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Iulia Ruxandra Teodoru and Ruud Vermeulen
To rebuild fiscal buffers after large fiscal responses to successive shocks over 2020-22, France will need to reverse the trend spending increase observed over the last three decades through structural spending reforms. This paper identifies areas where scope for savings or efficiency gains exist based on an evaluation of the level and efficiency of public spending in France relative to European peers, using benchmarking analysis and stochastic frontier analysis to derive efficiency frontiers. Reforming social protection, health, education, and civil service, and rationalizing tax expenditures should preserve or improve outcomes while generating savings that would help meet medium-term adjustment needs.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
The Selected Issues paper on France identifies areas where scope for savings or efficiency gains exist based on an analysis of public spending on key categories and related outcomes relative to peers. Reform of social protection, health, education, and civil service should preserve or improve outcomes while generating savings that would help meet medium-term adjustment needs. In parallel, rationalizing costly, distortive, or inefficient tax expenditures would allow for base broadening and partially offset permanent revenue losses from the rebalancing of revenues away from labor and production taxes. Social protection spending accounts for more than half of the spending gap with peers. Achieving more efficiency in local public administration will be critical to ensure the benefits of decentralization in France. Adequate subnational capacity and transparent multilevel governance, including efficient co-ordination mechanisms across levels of government is important to promote efficient public service delivery and regional development. Rationalizing and redesigning tax expenditures would improve their efficiency and generate substantial savings.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
Following a deep recession in 2020 and further contraction in 2021Q1, the euro area economy recovered rapidly in the second and third quarters thanks to high vaccination levels, increasing household and business adaptability to the virus, and continued forceful policy support. Looking ahead, while supply chain disruptions, elevated energy prices, and resurgences of Covid-19 cases—including those related to the Omicron variant—are likely to pose near-term headwinds to growth, the recovery is set to continue in 2022 as the impact of the pandemic on economic activity continues to weaken over time and supply-side constraints ease. Medium-term output losses relative to pre-crisis trends will vary significantly across countries and sectors as will the extent of labor market scarring. Price pressures are building up as production bottlenecks are set to persist for a while. However, inflation—despite increasing significantly in recent months due to transitory factors—is projected to moderate during 2022 and remain below the ECB’s inflation target over the medium term. Uncertainty surrounding the outlook remains high and largely related to pandemic dynamics and legacies, including induced behavioral and preference changes.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
The pandemic dealt a severe blow to the Italian people and their economy. GDP fell by nearly 9 percent in 2020, with much larger drops for contact-intensive services. Public and corporate debt increased strongly and preexisting vulnerabilities have likely worsened. The government is prioritizing resolving the health emergency and transforming the economy to lift productivity, improve social outcomes and strengthen resilience to future shocks and structural change. The large National Recovery and Resilience Plan—partly financed by sizable Next Generation EU resources—will be used to increase physical and social infrastructure. Outlook. GDP is expected to recover strongly in 2021–22 and to grow well-above trend over the medium term, supported by investment spending. Nonetheless, economic scarring could be sizable. The two-sided risks relate to how the pandemic progresses, the efficiency of investment spending and the extent of savings drawdown, with large costs associated with the downside.