plus for inflation is that it can be done incrementally unlike default that is much more discreet. It is arguable that the costs of a small increase in inflation are low relative to the costs of default. Of course the level of inflation required can be very high and this can unhinge inflation expectations that then can have large negative consequences for the economy. So, as I said earlier, it is still to be determined in future research what the virtues are of having a central bank that uses its monetary tools to contain a debt crisis.
ED: While it is always an economic solution to a threat of default, political constraints are very restricting, as Greece shows. Are we neglecting the political economy aspects?
GG: It is not straightforward even from a pure economic point of view. Should countries default or undertake austerity measures to remain in good credit standing? The answer depends on how costly defaults are and empirical evidence on this provides little guidance. In our models we postulate several costs associated with defaults, including loss of access to credit markets (Eaton and Gersolvitz (1981), Aguiar and Gopinath (2006)), collateral damage to other reputational contracts, spillover to banking crisis, trade sanctions etc. See Wright (forthcoming) for a non-technical survey of the sovereign debt and default literature. The empirical evidence on this, as surveyed in Panizza et al. (2009) is, however, not very informative given the endogeneity of defaults. The ambiguity associated with the optimal response to the debt crisis was evident at the start of the debt crisis in Europe when there was little agreement even among economists about whether Greece should default or not.
Then, as you rightly point out the political economy aspects add another dimension of complexity. The political constraints have permeated all aspects of the debt crisis. Firstly, the objective function being maximized here is clearly not purely based on economics but based on political factors that motivated the formation of the Euro. Secondly, the policy responses have been constrained by politics. For instance, at the start of the crisis it was widely perceived that the reason the Germans and French were interested in bailing out Greece was mainly to protect their banks that had significant exposure to Greek debt. An alternative, less costly route was to directly bailout German and French banks but that was viewed as politically impossible to implement. The Euro zone is now back to where it started with banks needing bailouts, except the crisis has exacerbated with now the debts of Portugal, Spain and Italy also facing default pressure. In addition, the political fallout of implementing austerity measures is evident all over Europe.
While there exists a large literature on the political economy of sovereign debt the focus has largely been on explaining why a country can end up with too much debt. There is more limited work that combines political economy with the possibility of sovereign default. An exception is Manuel Amador (2008) who examines the role of political economy in sustaining debt in equilibrium and Aguiar, Amador and Gopinath (2009) who show that the relative impatience of the government combined with its inability to commit to repayment of debt and its tax policy can lead distortionary investment cycles even in the long-run. There is almost no work on the redistributional impact on heterogeneous agents of the decision to default versus to undertake costly austerity measures, something the current crisis has brought to the forefront. This is certainly fertile ground for future research.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Re-take of the Greek crisis (update)

update; The second part of John Mauldin's observations after his visit to Greece

The first part is here:
The Greek Government Is A Prisoner Of The Bureaucracy

Read more:

John Mauldin starts from the biginning.
Writing that Greece had only a choice between two disasters was not being dismissive on my part. It was simply recognizing the cumulative effects of the failure to make difficult choices. Once Greece lost access to the bond market, the game of borrow and spend was over.
let’s undertake a thought experiment and imagine what Greece would look like if they had exited the euro. The “good news” is that the new drachma would have immediately dropped by 50%, thus eliminating almost overnight the trade imbalance, as any imports would require a “hard” currency (euros, dollars, pounds) and that money would only come from exports. Greece would have been plunged into an immediate and steep depression. While government workers would get paid in drachma, banks would have gone bankrupt and been forced into nationalization. Businesses that needed to import materials to make goods, either for local use or to turn into exports, would have been cash-starved. It would have been chaos.

