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.
On behalf of the Finnish authorities, we thank the mission team led by Wojciech Maliszewski for the candid and constructive discussions and the well-balanced Article IV Report. The mission was conducted under exceptional pandemic circumstances and took place both virtually and in person. The authorities highly appreciate staff’s views on economic context, outlook, risks, and policy priorities, which contribute to the policy debate in Finland. The authorities agree with the thrust of staff’s appraisal and agree that further efforts are required to combat medium and long-term challenges.
Do discretionary spending cuts and tax increases hurt social well-being? To answer this question, we combine subjective well-being data covering over half a million of individuals across 13 European countries, with macroeconomic data on fiscal consolidations. We find that fiscal consolidations reduce individual well-being in the short run, especially when they are based on spending cuts. In addition, we show that accompanying monetary and exchange rate policies (disinflation, depreciations and the liberalization of capital flows) mitigate the well-being cost of fiscal consolidations. Finally, we investigate the well-being consequences of the two well-knowns expansionary fiscal consolidations episodes taking place in the 80s (in Denmark and Ireland). We find that even expansionary fiscal consolidations can have well-being costs. Our results may therefore shed some light on why some governments may choose to consolidate through taxes even at the cost of economic growth. Indeed, if spending cuts are to generate a large well-being loss, they can trigger an opposition and protest against a fiscal consolidation plan and hence making it politically costly.
This 2019 Article IV Consultation highlights that Finland’s economy has performed well over the past three years, however, has slowed in 2019. There are some vulnerabilities in household finances, and productivity growth remains weak, with trend growth also constrained by adverse demographics. A new coalition government targets greater social support and inclusion, higher employment, carbon neutrality by 2035, and a balanced budget by 2023. A key challenge is to balance plans to increase spending with the need to maintain fiscal buffers. The fiscal expansion is expected to provide useful cyclical support in the short run, but offsetting measures will be required to ensure the structural balance reaches the government’s medium-term target. The government aims for a substantial increase in employment, but the effectiveness of the proposed wage subsidies is unclear. Alternatively, incentives from tax and benefit schedules could be improved, especially for younger women, older workers, and those out of the workforce. Risks in the banking system remain low overall, but some types of lending are increasing household vulnerabilities. The recent recommendation to limit the ratio of household debt to income is both sensible and in line with steps taken in many other countries.