Connect with us

Economy

Euro celebrates its 20th birthday

Published

on

The euro, Europe’s common currency, turns 20 on 1 January 2019. Exactly 20 years ago, on 1 January 1999, 11 EU countries launched a common currency, the euro, and introduced a shared monetary policy under the European Central Bank.

The historic moment was a milestone on a journey driven by the ambition of ensuring stability and prosperity in Europe. Today, still young, the euro is already the currency of 340 million Europeans in 19 Member States. It has brought tangible benefits to European households, businesses and governments alike: stable prices, lower transaction costs, protected savings, more transparent and competitive markets, and increased trade. Some 60 countries around the world link their currencies to the euro in one way or another, and we can and are doing more to let the euro play its full role on the international scene. Other EU Member States are expected to join the euro area once the criteria are met.

To mark this anniversary, the five Presidents of the EU institutions and bodies most directly responsible for the euro, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council, the European Central Bank and the Eurogroup, commented on the 20 years of the single currency and on its future.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said: “As one of the only signatories of the Maastricht Treaty still politically active today, I remember the hard-fought and momentous negotiations on the launch of the Economic and Monetary Union. More than anything, I recall a deep conviction that we were opening a new chapter in our joint history. A chapter that would shape Europe’s role in the world and the future of all its people. 20 years on, I am convinced that this was the most important signature I ever made. The euro has become a symbol of unity, sovereignty and stability. It has delivered prosperity and protection to our citizens and we must ensure that it continues to do so. This is why we are working hard to complete our Economic and Monetary Union and boost the euro’s international role further.”

Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, said: “The euro is more popular today than ever: three out of four citizens believe it is good for our economy. In order for Europeans to benefit fully from the jobs, growth and solidarity that the single currency should bring, we must complete our Economic and Monetary union through genuine financial, fiscal and political Union. This will also allow Europe to better shield its citizens from potential future crises.”

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said:“The creation of the euro 20 years ago — alongside the liberation of Central and Eastern Europe and the reunification of Germany— was a pivotal moment in European history. Our common currency has since matured into a powerful expression of the European Union as a political and economic force in the world. Despite crises, the euro has shown itself resilient, and the eight members which joined the original 11 have enjoyed its benefits. As the world keeps changing, we will keep upgrading and strengthening our Economic and Monetary Union.”

Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, said: “The euro was a logical and necessary consequence of the single market. It makes it easier to travel, trade and transact within the euro area and beyond. After 20 years, there is now a generation who knows no other domestic currency. During that time, the ECB has delivered on its main task of maintaining price stability. But we also contribute to the well-being of euro area citizens by developing safe, innovative banknotes, promoting secure payment systems, supervising banks to ensure they are resilient and overseeing financial stability in the euro area.”

Mário Centeno, President of the Eurogroup, said: “The single currency has been one of the biggest European success stories: there can be no doubt about its importance and impact over the first two decades of its history. But its future is still being written, and that puts a historic responsibility on us. The euro and the close economic cooperation that it entails has evolved over time, overcoming challenges in its way. It has come a long way since the start, and it has seen important changes in the wake of the crisis to help us leave the hardship behind. But this work is not yet finished, it requires continuous reform efforts in good times as in bad times. There can be no doubts of our political will to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union. We need to be prepared for what the future may hold – we owe that to our citizens.”

Background

The launch of the euro marked the culmination of a long journey that had begun long before. The global monetary turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s had exposed individual European countries and called for European solutions. Moreover, with the establishment of a single market, it would be easier to work and trade if Europeans would start to use a single currency. After decades of early discussions on how an Economic and Monetary Union could be achieved, in 1988 the Delors Committee was set up. Under the chairmanship of then Commission President Jacques Delors, it examined specific, gradual steps towards such a single currency. The agreement that political leaders subsequently signed in 1992 in Maastricht brought the single currency to life, building on the report of the Delors Committee and the ensuing negotiations. As such, the signing of the Maastricht Treaty became a symbolic moment in the move towards the euro. In 1994, the European Monetary Institute (EMI) started its preparatory work in Frankfurt for the European Central Bank (ECB) to assume its responsibility for monetary policy in the euro area. As a result, on 1 June 1998, the ECB became operational.

