How can governments have their cake and eat it too? How can fiscal policy provide sufficient support to economic activity, and reassure markets that fiscal solvency is not at risk? The poor state of fiscal accounts of most advanced countries calls for austere fiscal policies, before the confidence crisis that is now hitting a few small advanced economies spreads to the larger ones. But not right now: a frontloaded adjustment—that is a tightening that is not gradual but falls disproportionately early in the adjustment phase—could destabilize the recovery. But can countries limit frontloading and still achieve credibility? Yes, but baking the right fiscal pie is likely to require a number of ingredients. Of course, the exact recipe depends on country circumstances. If you want to know more about this we suggest you savor our newly released Fiscal Monitor. The proof will be in the eating.
Fiscal deficits cannot be lowered in the immediate future. For the time being, fiscal (and monetary) policies must continue to support economic activity. The economic recovery is uneven and could be threatened by any premature withdrawal of policy support. Private demand is still unable to stand on its own two feet. This gives rise to a policy conundrum. How can we reconcile the competing requirements of short-term support for the economy and longer term fiscal solvency?