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On VoxEU, Peter Lindert summarizes his recent work on long-term international comparisons of living standards. Lindert compares nominal incomes per capita, deflated by historical prices (for staple goods). He makes five points:
The real income gap between Northwest Europe and the major Asian countries was greater since the 1500s than even Maddison had estimated.
Contrary to all previous estimates, Mughal India around 1600 was already far behind both Japan and Northwest Europe.
Within Europe, the new estimation procedure shows little bias in Maddison’s estimates.
Average incomes in North America were already higher than in Britain or France in the late 17th century, long before Maddison’s c.1900 catching up date for the US versus Britain. A similar ‘frontier advantage’ has now emerged from estimates for Australia in 1870.
Adding what is known about the ability to buy luxuries and capital goods raises the income of Western Europe relative to all other regions, except possibly resource-rich North America.
The European Court of Auditors’ special report “Financial assistance provided to countries in difficulties” criticizes the European Commission’s crisis management and suggests the following:
- The Commission should establish an institution-wide framework allowing the rapid mobilization of the Commission’s staff and expertise if a financial assistance programme emerges. The Commission should also develop procedures in the context of the ‘two-pack’ regulations.
- The forecasting process should be subject to more systematic quality control.
- To ensure the factors underlying programme decisions are internally transparent, the Commission should enhance record-keeping and pay attention to it during quality reviews.
- The Commission should ensure that proper procedures are in place for the quality review of programme management and of the content of programme documents.
- For budget monitoring purposes, the Commission should include, in memoranda of understanding, variables that it can collect with short time lags.
- The Commission should distinguish conditions by importance and target the truly important reforms.
- For any future programmes, the Commission should attempt to formalize interinstitutional cooperation with other programme partners.
- The debt management process should be more transparent.
- The Commission should further analyse the key aspects of the countries’ adjustment.
The FT provides an overview over the number of asylum seekers in Europe over time, their origins and proposed destinations.
The Economist compares asylum processes in major destination countries.
In its recent special report entitled „Consequences of the Greek Crisis for a More Stable Euro Area,“ the German Council of Economic Experts has stressed the dangers due to institutional deficiencies and discretionary decision making in the Euro area. The executive summary concludes with the statement:
The institutional framework of the single currency area can only ensure stability if it follows the principle of unity of liability and control. Reforms that stray from this guiding principle plant the seeds of further crises and may damage the process of European integration.
The Economist offers a discussion on how Europe and Greece got into serious trouble. It all started with
- Greece adopting the Euro in 2001 and
- France and Germany breaking the Maastricht rules in 2003.
The German Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning has produced a map of population growth in Europe by municipality during the period 2001–2011:
The concluding statement of the IMF mission to Switzerland (consultations under Article IV) includes the following top 5 recommendations:
- Ease monetary policy further to help limit an expected slowdown in growth and reduce risks related to very low inflation.
- To further support growth, allow fiscal automatic stabilizers to operate freely. If the downturn is more severe than expected, consider discretionary fiscal easing.
- Adopt pension reform to ensure the sustainability of the safety net for future generations.
- Raise banks’ minimum leverage ratio requirements to more ambitious levels to ensure banks have adequate capital to weather future shocks without recourse to public support.
- Pay bank auditors from a FINMA-managed, bank-financed fund rather than by the bank that is being audited to avoid conflicts of interest.
The IMF also calls for an overhaul of the deposit insurance scheme. It sees three risks to its central scenario:
- Risks related to low inflation.
- Uncertainty about EU relations and immigration.
- Global economic environment.
“Wie kann die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit Europas wieder hergestellt werden?,” ifo Schnelldienst 4/2015, February 26, 2015. PDF.
- “More Europe” to address important cross-border external effects or public goods—but not otherwise.
- Subsidiarity and fiscal equivalence.
- European institutions as guardians of the rule of law, economic freedom and consumer rights.
Timothy Lee and collaborators provide a map-based account of World War II in Vox. Short texts and 42 maps cover Germany, China and Japan, Central Europe, Finland, France and the UK, Russia, the Pacific, Africa, the Allies’ invasions, the Holocaust, Israel and Korea, among other aspects. An animated map displays the opponents’ varying spheres of influence during the war years.
Zack Beauchamp, Timothy B. Lee and Matthew Yglesias provide a fascinating account of World War I in Vox. Short texts accompanying 40 maps cover the central European powers, Russia, the US, the Balkans, Africa, the Ottoman Empire, Palestine, Arabia, Mexico as well as technology and strategy of the campaigns.
Text 23 on “Britain conquering Palestine:”
After the failure of the Gallipoli campaign in 1916, Allied forces regrouped in Egypt and began making plans to take Ottoman-held land in the Levant. This map shows part of that effort, Britain’s successful 1917 campaign in Palestine. The British invasion of Palestine would have long-lasting consequences. On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour wrote a letter endorsing “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” Balfour cautioned that “nothing shall be done that may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” In 1922, the League of Nations officially endorsed British administration of Palestine. British policies after World War I helped lay the groundwork for the eventual UN partition of Palestine between Arab and Jewish states — and everything that followed from that.
Text 24 on “Lawrence of Arabia and Britain’s betrayal of Arab allies:”
One of the most remarkable figures of World War I was TE Lawrence, whose exploits in the Middle East were immortalized in the 1962 movie Lawrence of Arabia. Before the war, Lawrence was an archeologist, and he got to know the Middle East during expeditions to the region. When war broke out, the British recruited him to help organize an Arab revolt against the Ottoman empire. His pre-war connections made him particularly effective in this role. He fought alongside the Arabs in a series of battles between 1916 and 1918. At the end of the war in November 1918, Lawrence presented this map to his superiors in Britain, showing proposed borders for a postwar Middle East. The British had promised independence to Arab Allies who participated in the rebellion, and Lawrence attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference to press for these promises to be kept. Instead, the British and French divided Arab territories under the terms of the Sykes–Picot Agreement (discussed below), which they had secretly negotiated in 1916.
Text 39 on “Sykes-Picot and the breakup of the Ottoman empire:”
World War I also transformed the Middle East. In 1916, French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot and his British counterpart, Sir Mark Sykes, drew up a map dividing the Ottoman Empire’s Middle Eastern territory between British and French zones of control. The agreement permitted British and French authorities to divide up their respective territories however they pleased. This led to the creation of a series of Arab countries — Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and so on — whose borders and political institutions only dimly reflected the Arab world’s ethno-sectarian makeup. Many scholars believe the Sykes-Picot borders were a major factor in the chaotic state of the Middle East in the decades since then.
CEPR Discussion Paper 9562, July 2013, with Harris Dellas. PDF.
We develop a sovereign debt model with official and private creditors where default risk depends on both the level and the composition of liabilities. Higher exposure to official lenders improves incentives to repay but carries extra costs, such as reduced ex-post flexibility. The model implies that official lending to sovereigns takes place in times of debt distress; carries a favorable rate; and can displace private funding even under pari passu provisions. Moreover, in the presence of long-term debt overhang, the availability of official funds increases the probability of default on existing debt, although default does not trigger exclusion from private credit markets. These findings help shed light on joint default and debt composition choices of the type observed during the recent sovereign debt crisis in Europe.