The Central and Eastern European new Member States of the European Union (CEECs) went through the transition process following the commandments of the Washington Consensus, which gradually evolved into the “integrative growth model”. External liberalisation exposed the CEECs to recurring problems over external imbalances, bubbles driven by capital inflows, and resulting growth instabilities. Large foreign direct investment inflows attracted by repressed wages and low taxes do not accelerate growth. Arguably, real convergence would be much faster under a system with built-in limitations to free trade, free capital movements – and with more scope for traditional industrial, trade, incomes, and fiscal policies.
It is argued that increased freedom to run economic activities combined with the growing impotence of national governments (i.e., globalization) have contributed to the secular growth slowdown at the global level. Fast globalisation-driven growth of international trade has unleashed the global race for economic surpluses. The process involves the suppression of wages and widening income inequalities – restricting aggregate demand globally. A “beggar-thy-neighbor” tactics of keeping large trade surpluses by countries successfully suppressing wages and domestic demand is likely to be unproductive. Overcoming the secular stagnation may not be possible without safeguarding equilibrium (or balance) in international transactions between major industrial countries – even if this may necessitate that in most (or all) of them the public sectors run large fiscal deficits permanently.
It is argued that European integration has not fulfilled its chief economic promises. Output growth has been increasingly weak and unstable. Productivity growth has been following a decreasing trend. Income inequalities, both within and between the EU member states, have been rising. This sorry state of affairs is likely to continue — and likely to precipitate further exits, or eventually, the dissolution of the Union. However, this outcome is not unavoidable. A better integration in the EU is possible, at least in theory. Also, the negative consequences implicit in the existence of the common currency could be neutralised. However, the basic paradigms of the economic policies to be followed in the EU would have to be radically changed. First, the unconditional fiscal consolidation provisions still in force would have to be repelled. Second, “beggar-thy-neighbour” (or mercantilist) wage policies would have to be “outlawed”.
This paper reports the results of an econometric examination on the links between labour productivity and output growth for 22 countries (for which long-term data are available). It turns out that, generally, labour productivity does not “cause” output. In more cases, the causation seems to be running in the opposite direction: from output to productivity. This finding, though inconsistent with the “mainstream” ideas on the sources of long-term economic growth, is reminiscent of the classical Kaldor-Verdoorn Law. The progressing slowdown in output growth on the global level, initiated around the mid-1970s (when the process of discarding the earlier economic policy paradigms set in), may have been mirrored by the progressing slowdown in productivity growth (and that despite the hardly disputable acceleration of technological progress).