Law Stability Growth
International Business Law
“Consider the advantages and disadvantages of the Stability and Growth Pact in its present form within the euro area and critically discuss the extent to which the pact remains intact.”
The main purpose of this essay is to examine and critically assess the above quoted question in relation to the advantages and disadvantages of the Stability and Growth Pact in its present form within the euro area. However, from the year 2002 onwards, the Euro has become the common currency of the twelve member’s countries of the European Union (EU).
In order to ensure the functioning of this European Monetary Union (EMU), the member countries have agreed on the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), which guarantee’s members of the economy before the introduction of the currency and internal Stability of the Euro – Zone afterwards.
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During the 1990’s the economic meaning has been discussed, especially because the countries violated the use of Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) political power within the EU System.
In order to critically discuss the underlying issues on the advantages and disadvantages of the Stability and Growth Pact in its present form within the euro area, I will be looking at various references such as journals, various articles and other sources in order to support my research.
In 1958 the establishment of the currency system within the European Communities (EC), the Head of States and the Governments decided to make the economic and the monetary union the official goal of the European Integrations.
Although, in the 1970 Werner plan was to propose the economy policy to the six member countries to create a system of fixed common currency. Unfortunately, this attempt failed due to the global system of a fixed exchange rate, which came into force from 1945 until 1973 (Bretton-Woods-System) Barysch (2003).
The Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) Framework
During the mid 1990s, the public fears raised in Germany as this was that the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) would not be sufficient to control the economic policies effectively after the start of the European Monetary Union (EMU).
Therefore, in 1995 the Germany’s former finance minister - Theo Waigel, responded to these fears by proposing a Stability Pact for the European Monetary Union (EMU). This was than later adapted in Amsterdam as the ‘Stability and Growth Pact’ by the European Council Brunila, 2001.
Furthermore, Arits and Buti (2000) identifies the SGP modifies the EDP in several ways.
Firstly, it commits the member states to the new and medium term objective of achieving budgets ‘Close to Balance or in Surplus’. This is a more specific goal than avoiding excessive shortfall and a more ambitious one than the reference value for shortfall under the EDP.
Secondly, it also created an early warning system for strengthening the surveillance of the public finances of the member states. Under the SGP, EMU economies submit annual programmes are known as ‘Stability Programmes’. Euro group participants explaining there intended economic policies and particularly, what they plan to do to reach and maintain the medium–term objective. Stability Programmes includes of an annual economic targets as well as an explanation of the main economic assumptions underlying them.
Thirdly, the SGP gives more importance to the concept of exceptional and temporary breaches of the 3% insufficiency limit. However it also completely defines an excessive insufficiency based on the 3% insufficiency limit. The SGP clarifies the rules for the financial penalties and speeds up this process by setting specific deadlines for the individual steps.
Fourthly, the SGP provides a political guidance to the parties involved in the EDP, calling them to implement the rules of the EDP effectively and in good time. It commits the Commission and in particular allowed them to use its right of initiative under the EDP in a manner which facilitates the timely and effective functioning of the SGP’. This however, puts severe limits on the Commission’s right to exercise judgement on each individual case and situation, shifting the right to the Council.
It was clearly argued in Solbes (2002) that in October 1998, the rules of the SGP have been steadily improved. However, ECOFIN endorsed a Monetary Committee Opinion, the ‘code of conduct’ that specifies criteria to be observed in the assessment of a country’s medium term budgetary position, data standards and requirements for the programmes.
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The European Council of Amsterdam and two additional Council Regulations formally made the SGP decisions in 1997. It was identified in F. Amtenbrink Stability and Growth Pact, (1997) that the strengths of the surveillance of budgetary positions, co–ordination of economic policies and on speeding up and clarifying the implementation of the excessive insufficient procedure.
The collective surveillance mechanism of the SGP is based on three elements: the medium term early warning system, the short-term observation of national budget programmes, and the excessive budget procedure.
Solbes (2002) stated that the early warning system basically consists of annual stability programmes submitted by EMU member countries and union programmes by the other EU countries. The official programmes are addressed to the Council of EU finance ministers (ECOFIN), the EU Economic and Financial Committee (EFC), with two representatives from each member state, the European Commission and the ECB.
Furthermore it was also mentioned in Artis and Buti, 2000 that the main contents of the stability programmes are:
- Medium–term budget plans, which must aim for a balanced budget or even for budget surpluses.
- Include the basic assumptions of budgetary planning as well as the relevant measures of economy and the economic policy.
- Moreover the sensitivity of the plan changes in the assumptions has to be explained.
Therefore, the Council then decides within two months whether the medium–term budget aims contain an adequate margin of security to prevent an excessive shortfall of 3% of GDP, whether the plan’s assumptions are realistic and whether the planned measures provide for a stable budgetary development. If not then the country has to revise its planning and report once more.