On 1 January 1999, the euro was launched, becoming the official currency of 11 Member States, with monetary policy responsibilities given to the European Central Bank and the Eurosystem. After three years of appearing on people’s bank statements alongside national currencies, euro banknotes and coins arrived in 12 countries, which thereby participated in the largest currency changeover in history. The original members were Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. Greece joined in 2001. Since then, a further seven Member States have introduced the euro (Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia).

The second most used currency in the world

The euro has come a long way from the first discussions in the late 1960s to being the currency of 340 million Europeans and used by a further 175 million worldwide. It is the second most important international currency, with around 60 countries in the world using it or linking their own currency to the euro. It is a safe store of value for international central banks, used for issuing debt worldwide and widely accepted for international payments.

Ten years after the financial crisis shook the world, the architecture of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union has been significantly reinforced but more work remains to be done. Building on the vision set out in the Five Presidents’ Report of June 2015 and the Reflection Papers on the Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union and the Future of EU Finances of spring 2017, the European Commission set out a roadmap for deepening the Economic and Monetary Union. In December, EU Leaders also agreed to work towards strengthening the international role of the euro as part of this journey.

A single currency for the benefit of all Europeans

Public support for the euro has been consistently high in the EU, especially in the countries already using the euro. A majority of 74% of respondents across the euro area said that they thought the euro was good for the EU; this is the same as the record high score set last year and confirms that popular support for the euro is at its highest since surveys began in 2002. A majority of 64% of respondents across the euro area also said that they thought the euro was good for their own country. 36% of Europeans identify the euro as one of the main symbols of the European Union, the second highest behind ‘freedom’ as a symbol. It has brought visible and very practical benefits to European households, businesses and governments alike: stable prices, lower transaction costs, more transparent and competitive markets, and increased trade. It makes travelling and living abroad easier, and savings protected.

Continue Reading
Comments

Economy

Reforms Key to Romania’s Resilient Recovery

Published

on

Over the past decade, Romania has achieved a remarkable track record of high economic growth, sustained poverty reduction, and rising household incomes. An EU member since 2007, the country’s economic growth was one of the highest in the EU during the period 2010-2020.

Like the rest of the world, however, Romania has been profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the economy contracted by 3.9 percent and the unemployment rate reached 5.5 percent in July before dropping slightly to 5.3 percent in December. Trade and services decreased by 4.7 percent, while sectors such as tourism and hospitality were severely affected. Hard won gains in poverty reduction were temporarily reversed and social and economic inequality increased.

The Romanian government acted swiftly in response to the crisis, providing a fiscal stimulus of 4.4 percent of GDP in 2020 to help keep the economy moving. Economic activity was also supported by a resilient private sector. Today, Romania’s economy is showing good signs of recovery and is projected to grow at around 7 percent in 2021, making it one of the few EU economies expected to reach pre-pandemic growth levels this year. This is very promising.

Yet the road ahead remains highly uncertain, and Romania faces several important challenges.

The pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of Romania’s institutions to adverse shocks, exacerbated existing fiscal pressures, and widened gaps in healthcare, education, employment, and social protection.

Poverty increased significantly among the population in 2020, especially among vulnerable communities such as the Roma, and remains elevated in 2021 due to the triple-hit of the ongoing pandemic, poor agricultural yields, and declining remittance incomes.

Frontline workers, low-skilled and temporary workers, the self-employed, women, youth, and small businesses have all been disproportionately impacted by the crisis, including through lost salaries, jobs, and opportunities.

The pandemic has also highlighted deep-rooted inequalities. Jobs in the informal sector and critical income via remittances from abroad have been severely limited for communities that depend on them most, especially the Roma, the country’s most vulnerable group.