Ο Α.Τσίπρας και οι "μύθοι" του

Στο ταξίδι του στις ΗΠΑ το τέλος Γενάρη, ο Α.Τσίπρας συζήτησε με το Bret Stephens της WSJ και, μεταξύ των άλλων, του ανέπτυξε το θέμα της "ανάγκης για φακελάκι για νοσηλεία σε Κρατικό Νοσοκομείο".  Και αναρωτήθηκε γιατί αυτή η ανάγκη δεν υπάρχει στις ΗΠΑ.
(ΣΣ. Όπως αναφέρει ο B.Stephens, ο Παγκόσμιος Οργανισμός Υγείας κατατάσσει την Ελλάδα  στην 14η θέση ενώ τις ΗΠΑ στην 38η ως προς την συνολική ποιότητα των παρεχόμενων υπηρεσιών υγείας (!) ).
Φαίνεται οτι ο Α.Τσίπρας δεν αγνοεί μόνο το σύστημα υγείας στις ΗΠΑ, αλλά επίσης και αυτό της χώρας του, με αποτέλεσμα να συντηρεί, για λόγους "αγκιτάτσια", και να ενισχύει έναν μύθο.
Έχω δύο χαρακτηριστικές περιπτώσεις από το άμεσο οικογενειακό περιβάλλον μου, που αποδεικνύουν ότι το "αναγκαίο φακελάκι" είναι, αν όχι απόλυτος μύθος, τουλάχιστον "απόηχος" παλαιότερων εποχών.
Πριν τέσσερα χρόνια 70-ρης επισκέφτηκε τα Εξωτερική Ιατρεία Κρατικού Νοσοκομείου (Παμμακάριστος) μετά από λιποθυμικό επεισόδιο την προηγούμενη το βράδυ. Σε λιγότερο από 30' οι γιατροί -προς έκπληξή του- του "έκαναν εισαγωγή" για περαιτέρω εξετάσεις. Μετά δέκα μέρες, και αφού "τον τρέλαναν" (δικά του λόγια) στις εξετάσεις, κατέληξαν σε Μπλοκαρισμένη Αορτή και του ανακοίνωσαν ότι θα τον "παρέπεμπαν" σε Νοσοκομείο με Αγγειοχειρουργική Κλινική.
Αυτή θα μπορούσε να ήταν, για παράδειγμα, το Ελπίς όπου το 1998 εισήχθη με το ΕΚΑΒ 84-χρονος μετά από αδιαθεσία. Την δεύτερη μέρα, μετεφέρθη από την Παθολογική στην Αγγειοχειρουργική Κλινική με Ανεύρυσμα Κοιλιακής Αορτής. Μοιράστηκε δωμάτιο με γέροντα που είχε διακομιστεί, και χειρουργηθεί επειγόντως, πριν 20-25 μέρες με ρήξη και ήταν στην ανάρρωση. Ακολούθησαν οι προ-εγχειρητικές εξετάσεις και μετά 10-15 μέρες ορίστηκε χειρουργείο με πρόβλεψη για κρεβάτι στην ΜΕΘ.  Το χειρουργείο δεν έγινε γιατί την προηγουμένη είχε το δεύτερο εγκεφαλικό επεισόδιο και κρίθηκε ότι μάλλον δεν θα άντεχε το χειρουργείο. Πήρε εξιτήριο και πέθανε μετά 4-5 χρόνια από βαθειά γεράματα.
Έμαθα από διάφορους γιατρούς ότι ο Δ/ντής και ο Επιμελητής στην κλινική του Ελπίς ήταν στους πέντε κορυφαίους αγγειοχειρούργους στην Ελλάδα!.
Πουθενά και σε καμιά στιγμή δεν υπήρξε ούτε ο ελάχιστος υπαινιγμός για "φακελάκι" ούτε στην πρώτη ή στην δεύτερη περίπτωση.
Πίσω όμως στην περίπτωση του 70-ρη: αυτός επέλεξε να μην δεχτεί την παραπομπή του Νοσοκομείου αλλά να "διαλέξει" χειρούργο και Νοσοκομείο. Έ! αυτό του κόστισε, και Καλά Να Πάθει!
Αν για τόσο σοβαρά περιστατικά ΔΕΝ μπαίνει θέμα για "φακελάκι", γιατί να μπαίνει για λιγότερο σοβαρά, και να κάνει το ανύπαρκτο θέμα "σημαία" ο Α.Τσίπρας;

