Restoring confidence, investing in growth

Or so was nearly the title of the EU presentation Pablo sent to me recently. The exact title is: “Restoring growth. Investing in our future.” (slides in English and in French).

The presentation was done by J.M. Barroso, President of the European Commission, to the European Council of 28-29 June 2012. GDP, the EC measure of growth, was more or less constant since 2011 so restoring that growth is seen as a “pressing priority”. Other indicators are not that good (to say the least): recovery is limited, unemployment reached high levels, performances were already weak before the crisis, there are large current account imbalances, etc. So the future EU budget must be a “growth budget”. Then you have a list of actions that the EU (co-)promoted, sponsored or simply saw as very positive in the EU.

The very nice thing with this type of presentation is that you see in action “things” you may have thought are very theoretical and far from daily practise. This time, we’ll take the Economics class. Remember Economics? It was one of the first classes we had during academic year 2011-2012, with professor Hans Gerooms (by the way Prof. Gerooms was/is also a long-standing financial adviser to Yves Leterme, now at OECD). OK, I see you don’t remember ;-) Anyway … So for example the link between exchange rate and competitiveness … The only country that, each year, had a relative gain in competitiveness is … Germany (what a surprise!). Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy are all on the other side of the bar (another surprise!). The only absence in this carefully selected chart is Greece … Is that a Freudian slip from the EC? ;-)

Another interesting slide is the one about the big differences between a European budget and a country budget. On top of the difference in total amount, the EU budget:

  • is multi-annual (7 years),
  • can never be in deficit or run up debts,
  • hasn’t any tax raising power,
  • has only very few own resources (payments come mostly from member states),
  • forecasts less than 5% for administration and 1% for pensions,
  • and has grown much slowly than national budgets (however I wonder if this last item shouldn’t be considered as a consequence of the tight rules before rather than a spec in itself).

Before letting you dive into the presentation, I would just highlight one last slide. French are considered to be chauvinistic – why can’t we be a little bit ouselves? On slide 18 the EC lists the top 20 organisations participating in the 2007-2013 EU FP7. By “top organisations” the EC means the ones that get the most fundings (in hundreds of millions of Euros). The more you get/spend money may be an indirect indicator of the more excellent and competitive you are (at least that is what is implied here – but for having seen the requirements for FP7 in a previous life, that might be the case). Well, I digress again … So, in these top organisations, the first Belgian organisation is the KULeuven: 11th (and 5th top university). Yes! :-)

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