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  • Publication Date: 12-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The euro came into being under mixed auspices. On the one hand, convergence efforts in the run-up to monetary union, particularly in the fiscal area, had helped bring inflation and interest rates down to historically low levels. On the other hand, growth, which had only just started to recover in earnest after several disappointing years, was slowing down in the wake of a series of emerging market crises. The macroeconomic policy mix prevailing in 1999 combined monetary easing and modest fiscal consolidation. It contributed to sustain domestic demand, limiting the extent of the deceleration. With a brightening external environment, growth picked up vigorously in the second half of the year. In hindsight, the new regime's début is commendable, especially when recalling the gloomy predictions of some sceptics and taking into account that this first year has been a period of learning-by-doing for all agents. Major challenges lie ahead, however, both as regards long-run fiscal sustainability in the face of population ageing and as regards market structures. The policy tradeoffs facing European policymakers are harsher in some important ways than those confronting their counterparts across the Atlantic, because of deeply ingrained labour and product market rigidities. Those are being addressed in various ways, and tangible progress is being made. Nonetheless, reform efforts should be stepped up to raise economic performance significantly above the record of the 1990s.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 12-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The new government has set itself the ambitious tasks of lowering unemployment, modernising the economy and the social system, and securing the long term viability of the budget and the health and pension systems. Ecological goals have been given equal prominence in order to ensure the environmental sustainability of economic development. In some fields there has been progress. However, the fiscal package needs to be fully implemented to put public finances on a sustainable path and to create a tax regime that is more business friendly. These policies should be underpinned by structural reforms that strengthen future growth prospects. Such policies can benefit both macroeconomic performance and future fiscal outcomes. While short-term growth prospects are already improving, unemployment remains a major problem. With respect to its strategy for reducing unemployment, the government is seeking to obtain consensus, inter-alia on an employmentfriendly wage policy, via round-table talks with the social partners. It is important that a consistent set of policy instruments emerge that establish clear links between policies and ultimate policy goals. For Germany to attain the employment, growth and environmental aims commensurate with its key position in the European economy, requires not only favourable macroeconomic conditions, including aggregate wage developments, but a policy emphasis which more effectively enhances labour-market flexibility, as well as structural reforms that strengthen individual initiative, economic choice and the role of competition. Since structural and macroeconomic policies tend to have synergies which make them mutually reinforcing, achieving a more flexible and dynamic use of resources will help to assure progress towards the country's social, budgetary, environmental and economic goals.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Publication Date: 12-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: The Icelandic economy has expanded rapidly over the past five years, bringing output to well above its potential. Clear signs of overheating have emerged, with unemployment below 2 per cent, inflation picking up and a large current external deficit. These developments are projected to continue, raising the risks of a wage-price spiral and financial instability. To guard against such risks, a significant tightening of monetary policy is required, with less priority attached to the exchange rate as a target for policy. This should be complemented by a medium-term fiscal discipline aiming at achieving a structural budget surplus. Such a course would help cope with long-term care spending that will rise with ageing. On the other hand, except for government employees, pensions should not constitute a burden for public finances, as, for the main, they will be provided by the private sector. To enhance future growth prospects, it will be important to maintain and extend the fishing quota regime in the face of legal threats and to increase competitive forces, especially in the telecommunications industry.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iceland
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 12-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: European defence cooperation will be a key issue at this week's European Council (EC) summit. It looks likely that ministers will agree that Europe should move towards an autonomous military capability independent of NATO. However, significant problems remain before these plans can be realised in operational terms.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, NATO
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 12-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The quarter-point increase in the fed funds rate announced at the November 16 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting was accompanied by the adoption of a neutral directive for the inter-meeting period, in place of the bias towards tightening in force since early October. The directive indicates that the Fed intends the rise to be the last of this year. However, the OECD, in its recent Economic Outlook, predicted that another one percentage point increase in the fed funds rate will be needed to restore demand and supply to equilibrium. While the economy will probably not slow sufficiently of its own accord, the incentives to defer action into 2000 mean that rates are likely to remain as they are during 1999, though probably associated with an announced bias towards tightening.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 11-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Council will meet on November 27 to deliberate the political understanding reached between First Minister-elect David Trimble and the Sinn Fein leadership. Trimble will probably achieve the level of support necessary for devolution to occur in Northern Ireland, by a narrow margin. However, significant political difficulties, remain to be addressed in the months following devolution. The medium-term prospects for the peace process will primarily depend on the IRA's approach to implementing its commitment to decommission.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 09-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The attractions of the single european currency are likely to draw the Scandinavian countries into the euro-area by around 2003. However, the outlook for United Kingdom accession is complicated by differences in its economic profile compared with the rest of the euro-area, combined with its enduringly euro-sceptical public opinion. These factors are likely to postpone its accession until later in the decade.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 07-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: In recent weeks, economic data has produced conflicting signals about the strength of domestic demand within the US economy. A majority within the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) believes that growth will decelerate and that only a small tightening of monetary policy will be necessary in the short term. However, the Federal Reserve has consistently underestimated domestic demand, and there are signs that the economy is still buoyant. Moreover, with improving economic prospects in Europe and Asia, the external forces encouraging lower US interest rates are likely to be reversed. The combination of these factors could put pressure on the Fed to tighten further.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Asia
  • Publication Date: 03-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Abstract: There is a considerable range in OECD national tax levels, as tax revenues as a percentage of GDP show. The tax bur- den in 1996 exceeded 45% of GDP in five countries, all in Europe – Den- mark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium and France. In contrast, five countries had tax levels below 30%: Mexico, Korea, Turkey, Japan and the United States. Mexico's total tax revenues were nearly 22 percentage points below the OECD average of 37.7%.
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, Europe, Turkey, Korea, Mexico
  • Author: Karel Lannoo
  • Publication Date: 05-1998
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for European Policy Studies
  • Abstract: The agreement reached in the Council of EU Finance Ministers (Ecofin) on 1 December 1997 on taxation policy can be considered as a landmark in EU direct tax harmonisation. The Council agreed on a package of measures to combat harmful tax competition in the EU, including a code of conduct on corporate taxation and elements which should enable the Commission to draft a new proposal for a directive on the taxation of income from savings. The Council invited the Taxation Policy Group to continue its work and instituted a Review Group to assess harmful tax competition. The first and, until now, last EU measures in the area of direct taxation date back to 1990. These abolished double taxation between enterprises of the same group.
  • Topic: Government, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe