Having successfully pulled Greece from the brink last summer and subsequently stabilized the economy, the government of Alexis Tsipras is now discussing with its European partners and the IMF a comprehensive multi-year program that can secure a lasting recovery and make debt sustainable. While discussions continue, there have been some misperceptions about the International Monetary Fund’s views and role in the process. I thought it would be useful to clarify issues.
The status of negotiations between Greece and its official creditors – the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF – dominated headlines last week. At the core of the negotiations is a simple question: How much of an adjustment has to be made by Greece, how much has to be made by its official creditors?
In the program agreed in 2012 by Greece with its European partners, the answer was: Greece was to generate enough of a primary surplus to limit its indebtedness. It also agreed to a number of reforms which should lead to higher growth. In consideration, and subject to Greek implementation of the program, European creditors were to provide the needed financing, and provide debt relief if debt exceeded 120% by the end of the decade.
Indiana Jones, the fictional character of the namesake movies, once said “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” The quote comes to mind as many advanced economies wrestle with the best way for pension reform to ensure both retirees and governments don’t go broke. Our view, explained in a new study, is that in fact the years do matter. Our analysis shows that gradually raising retirement ages could help countries contain pension spending increases and boost economic growth.
We all hope to retire one day. Our pensions hold the promise of that. Good fiscal policy means thinking about ho w policy decisions—involving long-term promises, such as pensions—affect government finances both today and in the future. With pension reform a priority for so many countries, it is a problem that traditional deficit and debt indicators focus on the health of public finances today, but fail to capture the future impact of pension promises. We propose a new indicator—the “pension-adjusted” budget balance—that can help measure when changes in pension policies are improving or worsening long-term fiscal health. Used as a complement to traditional indicators, this new indicator could help avoid incentives to delay or even reverse pension reforms.