Abenomics, European-Style

NEW YORK – Two years ago, Shinzo Abe’s election as Japan’s prime minister led to the advent of “Abenomics,” a three-part plan to rescue the economy from a treadmill of stagnation and deflation. Abenomics’ three components – or “arrows” – comprise massive monetary stimulus in the form of quantitative and qualitative easing (QQE), including more credit for the private sector; a short-term fiscal stimulus, followed by consolidation to reduce deficits and make public debt sustainable; and structural reforms to strengthen the supply side and potential growth.

It now appears – based on European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s recent Jackson Hole speech – that the ECB has a similar plan in store for the eurozone. The first element of “Draghinomics” is an acceleration of the structural reforms needed to boost the eurozone’s potential output growth. Progress on such vital reforms has been disappointing, with more effort made in some countries (Spain and Ireland, for example) and less in others (Italy and France, to cite just two).

But Draghi now recognizes that the eurozone’s slow, uneven, and anemic recovery reflects not only structural problems, but also cyclical factors that depend more on aggregate demand than on aggregate supply constraints. Thus, measures to increase demand are also necessary.

Here, then, is Draghinomics’ second arrow: to reduce the drag on growth from fiscal consolidation while maintaining lower deficits and greater debt sustainability. There is some flexibility in how fast the fiscal target can be achieved, especially now that a lot of front-loaded austerity has occurred and markets are less nervous about the sustainability of public debt. Moreover, while the eurozone periphery may need more consolidation, parts of the core – say, Germany – could pursue a temporary fiscal expansion (lower taxes and more public investment) to stimulate domestic demand and growth. And a eurozone-wide infrastructure-investment program could boost demand while reducing supply-side bottlenecks.