Friday, February 8, 2013

Είδες η Μαρία μας;

Κάποτε ο Delors είπε: "κάποιοι Επίτροποι δέν είναι σε θέση να διευθύνουν μια ταβέρνα" : δέν είπε trattoria, restaurant ή bistrot...ταβέρνα είπε.
Πέρασε νερό στ'αυλάκι και τώρα η δικιά μας Μαρία Δαμανάκη φέρνει αποτελέσματα και έχει θαυμαστές και υποστηρικτές. Δές το post στο Brussels Blog του FT απο τον Joshua Chaffin
Aaron McLoughlin, a long-time fisheries campaigner, praised her as “the first fisheries commissioner in a long time who actually cares about improving fish stocks.”
Benyon, the UK fisheries minister .....  Damanaki, he observed, “had a chance of her legacy being something that has eluded commissioners down the years.” 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Management of Greek Firms: grim reading (updated)

It is true that "competitiveness is not just unit labour cost" .Most commentators repeat the phrase, but fail to say what else determines/influences competitiveness. I would contend that the crucial determinant of competitiveness is "firm management".

I came across the lecture slides on "core modern management practices and firm organization" given at Stanford by Nick Bloom of  Stanford and John Van Reenen of Stanford and LSE 
(ss. the link is to the homepage of professor J. VanReenen)
The "course  is built on 8 years of research by LSE, McKinsey & Stanford, with recent extensions with Accenture, the World Bank & European Bank for Reconstruction & Development. Interviewed about 6000 firms across Asia, Europe, US & South America"
There is an article one can download from The Journal of Economic Perspectives  Vol.24 No.1 (winter 2010) co-authored by Bloom and Van Reenen with the same material pdf

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

As if we did not have troubles enough

Is that dark cloud on the horizon a currency war? 
Reuters has an Analysis column  and Mike Shedlock a good round up of the news, with his comments.
In the mean time,  FRANCESCO GUERRERA at WSJ online thinks that Currency War Has Started !
Watch out for developments on that front.

ss. Morgan Stanley analysts believe Greece is trading with a 20%+ overvalued EURO (see Reuters piece)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Τσίπρας στην ΚΑΘΗΜΕΡΙΝΗ 3/2/13

Δέν ήταν πολλά τα "καινούρια" που είπε στην συνέντευξη. Ίσως η μή όξυνση με το Αριστερό Ρεύμα - το Σαββατοκύριακο συνερχόταν η ΚΕ του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ- έπαιξε ανασταλτικό ρόλο.
Υπάρχει ένα θέμα που αξίζει προσοχής:
Σε ερώτηση περι "κατάργησης του Μνημονίου... επαναδιαπραγμάτευσης....πρόσθετων κονδυλίων (στο πρόγραμμα στήριξης)... προθυμίας ΕΖ-εταίρων για 'να βάλλουν το χέρι βαθιά στην τσέπη'", η απάντηση αρχίζει; "Υπενθυμίζω οτι η εναλλακτική που υπάρχει είναι η άτακτη χρεοκοπία, και αυτό δέν το θέλουμε ούτε εμείς ούτε βεβαίως οι δανειστές μας."

Αυτή είναι μιά κρίσιμη παραδοχή, που την αποδέχονται όσοι μέχρι τώρα έπαιξαν ρόλο, αρχής γενομένης απο Παπανδρέου/Παπακωνσταντίνου (ΠΑΣΟΚ) και στην συνέχεια απο Παπαδήμο και Σαμαρά (ΝΔ) και Κουβέλη(ΔΗΜΑΡ).

Χμ... τροφή για σκέψη!

Βεβαίως, το οτι δύο κόμματα κάνουν την ίδια παραδοχή, δέν σημαίνει απαραιτήτως οτι θα καταλήξουν και στην ίδια πολιτική. Είναι θέμα ευρύτερης ιδεολογίας, εμπειρίας, "χρονισμού", στάθμισης δυνατοτήτων, κλπ.