Just finished reading the interesting section on the prestigious Journal of Economic Literature over the issue of “What is the Size of the Fiscal Multiplier – Can Government Purchase Stimulate the Economy” (if the multiplier is 2, for example, a 1% increase in government expenditure causes a 2% increase in GDP).
What comes out of it, in my mind, is the confirmation that Italy can only escape this economic crisis by implementing a daring plan of fiscal expansion based on public consumption expenditure. Reforms, just like public investment, will save the day only in 10 years time, they are useless right now.
What does economic research say? When public spending is financed with taxes, when the economy is in a good state and interest rates do not reach the zero-bound, then the fiscal multiplier is low, around 0,5. When public spending is financed in deficit, in times of crisis or when the zero-bound limnit is reached for interest rates, then public spending impact is strong with a multiplier on average around 1,5. My take? What better moment than now to have Italy embark in a daring program of public purchases of goods and services!
Interestingly, research also suggests that:
a) in a monetary union the redistribution of resources from a low unemployment state to a high unemployment state would carry high aggregate fiscal multipliers for the Union (so Germany should lend to Greece or Italy for that purpose, just to make things clear). Careful though not to make such transfers useless like it happened with the ARRA Obama Plan, where states instead of spending decreased lending from other sources and did not invest in the economy the additional funds.
b) The fiscal multiplier is stronger when demand is directed at liquidity constrained firms and individuals.
So here is my simple (and well disliked in Europe) plan to have Italy sort out its internal mess through higher immediate growth: Increase by 25% public consumption of goods and services (approximately by 2% of GDP) in 2012, financing it 50% by cutting waste in procurement (well documented by Bandiera Prat and Valletti in their American Economic Review paper, equal to
approximately 1.6% of GDP) and 50% by an increase in the size of the deficit or with a long-term loan from the European Union at German rates of interest. Concentrate such procurement only on SMEs – today highly credit constrained – mandating also a mandatory maximum payment delay for those of at most 60 days. The following increase in GDP will allow deficit and debt to GDP ratios to crumble and will cause a rapid decline in spreads, which will additionally contribute to the
virtuous circle of stability through growth.