Short–term surveillance is provided in the form of semi–annual reports of current national budget data on 1 March and on 1 September each year. The EU–Commission and the EFC examine separately from one another whether there is an excessive budget deficit.
As a result this is normally the case if at least one of two criteria from the SGP is not met the budget shortfall is higher than 3% of GDP, or the debt threshold is higher than 60% of GDP or is not approaching this point of reference with adequate speed P. Solbes (2002).
If an excessive shortage has been identified or is expected, the procedure for an excessive shortage according to article 104 TEC and the SGP is initiated. As procedure the Commission and the EFC first present their considerations to ECOFIN which then decides with a qualified majority of votes whether there is in fact an excessive shortage or not.
Furthermore, it was a argued in Artis and Buti, 2000 that this decision is whether or not has any exceptional circumstances which justifies a higher shortfall, but however, if certain exceptions are natural disasters, a solely temporary character of the shortfall, or a recession.
A recession is operationalised by a reduction of GDP within a year. A reduction of less then 0.75% is defined as not exceptional, a reduction of 2% is generally accepted. But however, the Council decides on indeed percentages within these two reference values. The position of the causing problems for the country as well as the unexpectedness and the cumulative effect of the shocks are taken into consideration. Buti and Franco (2001).
Article 104(7–11) TEC come into force if the Council concludes that there is in fact an excessive shortfall. Firstly, the Council gives some confidential advice to the country, in order to reduce shortfall this may be made public.
Therefore, Arits and Buti (2000) has also identified that if the country still does not comply with these directions, the Council may impose on agreeing to enforcing the implementation of the combined measures. These include the requirement needs to give additional information when releasing government bonds, revisions in the lending policies of the European Investment Bank, the obligation to give a no interest–bearing deposit bearing no interest to the Union, and the burden of fines.
The period between the submission of the budgetary data and the decision to impose potential sanctions is only ten months. In October 1998, the Code of Conduct, as agreed by EFC and endorsed by ECOFIN, subsequently it was revised in June 2001 which then was clarified the content and format of the Stability and Convergence Programmes as part of the surveillance process.
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However, it was also noted in Creel (2002) that the main targets was strengthening and clarifying the implementation of the SGP includes:
- The medium term should be interpreted over the length of the economic cycle.
- The medium term objectives of close–to–balance or balance surplus should, while respecting the government shortfall reference values, ensure a rapid decline in high debt ratios
- SGP should take into account the costs associated with ageing populations
- Measures aimed at improving the quality of public finances should be considered
- The objectives of SGP should be consistent with the budgetary recommendations of the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines (BEPGs).
It was discussed in Beetsma (2001) that although, the huge European Fiscal Framework and the whole process together with EU–Commission, ECOFIN and national stability programmes of all EU member states, the national economic authority of each member state have the independence over economic policy. They set specific objectives of policy and make policy decisions about the overall view of economic tax- and spending policies.
Compared with the original EDP, the SGP has achieved two advances: Firstly, it has shifted the nature of the fiscal framework significantly towards a rule– based concept restraining annual deficits and away from a framework based on informed judgement. Secondly, it has weakened the position of the European Commission in the process, to the benefit of ECOFIN Calmfors, 2005.
Maastricht Treaty gave the Commission considerable discretion in initiating the EDP and advancing it. The SGP made the process more automatic and reduced the Commission’s role and raised the importance of ECOFIN judgements.
Calmfors, 2005 also acknowledged in his research that the connection between the EDP and SGP has completely changed the role of the numerical reference values for the annual debts from an assessment process in the pre Maastricht period into a ‘Binding Constraint’.
Therefore any breaching of the SGP requires swift corrective actions by the Member State concerned and a timely commencement of the Excessive Deficit Procedure. Two factors have advanced this development. The first is the lack of credibility in the process. This was already a problem in the EDP. It has now however become more courteous due to the increase in the ministers power against the EU–Commission and for this reason it will tend to do more economically negligent.
An argument between Arits and Buti (2000) was that the European public and the media have paid increasing attention to it and criticised on the interpretation of the EMU economic framework. Particularly the ’Stability and Growth Pact’.
However, EU–Commission’s assures that the economic framework is applied equally to all member countries, and it also confirms that the Commission’s general role as the institution watching over the proper implementation of EU law.
As a result the nature of the fiscal framework has been transformed from a procedural ruled by oversight and informed judgement, as foreseen by the Maastricht Treaty, into a severe numerical rule for the annual budget shortfall.
Advantages of the Stability and Growth Pact in its Present form within the Euro Area.
Reduction of the Business Costs - The sum of £2 billion pounds is currently spent by the UK businesses a year in buying and selling foreign currencies in order to carry on further business in the EU. As a result this is a great increasingly beneficial business for the EU firms.
