One of the American Economic Association sessions in this year’s ASSA Meetings focused on “Modern Monetary Theory” (MMT) and (maybe somewhat unfairly in the same session) on last year’s presidential address by Olivier Blanchard, which suggested that persistently low interest rates on public debt render government budget constraints non-binding.
Greg Mankiw concluded in his paper that “MMT contains some kernels of truth, but its most novel policy prescriptions do not follow cogently from its premises,” in line with my own assessment.
In the FT, Henry Foy reports about critical comments by Jeroen Dijsselbloem. The chair of the Eurogroup has argued that the Euro area needs an independent fiscal oversight body to disperse fears of “politicised” European Commission decisions when it comes to evaluating national budgets.
Naturally, lack of trust in the Commission is widespread. But now it seems to have reached the higher echelons of EU institutions themselves.
In the meantime, Tony Barber writes (also in the FT) that “The eurozone’s fiscally lax nations are at it again”.
Robin Harding reports in the Financial Times about the IMF’s critical review of its own policy recommendations in 2010. The IMF’s independent evaluation office commends the fund’s lending at the time but criticises the advice to cut budget deficits. However, important IMF officials dissent. According to the FT, (current, but not then) managing director Christine Lagarde notes that “[a]s the report acknowledges, this assessment is benefiting from hindsight.” And: “Considering the information and growth forecasts available in 2010, I strongly believe that advising economies with rapidly rising debt burdens to move toward measured consolidation was the right call to make.”