World Economy

OECD: Raise Public Spending, Accept Deficits

The OECD says borrowing money to spend on investment could increase output.The OECD says borrowing money to spend on investment could increase output.

OECD economists have called on member countries to boost public spending to crank up economic growth. They insisted such a policy made sense even if it meant higher government budget deficits in the short term.

Pre-releasing a chapter in its biannual Economic Outlook, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Thursday governments needed to get over their fixation with debt levels, and ramp up public spending to increase the pace of economic activity, DW reported.

The message offered support to a growing number of governments among the OECD’s 35 member countries which have been looking to fire up growth by fresh borrowing and moderate tax cuts.

After years of low growth in most developed economies, governments could scarcely afford to ignore the opportunity to finance growth-boosting investments at a time of record-low interest rates, the report said.

The OECD added that letting deficits rise to finance investment and ease tax burdens could raise medium-term economic output by more than it increased debt, leading to a medium-term decrease in public debt-to-GDP ratios.

It estimated that increasing budget deficits by half a percent of GDP by borrowing money to spend on investment could increase output by 0.4-0.6% in the first year, on average, across the organization’s member states—which include all the world’s most wealthy countries.

That, in turn, could ultimately reduce debt ratios without the economic pain associated with reducing total public debt through fiscal austerity, the OECD argued.

“What we are saying is that by borrowing at very low interest rates and investing in the right initiatives, you can improve your growth rate,” OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann told Reuters.

But she added it was crucial that extra spending must be invested in productivity-boosting areas like infrastructure construction, education and research, while any tax reductions should carefully target specific taxes that are holding back growth.

A recent report from the OECD shows Germany goes further while spending less. More and more students in Germany are attending university, the group added.

The German education system is a thing to be envied said the report. According to this year’s “Education at a Glance,” Germany has some of the highest rates of school enrollment and youth employment in the world.

Although its network of apprenticeships and on-the-job learning has long been lauded as a key to Germany’s low unemployment rate, the report found that fewer and fewer young Germans are opting to participate. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of university students jumped 28%, more than twice the OECD average.


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