EU countries under market pressures must be prepared to swallow even stronger doses of austerity.
Most states have slashed tens of billions from their public spending plans already, but this may not be enough, according to an annual report from the EU Commission on the state of public finances in member-states.
The head of the Commission’s economy department, Marco Buti, wrote in a gloomy “editorial” that, “despite the fact that a return of GDP growth, a gradual withdrawal of the temporary support measures and the start of consolidation is starting to reduce deficits, debt is still expected to continue increasing for the next year or so in most cases.
“Once it has reached its peak, the issue is not over. It will not be sufficient to stem the increase; rather, additional consolidation measures will be required to reduce it from its new level .” He argues that Europe’s ageing population will add still further pressures on public finances in the coming decades as a result of the higher costs of ageing and lower growth as a result of the smaller number of people of working age.
Despite multiple rounds of austerity already imposed, Greece for its part will see its debt burden climb to 166.1 per cent of GDP in 2012, up from 157.7 per cent this year, while our own may reach 104 per cent.
The document goes on to say that while governments can reduce debt levels through spending cuts or increasing taxes or a mixture of the two, they should embrace cuts in preference to tax increases, as “evidence from the past shows that cuts have greater success, in terms of the effect that they have on the overall public finances.”
The future in the EU does indeed look gloomy.