ECB estimates suggest meeting current challenges will be impossible within fiscal rule space

In the recent issue of the ECB Economic Bulletin (issue 4/2024) there was an article – Longer-term challenges for fiscal policy in the euro area – which demonstrates why the common currency and its bevy of fiscal rules and restrictions is incapable of meeting the challenges that humanity and the natural world face in the coming years. The ECB article is very interesting because it pretty clearly articulates the important challenges facing the Member States and provides some rough estimates of what the fiscal implications will be if governments are to move quickly to deal with the threats posed. However, it is clear from the analysis and my own calculations that significant austerity will be required in areas of expenditure not related to these challenges. Given the current political environment in Europe, it is hard to see how such austerity can be imposed and maintained in areas that impact the daily lives of families. What is demonstrated is that the architecture of the EMU is ill-equipped to deal with the problems that Member States now face. The common currency and fiscal rules were never a good idea. But as the challenges mount it is obvious that Europe will have to change its monetary system approach in order to survive.

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The delusional RBA has everyone convinced that they are the reason inflation is falling

It’s Wednesday and as usual I present commentary on a range of topics that are of interest to me. They don’t have to be connected in any particular way. Today, RBA interest rate decisions, COVID and some great music. Yesterday, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) held their target interest rate constant. In their media release (June 18, 2024) – Statement by the Reserve Bank Board: Monetary Policy Decision – the RBA claimed that “higher interest rates have been working to bring aggregate demand and supply closer towards balance”. The journalists duly digested the propaganda from the RBA and throughout yesterday repeated the claim relentlessly – that the RBA had done a great job in ‘getting inflation down’ and now was attempting to ‘navigate’ a sort of knife edge between effective inflation control and the increasing probability of recession. It was an amazing demonstration of being fed the narrative from the authorities, and then, pumping it out as broadly as possible through the mainstream media channels to the rest of us idiots who were meant to just take it as gospel. Not one journalist that I heard on radio, TV or read questioned that narrative. The emphasis was on the ‘poor RBA governor’ who had a difficult job protecting us from inflation and recession. Well, my position is that the decline in inflation since the December-quarter 2022 has had little to do with the 11 interest-rate hikes since May 2022 and more to do with factors changing that are not sensitive to domestic interest rate variations. Further, the impact of two consecutive years of fiscal austerity (the Federal government has recorded two fiscal years of surpluses now) has mostly been the reason that GDP growth is approaching zero and will turn negative in the coming quarters at the current policy settings.

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Australian labour market – employment grows but overall still marking time

Today (June 13, 2024), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Labour Force, Australia – for May 2024, which provides some increased clarity given the last few months have generated data that has been mixed in signal. The data for May 2024 shows employment continuing to increase, unemployment falling, and the participation rate steady. Taken together the demand-side of the labour market is running just ahead of the underlying population growth, although working hours are falling. Some clarity but it is still not absolutely clear which way the labour market is heading. The net change in employment was driven by full-time employment. But we should not disregard the fact that there is now 10.7 per cent of the working age population (1.6 million people) who are available and willing but cannot find enough work – either unemployed or underemployed and that proportion is increasing. Australia is not near full employment despite the claims by the mainstream commentators and it is hard to characterise this as a ‘tight’ labour market.

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