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Greece begins a new chapter following the conclusion of its stability support programme

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Greece has successfully concluded a three year European Stability Mechanism (ESM) stability support programme with its place at the heart of the euro area and European Union secured.

The successful conclusion of the programme is a testament to the efforts of the Greek people, the country’s commitment to reform, and the solidarity of its European partners.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The conclusion of the stability support programme marks an important moment for Greece and Europe. While their European partners have demonstrated their solidarity, the Greek people have responded to every challenge with a characteristic courage and determination. I have always fought for Greece to remain at the heart of Europe. As the Greek people begin a new chapter in their storied history, they will always find in me an ally, a partner and a friend.”

Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “The conclusion of the stability support programme is good news for both Greece and the euro area. For Greece and its people, it marks the beginning of a new chapter after eight particularly difficult years. For the euro area, it draws a symbolic line under an existential crisis. The extensive reforms Greece has carried out have laid the ground for a sustainable recovery: this must be nurtured and maintained to enable the Greek people to reap the benefits of their efforts and sacrifices. Europe will continue to stand by Greece’s side.”

A total of €61.9 billion in loans have been provided to Greece under this stability support programme on the basis of implementation of a comprehensive and unprecedented reform package. This stability support programme took a coordinated approach to tackle long-standing and deep-rooted structural issues that contributed to Greece experiencing an economic crisis.

Greece has taken measures to ensure its fiscal sustainability, bringing the general government balance from a significant deficit to surplus in 2017, which is projected to be maintained. These reform measures and consolidation efforts will have cumulative effects over time, and will thus continue to positively impact fiscal sustainability well beyond the conclusion of the programme.

The financial sector is now in a much stronger position as a result of successful recapitalisation operations, an overhaul of bank governance, and work to implement a strategy to reduce non-performing loans, which must be sustained.

The efficiency and efficacy of the public administration has been improved including through the introduction of new rules on the appointment, assessment and mobility of public sector employees; the establishment of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue; and measures to make the judicial system more efficient.

Finally, important structural measures have been put in place to improve Greece’s business environment and competitiveness to make Greece an attractive destination for investment and allow businesses already in place to expand, innovate and create jobs; as well as to establish sustainable and universal pensions, health care and social benefit systems, including a guaranteed minimum income scheme.

When taken together, these transformative reforms have laid the foundations for a sustainable recovery, putting in place the fundamental conditions needed for sustained growth, job creation and sound public finances in the years to come.

Improving economic indicators confirm that while work remains to be done, the efforts undertaken are already delivering tangible benefits by restoring order to public finances, reducing unemployment, and securing a return to growth. Economic growth has rebounded from -5.5% in 2010 to 1.4% in 2017 and is expected to remain around 2% in 2018 and 2019. The fiscal balance has progressed from a massive deficit of 15.1% in 2009 to a 0.8% surplus in 2017 (corresponding to a primary surplus of 4.2% in programme terms). Although unemployment remains unacceptably high, according to figures recently released by the Hellenic Statistical Authority, unemployment fell to 19.5% in May 2018, reaching a level below 20% for the first time since September 2011.

The conclusion of the programme marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another for Greece. It will be necessary to remain focused on fully addressing the social and economic consequences that are the legacy of the crisis years. This will require that the Greek authorities maintain ownership of reforms and ensure their sustained implementation, as per their commitments at the Eurogroup meeting of 22 June 2018. This is crucial to ingraining market confidence and strengthening Greece’s economic recovery, particularly in the immediate post-programme period.

Greece will be fully integrated into the European Semester of economic and social policy coordination to help ensure that the country and its people reap the full benefits of the efforts undertaken in recent years. In the post-programme period, the completion, delivery and continued implementation of reforms agreed under the programme will also be monitored through an enhanced surveillance framework.

The Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service will continue to assist the Greek authorities, upon their request, in the design and implementation of growth-enhancing reforms.

Background

Greece has benefitted from financial assistance from its European partners since 2010. The Greek authorities requested a new ESM stability support programme on 8 July 2015. The European Commission signed, on behalf of the ESM, a Memorandum of Understanding for a three year stability support programme on 20 August 2015.