How can Romania address these challenges and ensure a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery for all?

Reforms in several key areas can pave the way forward.

First, tax policy and administration require further progress. If Romania is to spend more on pensions, education, or health, it must boost revenue collection. Currently, Romania collects less than 27 percent of GDP in budget revenue, which is the second lowest share in the EU. Measures to increase revenues and efficiency could include improving tax revenue collection, including through digitalization of tax administration and removal of tax exemptions, for example.

Second, public expenditure priorities require adjustment. With the third lowest public spending per GDP among EU countries, Romania already has limited space to cut expenditures, but could focus on making them more efficient, while addressing pressures stemming from its large public sector wage bill. Public employment and wages, for instance, would benefit from a review of wage structures and linking pay with performance.

Third, ensuring sustainability of the country’s pension fund is a high priority. The deficit of the pension fund is currently around 2 percent of GDP, which is subsidized from the state budget. The fund would therefore benefit from closer examination of the pension indexation formula, the number of years of contribution, and the role of special pensions.

Fourth is reform and restructuring of State-Owned Enterprises, which play a significant role in Romania’s economy. SOEs account for about 4.5 percent of employment and are dominant in vital sectors such as transport and energy. Immediate steps could include improving corporate governance of SOEs and careful analysis of the selection and reward of SOE executives and non-executive bodies, which must be done objectively to ensure that management acts in the best interest of companies.

Finally, enhancing social protection must be central to the government’s efforts to boost effectiveness of the public sector and deliver better services for citizens. Better targeted social assistance will be more effective in reaching and supporting vulnerable households and individuals. Strategic investments in infrastructure, people’s skills development, and public services can also help close the large gaps that exist across regions.

None of this will be possible without sustained commitment and dedicated resources. Fortunately, Romania will be able to access significant EU funds through its National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which will enable greater investment in large and important sectors such as transportation, infrastructure to support greater deployment of renewable energy, education, and healthcare.

Achieving a resilient post-pandemic recovery will also mean advancing in critical areas like green transition and digital transformation – major new opportunities to generate substantial returns on investment for Romania’s economy.

I recently returned from my first official trip to Romania where I met with country and government leaders, civil society representatives, academia, and members of the local community. We discussed a wide range of topics including reforms, fiscal consolidation, social inclusion, renewably energy, and disaster risk management. I was highly impressed by their determination to see Romania emerge even stronger from the pandemic. I believe it is possible. To this end, I reiterated the World Bank’s continued support to all Romanians for a safe, bright, and prosperous future.

First appeared in Romanian language in Digi24.ro, via World Bank

Continue Reading

Economy

US Economic Turmoil: The Paradox of Recovery and Inflation

Published

on

The US economy has been a rollercoaster since the pandemic cinched the world last year. As lockdowns turned into routine and the buzz of a bustling life came to a sudden halt, a problem manifested itself to the US regime. The problem of sustaining economic activity while simultaneously fighting the virus. It was the intent of ‘The American Rescue Plan’ to provide aid to the US citizens, expand healthcare, and help buoy the population as the recession was all but imminent. Now as the global economy starts to rebound in apparent post-pandemic reality, the US regime faces a dilemma. Either tighten the screws on the overheating economy and risk putting an early break on recovery or let the economy expand and face a prospect of unrelenting inflation for years to follow.

