More G-20 bickering

The BBC and several other media report continuing Franco-German opposition to the calls by the US administration, the president of the World Bank, and many others, for the coordinated global fiscal expansion that would seem to be essential at this time. Irish auditors will however be interested in the following from Larry Summers:

“There are some for whom it would be imprudent,” he said, noting that the crisis-hit countries in eastern Europe – which have large foreign currency debts – could not increase spending. “But for a very large majority of the world economy, [a fiscal expansion] is appropriate.”

The BBC further reports:

But European governments have indicated they are unlikely to strain their finances by agreeing to much more spending until they have seen some results from the first round of stimulus programmes already launched, says our correspondent.

Now, if accurate, this report raises some fascinating questions. Given the lags involved with macroeconomic policy, how long a wait would this imply, even if the fiscal stimuli worked according to a Keynesian textbook plan? And what would such a wait then imply for the health of the economy? And, given that the stimuli are small, and that the contraction in the economy is enormous, what sort of ‘results’ is it realistic to expect? I would have thought that the results will be purely counterfactual — the economy will shrink less than would otherwise be the case. In that case the ‘results’ would have to be guaged with reference to the predictions of some model of the economy. Is that what is meant here? Or, are the governments concerned hoping that the stimuli will lead to an actual increase in GDP? And if so, are they implicitly ruling out further fiscal stimuli unless the economy stops shrinking?

Now, that would be an interesting policy stance.

Oh, and a happy St Patrick’s Day weekend to everyone.

Originally published at The Irish Economy blog and reproduced here with the author’s permission.