Around the world, …scal policy has now taken centre stage in the debate on respondingto the sharp economic slowdown. In large part, this re‡ects the limited e¤ectiveness of monetary policy, once policy rates are close to zero and the persistent spread between inter-bank and policy rates renders ine¤ective the traditional monetary transmission mechanismthrough the bank lending channel. At a global level, the November 2008 summit of the G-20group signalled the commitment of the world’s largest economies to …scal expansion, withmajor programmes announced by the United States, China and Japan. At the December2008 European Council meeting, the member countries of the European Union have alsoagreed a …scal expansion plan, amounting to 1.5 percent of EU GDP. However, at boththe global and European levels, there is widespread agreement that the appropriate …scalstance varies across countries, according to the individual circumstances of each economy.Accordingly, the challenge for Ireland is to design and implement an optimal …scal responsethat recognises both the general importance of …scal policy in dealing with a global …nancialand economic crisis and the set of constraints that may limit the e¤ectiveness of this toolfor the Irish economy.The successful execution of …scal policy is especially important for members of the euroarea, since these countries do not have the option to independently alter interest rates orthe nominal exchange rate.
The primary focus of the research literature on …scal pol-icy and EMU has been on the importance of …scal rules in order to avoid excessive debtaccumulation, which are formalised in the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). However, itis commonly accepted that the acute nature of the current crisis means that the normal
Of course, the lack of policy autonomy over interest rates and exchange rates may be a blessing. At acollective level, independent choices over exchange rates have negative spillover e¤ects, through the familiar“beggar-thy-neighbour” channel. In relation to interest rates, it is plausible that weaker members of theeuro area would be compelled to raise interest rates during a crisis situation in order to stave o¤ speculativeattacks and capital ‡ight.