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2016 OECD Economic Surveys: Euro Area 2016

image of OECD Economic Surveys: Euro Area 2016

This 2016 OECD Economic Survey of the Euro Area examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. The special chapter cover: Making public finances more growth and equity-friendly.

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Making public finances more growth and equity-friendly

Across the euro area, the ability of public finances to support equitable growth has tended to deteriorate. Concerns about high and rising public debt, together with market pressure in some cases, led to sharp fiscal consolidation in 2011-13, against the backdrop of a weak economic situation at the time, which is considered to have made the recession deeper and longer. Consolidation has slowed down afterwards, but countries with fiscal space have made limited use of the leeway allowed under EU fiscal rules to support euro area aggregate demand. The expenditure composition has generally become less growth-friendly, with large cuts in public investment. On the revenue side, already high taxes on labour have tended to increase further. Structural reforms with direct positive implications for the composition or efficiency of public finances have stalled.While most policy levers to improve public finances remain at the country level, European and national policies can be mutually reinforcing in fiscal governance and public investment. To achieve a euro area fiscal stance that fosters the recovery, countries with fiscal space under the Stability and Growth Pact rules should use budgetary support to raise growth, and existing incentives and flexibility should be taken advantage of to pursue reforms of tax and spending policies. At the national level, it is essential to further upgrade budgetary frameworks, including through the adoption of expenditure rules and regular performance of spending reviews. To promote capital formation and make it more effective, EU budget resources for investment should be deployed in a way to crowd in national public funds and private financing, and foster greater investment productivity. At the national level, better co-ordination of investment across levels of government and upgraded administrative capacity would increase investment efficiency.

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