Italy’s Supply Constraint

The OECD estimates the current potential capacity growth rate of the Italian economy at 1.25% a year. Actually I suspect even this very low number is over-optimistic. Growth since 2002 has been as follows: 2003 – 0.1%: 2004 – 0.9%: 2005 – 0.1%. To be sure forecast growth for this year is somewhat higher, at 1.4%, and optimists are expecting this to be more or less repeated next year. But I suspect this outcome is unlikely simply because the global economy now seems to be slowing (and in particular the ever important US economy),so the strongly advantageous situation of 2006 is unlikely to be repeated, while next year the Italian government has promised to introduce an important package of spending reductions which are bound to negatively affect growth, at least in the short term..

But why is potential growth capacity in Italy so low?
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Turkey Grows and Grows

One of the few real IMF success stories, the Turkish economy continues with what Serhan Cevik calls its spectacular normality:

The Turkish economy is now in its fourth year of uninterrupted growth, with an average real GDP growth rate of 7.5% per annum. Indeed, the trend growth rate surged from 3.9% in the 1990s to 5.8% in the post-crisis period and to an impressive 7.8% last year. And we project 7.2% growth for Turkey in 2005 and 6.8% next year, compared with average OECD growth rates of 2.6% and 2.8%, respectively. Obviously, this is an unusual performance for a country that had long failed to keep the economy close to its potential on a sustainable basis. In fact, the growth rate of real per capita GDP decelerated from 2.3% per annum in the 1970s to 1.7% in the 1980s and then to 1.3% in the 1990s leading to the 2001 crisis. However, with prudent fiscal and monetary policies and structural reforms, real per capita income increased by 18.9% on a cumulative basis in the last three years, and should remain on an above-trend growth trajectory in the coming years.

Europe’s ‘Tiger’

Last Friday Eurostat released the 2004 data on comparative per capita PPP’s (purchasing power parities) across the EU. Perhaps the most surprising fact which emerges is that Ireland is now in second place (after Luzembourg) with a PPP 40% above the EU average. For a country that not so long ago was considered one of the ‘poorer’ EU members this is truly stunning.

It is generally well known that Ireland had (and continues to have) one of the highest fertility and population growth rates in the EU, but this has not been regarded as especially important since conventional neo-clasical growth theory (and the new ‘super-duper’endogenous growth theory for that matter) argue that increased population means a bigger economy, but not necessarily an increase in per capita income. However, as I said yesterday, it’s all about population structure. What we are now understanding is that the right age structure can produce very rapid increases in per capita income, and Ireland is, of course, a good case in point.

In the case of the ‘Celtic Tiger’, New Economic Paradigm theorists David Bloom and David Canning, who have made a specific study of the Irish case, reached the following conclusions:
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