A Stich in time, saves nine or A fiscal in time, saves hysteresis in time!

The World needs a fiscal push, it’s high time G20 acts on it.


IMF’s Christine Lagarde has suggested that world leaders should use forceful fiscal policies to avoid the low growth trap. In her article, she outlines how both advanced and emerging economies are still suffering from the Global financial Crisis’s hangover and have still not fully recovered. In essence, what Lagarde is suggesting is that it is critical to remember that if we do not recover soon enough, the economy might fall into a state which economists call: The state of Hysteresis.

Hysteresis is defined as a phenomenon in which long after an economic shock has happened, the economy does not revert to previous levels, but to a ‘new normal’ rate of growth that is much lower. In simple terms, and in context with the global financial crisis, it means that the effects of the crisis have remained (high unemployment), even though the crisis has long passed. If this phenomenon sets in as the new normal, then we face a major problem of employees getting deskilled and discouraged to find work. This phenomenon to some extent kick-starts a vicious cycle, when growth falls, unemployment rises, workers get de-skilled if unemployed for a longer period, and job vacancies do not get filled, which again leads to a falling in growth. The only way to really fix this situation is to prevent the settling in of this ‘new normal’ in the long-term.

Christine’s push for a strong fiscal boost stems from her rising scepticism of monetary policy, which is shared by several other economists.  And in many ways, she is completely right. For the last eight years, the developed countries have used unconventional monetary policies. This made sense in the commencement of the financial crisis, but now these policies are not only futile for developed countries (with many central banks operating at zero lower bound policy rates), but also cause distortions in the markets of the developing world (causing massive volatilities of capital).

The major issue with fiscal policies is that, to have a significant impact they need to be coordinated to have greater impact. The Group of Twenty is the only group with such economic might to do this. This is because, as a whole, the G20 represents 85 to 90% of world GDP and have particular abilities to mobilise resources. The question now is, who will take the lead in coordinating the fiscal boost to the global economy? And it remains to be seen today if the G20 will act to boost growth.

Yesterday, in President Xi’s speech, he spoke about using innovative methods and a focus on new technologies to grow the economies around the world. Let’s hope a coordinated and powerful fiscal boost is on the cards to do just that.

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