Cost Simplicity - EU businesses and households often find it very difficult to compare the accurate prices of goods, services and resources that are available across the EU. This is simple because of the misrepresent exchange rate differences which opposes trade.
According to K. Barysch (2003) who has stated that the economical theory, prices should act as a procedure to share out resources available in the best possible way as to improve economic efficiency. Furthermore by adopting this method would provide a far greater chance of this happening across an area where E.M.U exists.
Reduction of Exchange rate - Many firms through out are becoming cautious when investing in other countries. This is simply because due to the regular fluctuation of the currencies within the EU. This would raise Investments within the EMU area, as matter of fact the currency is universal within the area.
Single currency in single market– Trade should be operated more in an effectively and efficiently way with the Euro. As a result it was agreed by A. Fatas (2003) that the single currency in a single market is the easy way to move further.
Competition – Taking a look out in the world today we see strong currencies such as the Japanese Yen and The American $. America and Japan they both have a strong economy and have a very high population.
Solbes (2002) noted that the recently established monetary union and a new exchange in Europe could also be a rival. However, EMU can be self-supporting which they could survive without trading with anyone outside the EMU area. Furthermore, these circumstances for EMU is better, because it seems that it can survive on its own, with or without the help of Japan and U.S.A and other powerful countries.
Avoid War - The EMU is a political project. Which step towards European integration to prevent war in the union. It is also a well-known statement that countries, which trade effectively together, don't contribute any income towards war on each other. However, on the basis if EMU is satisfied which could mean a peace throughout Europe and beyond.
Increased Trade and Cost Reduction – It is argued that increased trade and cost reduction brings considerable economic trade through the wiping out of exchange rate fluctuations. Therefore, this helps to lower costs to industry because companies will not have to buy foreign exchange for use within the EU.
Price Raises – In the beginning of the mid 1980’s many politicians thought that the UK and EMU should provide the way to achieve low inflation rates throughout the EU. Countries such as France and Italy were also forced to adopt policies in the early 1980s, which therefore, helped to reduce inflation rates.
As a result if this had not been implemented then the franc and the lira would have been devalued for some time, opposing to the fixed exchange rate advantages of the system. After which the German central bank (the Bundesbank) set inflation targets and monetary targets for the rest of the EU. Barysch (2003)
The Bundesbank was the independent of the German Government for this reason Germany having a better inflation record than the rest of the EU countries. It had the overall decision and had the right to decide to overrule decisions that is suggested by the German government.
The Bundesbank was the independent of a government and the law, which has a duty to maintain stable prices, designs it. This would be an advantage to them as they can make independent decisions according to inflation and deflation A. Fatas (2003).
Moreover, the government, which is controls central banks in UK and France, means that the government would have the control over inflation. If the UK government for example decided to come untied with the monetary policy, e.g. by reducing interest rates, it would have had the power to order the Bank of England to carry out this policy on its behalf.
In Creel (2002) it was discussed that in the early 1990s the German inflation rates raised to over 4% as Germany struggled with the consequences of integration. Therefore, inflation was nearly three times as high in Germany as in the UK and twice as high, which was in France.
France, has made their central banks independent on the Germany model and therefore it was argued in Creel (2002) that the France don't need to the EMU link to Germany to maintain low inflation. Moreover, in the early 1990s result it has shaken the naive faith that linkage to the independent ESBC, the central bank of Europe would solve all inflationary problems.
Disadvantages of the Stability and Growth Pact in its Present form within the Euro Area.
The unsteadiness of the method –In the 1980s, the UK refused to join the ERM (Exchange rate mechanism). The argument being that it would be impossible to preserve exchange rate stability within the ERM and the UK’s inflation rate was more often then not above that of Germany’s due to the currency of the sterling pound being stronger in the 1980’s.
Therefore, in the year 1990 UK joined the ERM, which had three years of exchange stability in Europe. As a result it looked as though the system had been fairly well built. However, in September 1992 events status was that the UK and Italy were forced to leave the system.
Over view of the Business benefits – It was argued that the trade and cost advantages of EMU which has been grossly over estimated and also stated that there is small to be gained from moving of the present stable system, to the inflexibilities, which EMU would bring M. Buti (2003)
Control Failure – It is argued form a political side that an independent central bank is likely to be unfair. For the reason given was because the people, the government would be trusted to make decisions. Therefore, the independent bank would be non-elected and would have sole control elected the Government.
This would also mean that there would be a considerable loss of control. The control would be transferred from London to Brussels. Moreover, this would also not be in favour because of loosing the capability to control policy by the national governments.
Deflationary tendencies – As discussed in R. Beetsma and H. Jensen (2003) that the most important economic argument relates to the deflationary tendencies within the system. Therefore, in the year 1980’s and 1990’s France succeeded in reducing their inflation rates to German levels. This is due to the cost of higher unemployment.