On 23 June 2018, the Eurogroup confirmed that all of the prior actions under the fourth and final review of the stability support programme had been completed. The Eurogroup also reached an agreement on a strong package of debt measures, in addition to the short-term measures already in place, to ensure that Greece’s debt is sustainable in the longer run. On 6 August 2018, the ESM approved a final disbursement of €15 billion of financial assistance.

In total, €288.7 billion in loans have been provided to Greece since 2010. This includes €256.6 billion from its European partners and €32.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In parallel to the stability support programme, the Commission launched the plan for a “New Start for Jobs and Growth in Greece” in July 2015 to facilitate Greece maximising its use of EU funds to stabilise its economy and boost jobs, growth and investment. As a result of the exceptional measures adopted under the plan, Greece is now among the top absorbers of EU funds. For the period 2014-2020, Greece has already received almost €16 billion from a large pool of EU funds. This is equivalent to over 9% of the 2017 annual gross domestic product of Greece.

Greece is also the top beneficiary of the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), relative to GDP. The EFSI is now set to trigger well over €10 billion in investments and support more than 20,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Greece.

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Archipelagic Economies: Spatial Economic Development in the Pacific

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A new World Bank report on the challenges facing the Pacific region’s outer island communities identifies investment in people and livelihoods as a key for inclusive economic growth.    

Archipelagic Economies: Spatial Economic Development in the Pacific looks at the challenges Pacific governments must address to provide services and infrastructure to populations spread across hundreds of islands spanning the vast Pacific Ocean. The report puts forward a series of practical steps that countries can take to overcome these challenges in a way that supports resilient and inclusive economic growth.

“Many Pacific countries are faced with significant challenges in delivering services and connecting remote, outer island communities; with difficult decisions around resources and how to best invest often limited resources into outer island communities,” said the report’s lead author, World Bank Lead Economist for Fiscal Policy and Sustainable Growth Robert Utz.

“This report aims to provide Pacific governments, development partners and decision-makers with evidence to assess options for fostering development for the people in those outer islands, so they can make stronger contributions to the larger economic development of the whole country.”   

The report identifies six guiding economic policy principles:

1)     Policy solutions that seek to achieve equitable increases in living standards need to be grounded in an understanding of the economic implications of the Pacific region’s unique economic geography.

2)     Outer islands’ development should be assessed from a spatial perspective; one that considers interactions with the country’s main island and the region beyond.

3)     A balanced approach that combines investments in urban areas to accommodate migration from outer islands to main islands with support for outer island populations is likely to achieve better welfare and equity outcomes than an approach that neglects one side or the other.

4)     Growth-enhancing investments should be guided by clearly-identified opportunities, rather than by a desire to try to equalize economic opportunities across islands.

5)     With limited scope to close the gap in economic opportunities between outer and main islands investments to promote livelihoods and human development should be given preference.

6)     Outer islands are subject to a complex political economy of intra-island and outer island-main island relationships that need to be considered in development interventions.

“This is an important and timely study,” said Denton Rarawa, Senior Economic Advisor at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. “The current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need to address the institutional, service delivery and capacity gaps of nations across the Pacific. As we strive for greater vaccination rates and begin to think about how we’d like to rebuild after the pandemic, I believe this report has a lot to offer the future of the Pacific, especially in our efforts to leave no one behind.”   

The Archipelagic Economies report is a companion publication to the World Bank’s Pacific Possible series, which in 2017 and 2018 looked at opportunities for economic growth in Pacific Islands Countries across key sectors including tourism, fisheries, and labour mobility. 

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific, supporting 87 projects totaling US$2.09 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, macroeconomic management, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.

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Global economic recovery continues but remains uneven

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The global economy is growing far more strongly than anticipated a year ago but the recovery remains uneven, exposing both advanced and emerging markets to a range of risks, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Outlook.

The OECD says extraordinary support from governments and central banks helped avoid the worst once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With the vaccine roll-out continuing and a gradual resumption of economic activity underway, the OECD projects strong global growth of 5.7% this year and 4.5% in 2022, little changed from its May 2021 Outlook of 5.8% and 4.4% respectively.

Countries are emerging from the crisis with different challenges, often reflecting their pre-COVID 19 strengths and weaknesses, and their policy approaches during the pandemic. Even in the countries where output or employment have recovered to their pre-pandemic levels, the recovery is incomplete, with jobs and incomes still short of the levels expected before the pandemic.

