Growth figures across many countries still remain vulnerable, including the UK, where growth lies at only 0.5%. Despite some countries starting to grow more rapidly, the numbers still remain close to 0. The eurozone area is a particularly interesting case, as there are so many individual countries that are all interdependent. So, despite growth in the eurozone area increasing to 0.8% in the first three months of 2011, which is higher than that for the UK, this doesn’t explain the full story in the area. Germany has grown by 1.5% and it is this figure which has largely contributed to the 0.8% figure. It was also helped by growth of 1% in France and incredibly of 0.8% in Greece, despite its huge debts. The growth in Greece is allegedly down to a better export market.
Why then wasn’t the figure higher? Whilst countries like Germany showed an acceleration in demand, growth remained sluggish in Spain and Italy at only 0.1% and 0.3% respectively and Portugal faced the second consecutive quarter of negative growth and so has officially gone back into recession. This situation may get even worse as the austerity measures put in place by the EU and IMF take effect. One of the key arguments against joining the eurozone is that the policies implemented are never going to be in the best interests of any one country. With some countries beginning to grow more quickly and others remaining sluggish, what should happen to macroeconomic policy? Should interest rates remain low in a bid to boost aggregate demand or should they rise as other countries see accelerating growth?
An interesting question here is why do countries, such as Italy, Spain and Portugal struggle, whilst France and Germany begin their recovery? One obvious explanation is that Germany and France are at the heart of the eurozone, where as Spain, Portugal and Italy remain on the periphery. Ken Wattret at BNP Paribas said:
“The periphery are getting the worst of both worlds. The core countries like Germany are doing really well and that’s keeping the euro strong, and it’s making the ECB [European Central Bank] more inclined to tighten policy.”
If the ECB do go ahead with a tightening of monetary policy, it could spell further trouble for those countries on the periphery of the Euro area that would benefit from interest rates remaining low and a weaker Euro. The following articles look at the conflicts within the 2-speed Eurozone.
Sterling lags euro on growth outlook; trails dollar Reuters (13/5/11)
Eurozone’s growth surprises as UK lags behind Telegraph, Emma Rowley (13/5/11)
Eurozone’s economic growth accelerates BBC News (13/5/11)
Solid finances help drive German economic revival Financial Times, Ralph Atkins (13/5/11)
UK’s economy in the slow lane as eurozone surges Scotsman, Scott Reid (14/5/11)
Euro growth eclipses rivals despite north-south divergences AFP, Roddy Thomson (13/5/11)
Eurozone economic growth data prompts political clash BBC News (13/5/11)
Fresh fears for UK economy as Germany and France power ahead Guardian, Larry Elliott (13/5/11)
Portugal’s GDP is set to shrink this year and next Wall Street Journal, Alex Macdonald and Patricia Kowsmann (14/5/11)
UK GDP Growth National Statistics
Eurozone growth rates ECB
EU countries’ Growth rates of GDP in volume Eurostat News Release (13/5/11)
Real GDP growth rate for EU countries and applicant countries, EEA countries and USA and Japan Eurostat
- What has contributed to the German, French and Greek economies surging ahead?
- Why is there such a north-south divergence in growth within the eurozone?
- What is the most suitable monetary policy for those countries growing more strongly?
- What is the best direction for interest rates and hence the value of the euro for countries, such as Spain, Italy and Portugal?
- ’The UK economy would be in a worse position if it were a member of the eurozone’. What are the arguments (a) for and (b) against this statement?
- What is the relationship between interest rates, the exchange rate and growth?