Given the decibel level of the current U.S. presidential elections, Americans can be forgiven for missing an equally lively debate underway in Britain over whether the country should remain in the European Union (EU) or not. A debate the press and financial markets have dubbed “Brexit” – short for “British exit.”
As dramatic as any Shakespeare play, the sound and fury from Britain in the run-up to the June 23 vote is sure to be deafening. And while Americans can be forgiven for favoring the latest pictures of the Royal Family or the pageantry of the Queen’s 90th birthday, over, say, the arcane details of the referendum to remain in the EU, make no mistake: Britain’s upcoming sovereign decision matters greatly to those in the U.S. Here’s why.
First, there are American interests in the EU, a club of 28 sovereign nations. Under British leadership, those nations created a single European market by linking their economies almost a quarter-century ago: America benefits from the openness of this rules-based single market, with its half a billionwestern consumers. Much is made of America’s investment in Asia, but the U.S. has invested more than three times as much in Europe, paying dividends in both jobs and economic returns.
MIT Sloan Visiting Lecturer Irving Wladawsky-Berger
From The Wall Street Journal
Few topics are as critical, and as challenging to anticipate, than the future of jobs in the digital economy. Along with its many benefits, the digital revolution has resulted in enormous dislocations in labor markets and a sharp polarization in job opportunities over the past several decades.
Recently the Initiative on the Digital Economy, an effort at MIT started three years ago to better understand the broad changes brought about by the relentless advances of digital technologies, launched a competition inviting organizations to envision the future of work. The competition aims to identify, celebrate and award prizes to “organizations that are inventing a more sustainable, productive, and inclusive future for all by focusing on improving economic opportunity for middle- and base-level income earners.”
Doug Criscitello, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for Finance and Policy
High rates of debt growth by local governments are a cause for concern in any country. In China, where recent turmoil in the equity and foreign-exchange markets has put a spotlight on that country’s economy and growth prospects, increasing levels of borrowing by provincial and other lower levels of government has resulted in local indebtedness rising nearly four-fold since 2008, reaching about 40% of GDP.
Debt growth of that magnitude raises concerns about fiscal sustainability, debt affordability, transparency and accountability. Cautionary tales abound. From New York City in the ‘70s, emerging market countries in the ‘80s, Russia in the ‘90s, and Detroit, Greece and Puerto Rico more recently, there is a long list of governments that have experienced the painful economic repercussions of taking on debt they could not afford.
While the massive debt buildup in China presents challenges, the situation is not as dire as a full-blown debt crisis, a new policy brief from the MIT Center for Finance and Policy by Xun Wu, a visiting scholar, suggests.
Whether Greece stays in the Eurozone and accepts its bitter medicine or is one day forced to exit the single currency, the country’s future is usually regarded as bleak. Either course seems to promise years of hardship and privation for the Greek people.
From another perspective, though, one could see opportunity for Greece. “Never let a crisis go to waste,” is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, who knew something about crises. Greece today has a chance to turn adversity into advantage. With change in the air, it will be easier for the country’s institutions, government leaders, and people to abandon some of the failed approaches of the past and to embark in new directions.
Trying to predict currency movements is — as they say here in the U.K. — a mug’s game. Any economist, myself included, will tell you it’s virtually impossible to do.
And yet, movements in exchange rates are incredibly important. They affect a country’s competitiveness — influencing everything from export competitiveness to GDP growth. They affect the prices of items coming from abroad, from oil to oranges to iPhones. They make it harder, or easier, to repay foreign debt and they affect earnings on foreign investments.
Currency movements also have big implications for the outlook for inflation. This relationship is known as “pass-through,” because it captures how changes in the exchange rate “pass-through” to import prices and then inflation.
So even if we can’t predict exchange rate movements, we need to understand how exchange rates will affect the economy. And for those of us tasked with setting monetary policy, understanding how currency movements pass-through into inflation is critical to our decision on when to adjust interest rates.
The problem is, much of what we thought we knew about pass-through has not been holding up well.