In a resounding call to action, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has underscored the imperative for further reforms to underpin the post-pandemic European economic recovery. The august international organisation has laid out its prescription for resuscitating Europe’s economic vigour, which hinges on bolstering the single market and steadfastly maintaining a restrictive monetary stance. In its recently published report, dated 6th September, the OECD has articulated a series of measures, including urging the European Central Bank (ECB) to persevere with elevated interest rates as a means to rekindle inflation and steer it onto a sustainable trajectory towards its 2% target.
The glaring backdrop against which this report emerges is the lingering aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s audacious incursion into Ukraine. These crises have precipitated a muted post-pandemic rebound, characterised by the debilitating repercussions of the conflict on energy prices. European nations, in an effort to diminish their reliance on Russian fossil fuels, have been confronted with skyrocketing energy costs, exacerbating the overarching cost of living predicament.
In response to this burgeoning inflationary challenge, the ECB has embarked on a successive series of interest rate hikes, escalating it to an imposing 3.75% in July, a level not witnessed since the turn of the millennium in 2000.
The Eurozone Economy in Focus
The OECD’s report casts a discerning eye on the Eurozone’s economic panorama, shedding light on various facets. Private consumption, representing nearly a quarter of GDP, currently enjoys an upward trajectory in the Eurozone, buttressed by robust labor markets. Encouragingly, the survey indicates that wages are poised to continue their ascent in 2023, albeit with a gradual tapering-off expected in 2024. However, the spectre of higher interest rates, resulting in augmented costs and global economic uncertainty, is poised to cast a pall over private investment.
Safeguarding the Single Market Amid Critical Challenges
Amid the tumultuous energy and cost of living crises, the OECD asserts that safeguarding the single market is of paramount importance for the European Union. It advocates the perpetuation of a rigorous monetary policy and the streamlining of labor mobility and rules for posted workers. Simplifying these aspects is expected to provide them with easier market access and bolster their adaptability. The OECD also counsels against further relaxation of state aid rules, an approach taken during the pandemic, to prevent undue tilting of the competitive landscape towards businesses in countries with greater fiscal resources. A targeted state-aid framework is proposed instead, coupled with a redirection of EU resources towards green research and development (R&D) and innovation.
Next Generation EU Recovery Plan: A Beacon of Hope
A pivotal stride towards realising these objectives is the implementation of the EU’s Next Generation EU recovery plan, wherein member states have collectively committed €807 billion. This substantial investment is aimed at emerging stronger from the pandemic, channeling funds into environmentally-friendly technology, digitalisation, and healthcare.
The Green Transition and Anti-Corruption Efforts
To further fortify and nurture the single market, the OECD recommends intensified efforts to combat financial malfeasance and accelerate the green transition. The coordination of national endeavours to combat corruption and fraud, aligning minimum standards across member states, and reinforcing preventative measures is emphasised as a means to bolster economic efficiency and thwart the misallocation of public resources. Simultaneously, the OECD advocates for robust carbon pricing, subsidies for as-yet-uncompetitive renewable technologies, and additional regulatory measures to expedite the EU’s green transformation. It posits that the integration of electricity markets is pivotal to ensuring affordable and secure energy. The OECD underscores the role of deeper capital markets in supporting the development of innovative clean technologies, while simultaneously championing the enhancement of labor mobility and skills to mitigate transition costs.
In conclusion, the OECD’s clarion call to action resonates loudly across the European economic landscape, as it advocates for a multifaceted approach to rekindle prosperity and fortify the single market in the face of formidable challenges. In the pursuit of this vision, the EU stands at a crossroads, with a clear roadmap outlined by the OECD to navigate the post-pandemic terrain and emerge stronger and more resilient.
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