Large differences in vaccination rates between countries are adding to the unevenness of the recovery. Renewed outbreaks of the virus are forcing some countries to restrict activities, resulting in bottlenecks and adding to supply shortages.  

There is a marked variation in the outlook for inflation, which has risen sharply in the US and some emerging market economies but remains relatively low in many other advanced economies, particularly in the euro area.

A rapid increase in demand as economies reopen has pushed up prices in key commodities such as oil and metals as well as  food, which has a stronger effect on inflation in emerging markets. The disruption to supply chains caused by the pandemic has added to cost pressures. At the same time, shipping costs have increased sharply.

But the Interim Outlook says that these inflationary pressures should eventually fade. Consumer price inflation in the G20 countries is projected to peak towards the end of 2021 and slow throughout 2022. Wage growth remains broadly moderate and medium-term inflation expectations remain contained.

The report warns that to keep the recovery on track stronger international efforts are needed to provide low-income countries with the resources to vaccinate their populations, both for their own and global benefits.

Macroeconomic policy support is still needed as long as the outlook is uncertain and employment has not yet recovered fully, but clear guidance is called upon from policymakers to minimise risks looking forward. Central banks should communicate clearly about the likely sequencing of moves towards eventual policy normalisation and the extent to which any overshooting of inflation targets will be tolerated. The report says fiscal policies should remain flexible and avoid a premature withdrawal of support, operating within credible and transparent medium-term fiscal frameworks that provide space for stronger public infrastructure investment.

Presenting the Interim Economic Outlook alongside Chief Economist Laurence Boone, OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said: “The world is experiencing a strong recovery thanks to decisive action taken by governments and central banks at the height of the crisis. But as we have seen with vaccine distribution, progress is uneven. Ensuring the recovery is sustained and widespread requires action on a number of fronts – from effective vaccination programmes across all countries to concerted public investment strategies to build for the future.”

Ms Boone said: “Policies have been efficient in buffering the shock and ensuring a strong recovery; planning for more efficient public finances, shifted towards investment in physical and human capital is necessary and will help monetary policy to normalise smoothly once the recovery is firmly established.”

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Financing Options Key to Africa’s Transition to Sustainable Energy

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A new whitepaper outlining the key considerations in setting the course for Africa’s energy future was released today at the 2021 Sustainable Development Impact Summit. The report, “Financing the Future of Energy,” outlines Africa’s electricity landscape and financing options in context with the global drive to reduce carbon emissions.

Africa’s power sector will play a central role in the transition from fossil fuel-driven power generation to a renewable-strong energy mix. According to the whitepaper written in collaboration with Deloitte, the migration to a multi-stakeholder-oriented net-zero power grid is being driven by “the 3Ds:”

  • Decarbonization: moving from fossil fuel sources to renewables
  • Decentralization: Shifting from centrally managed generation, transmission, and distribution to decentralized systems
  • Digitalization: Leveraging digital technology to advance the transition

The report contends that new coalitions and investments with developed nations and NGOs including the World Economic Forum must coordinate and enable countries to leapfrog existing technologies and infrastructure.

“The need for digitally smarter utility platforms and sustainable development programs will guide global leaders in helping to shape equitable and inclusive recovery programs,” said Chido Munyati, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum. “The entire continent remains vulnerable, but this whitepaper offers a view on what are viable financing options that exist today for clean energy sustainability and equitable recovery for all of Africa.

Funding will be the biggest hurdle to ensuring Africa’s sustainable transition to Renewables at scale; there are many financing solutions available,” said Mario Fernandes, Director, Africa Power Utilities and Renewables, Deloitte. “Africa’s winners will be the ones that are able to leverage what exists while creating an enabling environment for the private sector through a Renewables Energy Investment facility.”

Case studies in China and India showed that financing solutions for a clean energy transition often involve long cycles. Economic booms in these countries resulted in a significant shift in carbon emissions. Since similar economic booms are expected across Africa, the report highlights how crucial it is to anchor growth in technologies that can enable lower emissions.

While Africa’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel significantly lags behind those of other continents, it still carries a huge potential to accelerate the transition to a net-zero future. Currently, half of the continent lives without adequate access to electricity. As energy demands increase, the energy gap could be bridged through clean energy alternatives, if the financing solutions are employed now.

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