The Euro and Structural Reform

New Economist has a useful post one the euro and the reform process. He picks up on the point that as much as interest rate cuts, what the eurozone needs are the Lisbon Reforms. He also points to the fact that having cheap money in the southern part of Europe may be impeding and not facilitating reform. What can I say, I agree:

Nonetheless, I hope the ECB eventually do cut rates. Even if the stimulus to growth proves to be modest, it can’t hurt (likewise a weaker Euro). But of course what’s really needed in Europe is structural reform of product and labour markets, greater competition and the extension of the single market to services.

This makes the findings of new research by OECD economists Romain Duval and Jorgen Elmeskov, delievered at a recent ECB conference, all the more disturbing. Their paper, The effects of EMU on structural reforms in labour and product markets (PDF), points to:

…the apparent slowdown in the reform process after the formal advent of the euro and by the limited ability of EMU countries ? with the exception of few small ones and of reforms to retirement schemes ? to carry out needed reforms in areas where political resistance is normally strong.

This is consistent with their finding that:

…the absence of monetary policy autonomy seems to be associated with lower structural reform activity in large, more closed economies.

…Obviously these simple findings should not be exaggerated. However, if additional testing suggests that they are robust it would point to a potentially problematic aspect of EMU. In particular, an effect of EMU in the direction of weakening the incentives for structural reform in the larger member countries would be a cause for concern.