Monetary Targeting revisited

Central banks define a monetary policy strategy in which they set out the instruments they use to achieve their monetary policy objectives as well as the incoming data they take into account when using these instruments. Independent central banks in particular are expected to provide a detailed and comprehensible explanation of their monetary policy strategy, since the absence of direct democratic legitimation comes along with particular accountability requirements.

A proposal for reforming the Stability and Growth Pact

There is consensus that the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) needs to evolve. In this paper, we put forward reform ideas aimed at reducing debt levels, enabling sustainable growth and strengthening Europe’s sovereignty without a change in primary legislation. The current fiscal framework leads to a suboptimal trade-off between austerity and growth. Our proposals therefore focus on two ideas: first, putting more emphasis on the primary deficit in both the corrective and the preventive arm of the SGP; and second, simplifying and revising the preventive arm, in particular the estimation of potential output. These reforms would make the SGP more effective in reducing debt ratios, reduce the risk of contractionary austerity while allowing for growth, and contribute to economic convergence. A clearer focus of fiscal policy on primary deficits would also sharpen the distinction between fiscal and monetary policy, as monetary policy has no direct influence on the primary balance. Finally, we argue that substantive progress towards European sovereignty would require major reform. Given today’s understanding of monetary policy transmission mechanisms, mechanically limiting sovereign credit at an arbitrary debt-to-GDP ratio seems particularly problematic as it can no longer be justified with the aim of avoiding fiscal dominance.

Do the MTO’s Cyclically Adjusted Budget Balances Serve Their Purpose? An Analysis and a Reform Proposal

The Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) is up for review. It is also in urgent need of reform if rule-based fiscal policy is to be maintained without impeding the recovery from the Covid crisis, without standing in the way of achieving the climate targets, and without undermining European sovereignty in an era of new geopolitical challenges. Yet, legislative reform faces significant challenges, given the position of countries such as Germany. Thus, we argue that a first reform step that is both viable within the current framework and supportive of economic recovery and growth could be a useful start.

The cyclical component of the debt brake: analysis and a reform proposal

Debt brake (Schuldenbremse) reform is often understood to require constitutional change.
Frequently overlooked, however, is that a crucial part of the debt brake is governed by ordinary
law, namely the cyclical component (Konjunkturkomponente). By allowing for more or less net
borrowing depending on the level of economic activity, this component was intended to enable a
counter-cyclical fiscal policy, while both limiting and legitimising new spending. Sections 1-7 of this
paper assess to what extent it is fulfilling this purpose.Recent research, however, has shown that this paradigm yields suboptimal results in the current environment: It neither ensures the long-term sustainability of public finances, nor limits external imbalances, nor effectively contributes to solving the challenges Germany faces today, in particular decarbonisation and demographic change. As this is increasingly being recognised, a lively debate on the future of fiscal rules has developed, both in Germany and internationally. This working paper contributes to that debate by developing reform ideas that depart from a positive goal for fiscal policy rather than from the deficiencies of the current rules.

A new fiscal policy for Germany

The sustainability of public finances should be measured by the debt-to-GDP ratio; the debt-to-GDP ratio is best controlled by keeping the deficit in check. For decades, these ideas shaped German fiscal policy. In 2009, with the introduction of the debt brake, this approach found its way into the German constitution.

Recent research, however, has shown that this paradigm yields suboptimal results in the current environment: It neither ensures the long-term sustainability of public finances, nor limits external imbalances, nor effectively contributes to solving the challenges Germany faces today, in particular decarbonisation and demographic change. As this is increasingly being recognised, a lively debate on the future of fiscal rules has developed, both in Germany and internationally. This working paper contributes to that debate by developing reform ideas that depart from a positive goal for fiscal policy rather than from the deficiencies of the current rules.