The Consumer Price Index, the core measure of inflation, has been off the radar over the past few months. The CPI remained largely over the 4% mark in the second quarter, clocking a colossal figure of 5.4% last month. While the inflation is deemed transitionary, heated by supply bottlenecks coinciding with swelling demand, the pandemic-related causes only explain a partial reality of the blooming clout of prices. Bloomberg data shows that transitory factors pushing the prices haywire account for hotel fares, airline costs, and rentals. Industries facing an offshoot surge in prices include the automobile industry and the Real estate market. However, the main factors driving the prices are shortages of core raw materials like computer chips and timber (essential to the efficient supply functions of the respective industries). Despite accounting for the temporal effect of certain factors, however, the inflation seems hardly controlled; perverse to the position opined by Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

The Fed already insinuated earlier that the economy recovered sooner than originally expected, making it worthwhile to ponder over pulling the plug on the doveish leverage that allowed the economy to persevere through the pandemic. The main cause was the rampant inflation – way off the 2% targetted inflation level. However, the alluded remarks were deftly handled to avoid a panic in an already fragile road to recovery. The economic figures shed some light on the true nature of the US economy which baffled the Fed. The consumer expectations, as per Bloomberg’s data, show that prices are to inflate further by 4.8% over the course of the following 12 months. Moreover, the data shows that the investor sentiment gauged from the bond market rally is also up to 2.5% expected inflation over the corresponding period. Furthermore, a survey from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) suggested that net 47 companies have raised their average prices since May by seven percentage points; the largest surge in four decades. It is all too much to overwhelm any reader that the data shows the economy is reeling with inflation – and the Fed is not clear whether it is transitionary or would outlast the pandemic itself.

Economists, however, have shown faith in the tools and nerves of the Federal Reserve. Even the IMF commended the Fed’s response and tactical strategies implemented to trestle the battered economy. However, much averse to the celebration of a win over the pandemic, the fight is still not through the trough. As the Delta variant continues to amass cases in the United States, the championed vaccinations are being questioned. While it is explicable that the surge is almost distinctly in the unvaccinated or low-vaccinated states, the threat is all that is enough to drive fear and speculation throughout the country. The effects are showing as, despite a lucrative economic rebound, over 9 million positions lay vacant for employment. The prices are billowing yet the growth is stagnating as supply is still lukewarm and people are still wary of returning to work. The job market casts a recession-like scenario while the demand is strong which in turn is driving the wages into the competitive territory. This wage-price spiral would fuel inflation, presumably for years as embedded expectations of employees would be hard to nudge lower. Remember prices and wages are always sticky downwards!

Now the paradox stands. As Congress is allegedly embarking on signing a $4 trillion economic plan, presented by president Joe Bidden, the matters are to turn all the more complex and difficult to follow. While the infrastructure bill would not be a hard press on short-term inflation, the iteration of tax credits and social spending programs would most likely fuel the inflation further. It is true that if the virus resurges, there won’t be any other option to keep the economy afloat. However, a bustling inflationary environment would eventually push the Fed to put the brakes on by either raising the interest rates or by gradually ceasing its Asset Purchase Program. Both the tools, however, would risk a premature contraction which could pull the United States into an economic spiral quite similar to that of the deflating Japanese economy. It is, therefore, a tough stance to take whether a whiff of stagflation today is merely provisional or are these some insidious early signs to be heeded in a deliberate fashion and rectified immediately.

Continue Reading

Economy

Carbon Market Could Drive Climate Action

Published

on

st

Authors: Martin Raiser, Sebastian Eckardt, Giovanni Ruta*

Trading commenced on China’s national emissions trading system (ETS) on Friday. With a trading volume of about 4 billion tons of carbon dioxide or roughly 12 percent of the total global CO2 emissions, the ETS is now the world’s largest carbon market.

While the traded emission volume is large, the first trading day opened, as expected, with a relatively modest price of 48 yuan ($7.4) per ton of CO2. Though this is higher than the global average, which is about $2 per ton, it is much lower than carbon prices in the European Union market where the cost per ton of CO2 recently exceeded $50.

Large volume but low price

The ETS has the potential to play an important role in achieving, and accelerating China’s long-term climate goals — of peaking emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060. Under the plan, about 2,200 of China’s largest coal and gas-fired power plants have been allocated free emission rights based on their historical emissions, power output and carbon intensity.

