Late-2000s Recession - Effects - Effects On Europe

Effects On Europe

Further information: European sovereign-debt crisis and Austerity

The crisis in Europe generally progressed from banking system crises to sovereign debt crises, as many countries elected to bailout their banking systems using taxpayer money. Greece was different in that it concealed large public debts in addition to issues within its banking system. Several countries received bailout packages from the "troika" (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund), which also implemented a series of emergency measures.

Many European countries embarked on austerity programs, reducing their budget deficits relative to GDP from 2010 to 2011. For example, according to the CIA World Factbook Greece improved its budget deficit from 10.4% GDP in 2010 to 9.6% in 2011. Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, France, and Spain also improved their budget deficits from 2010 to 2011 relative to GDP.

However, with the exception of Germany, each of these countries had public-debt-to-GDP ratios that increased (i.e., worsened) from 2010 to 2011, as indicated in the chart at right. Greece's public-debt-to-GDP ratio increased from 143% in 2010 to 165% in 2011. This indicates that despite improving budget deficits, GDP growth was not sufficient to support a decline (improvement) in the debt-to-GDP ratio for these countries during this period. Eurostat reported that the debt to GDP ratio for the 17 Euro area countries together was 70.1% in 2008, 79.9% in 2009, 85.3% in 2010, and 87.2% in 2011.

According to the CIA World Factbook, from 2010 to 2011, the unemployment rates in Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and the UK increased. France and Italy had no significant changes, while in Germany and Iceland the unemployment rate declined. Eurostat reported that Eurozone unemployment reached record levels in September 2012 at 11.6%, up from 10.3% the prior year. Unemployment varied significantly by country.

Economist Martin Wolf analyzed the relationship between cumulative GDP growth from 2008-2012 and total reduction in budget deficits due to austerity policies (see chart at right) in several European countries during April 2012. He concluded that: "In all, there is no evidence here that large fiscal contractions bring benefits to confidence and growth that offset the direct effects of the contractions. They bring exactly what one would expect: small contractions bring recessions and big contractions bring depressions." Changes in budget balances (deficits or surpluses) explained approximately 53% of the change in GDP, according to the equation derived from the IMF data used in his analysis.

Economist Paul Krugman analyzed the relationship between GDP and reduction in budget deficits for several European countries in April 2012 and concluded that austerity was slowing growth, similar to Martin Wolf. He also wrote: "... this also implies that 1 euro of austerity yields only about 0.4 euros of reduced deficit, even in the short run. No wonder, then, that the whole austerity enterprise is spiraling into disaster."

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