Europe is getting tougher on government debt. After more than two years struggling to rescue financially shaky governments, leaders of the 17 countries that use the euro are ready to agree on a treaty that will force member countries to put deficit limits into their national laws.
At first glance, it seems logical – after all, the crisis erupted after too many governments spent and borrowed too much for too long.
But a number of economists – and some politicians – say the focus on cutting deficits is misplaced and that more fundamental problems are being left unaddressed.
It's how the euro was set up in the first place, they say – one currency, but multiple government budgets, economies moving at different speeds and no central treasury or borrowing authority to back them up.
Until those institutional flaws are tackled, the economists say, the euro will remain vulnerable. So far, Greece, Ireland and Portugal have turned to other eurozone governments and the International Monetary Fund for emergency funds to avoid defaulting on their debts.
Nonetheless, European leaders are pushing a new anti-debt treaty as the leading edge of their effort to reassure markets. European Union leaders hope to agree on the treaty's text at a meeting starting Monday, and sign it by March.
The proposed treaty pushes countries to limit "structural" deficits – shortfalls not caused by ups and downs of the business cycle – to a tight 0.5 percent of gross domestic product or face a fine. That comes on top of other recent EU legislation intended to tighten observance of the eurozone's limits: overall deficits of 3 percent of GDP and national debt of 60 percent of GDP.
European leaders are also urging countries to improve growth by reducing regulation and other barriers to business.
Read the rest at The Huffington Post
by David McHugh