Facilities that cut emissions quickly will be able to sell excess allowances for a profit, while those that exceed their initial allowance will have to pay to purchase additional emission rights or pay a fine. Putting a price tag on CO2 emissions will promote investment in low-carbon technologies and equipment, while carbon trading will ensure emissions are first cut where it is least costly, minimizing abatement costs. This sounds plain and simple, but it will take time for the market to develop and meaningfully contribute to emission reductions.
The initial phase of market development is focused on building credible emissions disclosure and verification systems — the basic infrastructure of any functioning carbon market — encouraging facilities to accurately monitor and report their emissions rather than constraining them. Consequently, allocations given to power companies have been relatively generous, and are tied to power output rather than being set at absolute levels.

Also, the requirements of each individual facility to obtain additional emission rights are capped at 20 percent above the initial allowance and fines for non-compliance are relatively low. This means carbon prices initially are likely to remain relatively low, mitigating the immediate financial impact on power producers and giving them time to adjust.

For carbon trading to develop into a significant policy tool, total emissions and individual allowances will need to tighten over time. Estimates by Tsinghua University suggest that carbon prices will need to be raised to $300-$350 per ton by 2060 to achieve carbon neutrality. And our research at the World Bank suggest a broadly applied carbon price of $50 could help reduce China’s CO2 emissions by almost 25 percent compared with business as usual over the coming decade, while also significantly contributing to reduced air pollution.

Communicating a predictable path for annual emission cap reductions will allow power producers to factor future carbon price increases into their investment decisions today. In addition, experience from the longest-established EU market shows that there are benefits to smoothing out cyclical fluctuations in demand.

For example, carbon emissions naturally decline during periods of lower economic activity. In order to prevent this from affecting carbon prices, the EU introduced a stability reserve mechanism in 2019 to reduce the surplus of allowances and stabilize prices in the market.

Besides, to facilitate the energy transition away from coal, allowances would eventually need to be set at an absolute, mass-based level, which is applied uniformly to all types of power plants — as is done in the EU and other carbon markets.

The current carbon-intensity based allocation mechanism encourages improving efficiency in existing coal power plants and is intended to safeguard reliable energy supply, but it creates few incentives for power producers to divest away from coal.

The effectiveness of the ETS in creating appropriate price incentives would be further enhanced if combined with deeper structural reforms in power markets to allow competitive renewable energy to gain market share.

As the market develops, carbon pricing should become an economy-wide instrument. The power sector accounts for about 30 percent of carbon emissions, but to meet China’s climate goals, mitigation actions are needed in all sectors of the economy. Indeed, the authorities plan to expand the ETS to petro-chemicals, steel and other heavy industries over time.

In other carbon intensive sectors, such as transport, agriculture and construction, emissions trading will be technically challenging because monitoring and verification of emissions is difficult. Faced with similar challenges, several EU member states have introduced complementary carbon taxes applied to sectors not covered by an ETS. Such carbon excise taxes are a relatively simple and efficient instrument, charged in proportion to the carbon content of fuel and a set carbon price.

Finally, while free allowances are still given to some sectors in the EU and other more mature national carbon markets, the majority of initial annual emission rights are auctioned off. This not only ensures consistent market-based price signals, but generates public revenue that can be recycled back into the economy to subsidize abatement costs, offset negative social impacts or rebalance the tax mix by cutting taxes on labor, general consumption or profits.

So far, China’s carbon reduction efforts have relied largely on regulations and administrative targets. Friday’s launch of the national ETS has laid the foundation for a more market-based policy approach. If deployed effectively, China’s carbon market will create powerful incentives to stimulate investment and innovation, accelerate the retirement of less-efficient coal-fired plants, drive down the cost of emission reduction, while generating resources to finance the transition to a low-carbon economy.

(Martin Raiser is the World Bank country director for China, Sebastian Eckardt is the World Bank’s lead economist for China, and Giovanni Ruta is a lead environmental economist of the World Bank.)

(first published on China Daily via World Bank)

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending