IMF’s Blanchard to governments: take it easy with consolidation

The IMF’s chief economist Olivier Blanchard reviews the year, and draws four main lessons. One of them calls on governments not to consolidate too fast, because that will only backfire. Europe, are you listening?

Some preliminary estimates that the IMF is working on suggest that it does not take large multipliers for the joint effects of fiscal consolidation and the implied lower growth to lead in the end to an increase, not a decrease, in risk spreads on government bonds.  To the extent that governments feel they have to respond to markets, they may be induced to consolidate too fast, even from the narrow point of view of debt sustainability.

I should be clear here. Substantial fiscal consolidation is needed, and debt levels must decrease. But it should be, in the words of Angela Merkel, a marathon rather than a sprint. It will take more than two decades to return to prudent levels of debt.  There is a proverb that actually applies here too: “slow and steady wins the race.”

(Emphasis mine. Hat tip Paul Krugman)

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