Further discussion states that the higher inflation in one ERM country means that it is likely to generate current account shortfall and place a downward pressure on its own currency.
Therefore, in order to reduce the shortfall and inflation, the country has to deflate its economy. However, in UK it could be argued that the battle to bring down inflation had been won by the time the UK joined the ERM in 1990.
However, in the year 1990 the UK joined ERM at a very high exchange rate. At that time UK was still running a large current account shortfall at an exchange rate of around 3 Dm to the pound R. Beetsma and H. Jensen (2003).
Therefore the UK government then decided to spend the next two years defending the value of the pound in the ERM with too high interest rates not allowing the economy to recover. Moreover, it was forecasted that if UK has not left the ERM in Sept 1992, inflation in the UK. Certainly in the year 1993 it would have been negative (i.e. prices would have fallen) A. Fatas (2003).
In the early 1990s, the Germans struggled with the economic as consequences of the German reunification. As a result, there was a great raise in spending in Germany with a resulting rise in inflation. Therefore, it was proved that the needs of one part of Europe could have a negative impact on the rest of Europe M. Buti (2003).
Buti (2003) discussed that the Bundesbank raised German interest rates, which as a result, there was an increasing pressure on the DM as the currency was attracted into Germany. Germany’s ERM partners were also forced to raise their interest rates to defend their currencies.
However, in between the year 1992-1993 the increasing in interest rates forced most of the European Countries into recession. Countries like France couldn't escape of recession by cutting interest rates because this would have put damaging strains on the ERM Barysch (2003).
Moreover, Beetsma (2001) also explained that the overall result was that the argument between ERM and EMU would be repeated frequently if EMU were ever to be achieved. Restricted economies would be suffering the economic shocks because of the policies been forced on them, and designed to meet the problems of other parts of the Europe.
As a result, which was discussed by Beetsma (2001) that the only way around this would be to have large transfers of currency from region to region when a local region experienced a recession, e.g. During the post war period N. Ireland suffered structural unemployment which therefore has had its economy supported up by large transfers of resources from richer areas of the UK with lower unemployment.
Alteration of Stability and Growth Pact within Euro Area.
In the year 2005, the following complaints of the two countries, Germany and France, within the Euro area, the Ministers of Finance of the European Union who finally did agree upon the alteration of the following changes:
However, major change in the pact affects the explanation of the 3 % arrears limit. The “exceptional and temporary influences” which will allow higher arrears that includes negative growth rates – according to the “old” version a 2 % decline in GDP will be necessary. For the violation of 3 % limit several called “miscellaneous factors” which also has been added as exceptions A. Sibert (2003)
This however, also includes expenses for research, development and modernisation, development of growth potential, improvement of the retirement system, charges to achieve goals of the European policy and others.
It was clearly discussed in D. Franco (2003) that the general union criteria has been upheld and it is now obvious that the variety of the exceptions will have an impact. As a result the rules and regulations have been softened, so that countries may not consider the 3 % arrears limit as their target.
For example, Germany seeks to account for the expenses of the German reunification in 1990 – Germany still has a net transfer of € 85 billion or 4 % of GDP from West to East Germany per year – towards the 3 % arrears limit D. Franco (2003).
The exceptions creates an opportunities for a various interpretations of the “miscellaneous factors”. This however, may lead to more violations of the union criteria, less discipline, and consequently higher risk to maintain price stability. Therefore, Euro area members have their own specific requirements which equal treatment could become a difficult.
Advantage of the Stability and Growth Pact allows more flexible government spending. Which allow countries to tackle the basic structural improvement. As a result this could lead to increased success of the European economies under the requirements of economic discipline A. Fatas (2003).
The Euro has developed successfully after its depreciation at the beginning of its introduction. The Barysch (2003) index impressively supports this development, and shows the strong performance cannot just be attributed to the Dollar’s weakness.
The control of the Euro has risen after the successful addition of the new European Union members in Eastern Europe. Therefore, the view of the approval of Sweden, Denmark, and the U.K in the isolated opportunity will result in a better use and importance of the Euro. But, joining of the Eastern European countries to the EMU also possible risks for the currency.
Finally a additional threat to the Euro is the possibility of decreased stability of the currency, stimulate by several factors: the weakening of the Stability and Growth Pact, the government’s need to spend more funds for pension and health care for its aging population, and the additional expenses for the inclusion of 10 less economically developed countries Beetsma (2001).
Conclusively, the “grand monetary experiment” has been a success until now. Looking into the future, the Euro has the chance of becoming the key currency in the world, especially in light of the current problems of the U.S.-Dollar and the increased influence and usage of the Euro. However, the challenges facing the EMU will be demanding and economic mechanisms will be crucial for the Euro to work.
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