Friday, September 23, 2011

When Greece is an appropriate example

I'd mentioned the problems with using Greece as the prime (and sometimes sole) example in the austerity debate. Now, via Krugman, Kash Mansori brings the point home with a great table that shows how heterogeneous the PIGS were in terms of profligacy and how homogeneous they were in other ways.
If the crisis is due primarily to local causes, then we would expect the best predictor of crisis to be government deficits and debt. On the other hand, if the systemic causes view is correct, then a better predictor of the crisis would be large current account deficits, which necessarily happen when there's a capital flow bonanza.

The following table shows both fiscal (i.e. national government) budget balances and current account balances during the period after the adoption of the euro and before the worldwide financial crisis and recession struck in 2008. All figures are from the OECD and expressed as a % of GDP.

The factor that crisis countries have in common is that, without exception, they ran the largest current account deficits in the EZ during the period 2000-2007. The relationship between budget deficits and crisis is much weaker; some of the crisis countries had significant average surpluses during the years leading up to the crisis, while some of the EZ countries with large fiscal deficits did not experience crisis. This is one piece of evidence that a surge in capital flows, not budget deficits, may have been what laid the groundwork for the crisis.

No comments:

Post a Comment