Has EMU Led to Higher Debt Levels? : -A Dynamic Panel Data Estimation
Europe is in the midst of its deepest crisis since the 1930s where unsustainable debt-to-GDP levels are among the most alarming issues. It is so critical that it is unsure if the Euro can be saved. The risk of moral hazard increases within EMU when governments are taking too much risk in their public debt policies due to the anticipation that ECB or other Member States would eventually bail them out. Moreover, the SGP imposes restrictions on government deficits and debts but have previously failed to enforce them. The weakness seen in the past is that no sanctions have been put in place once the limits have been breached and the SGP is therefore incredible. Previous research on common pool and debt spillovers in a monetary union point to an upward drift of public debt as countries join the EMU. Does this argument hold true? In order to find out, 25 OECD countries between the years of 1995 and 2010 are analyzed using System GMM Arellano-Bover/Blundell-Bond one-step estimator. The primary balance, the interest payments, and GDP growth are regressed respectively in order to see through what channel EMU displays its effect. One regression will cover the entire time period and another will only cover the years from 1995 to 2007 in order to isolate the effects of the current crisis. The results, based on the years over the entire time period (including the crisis) suggest that the effect of an EMU Membership goes via the Interest payments which it is connected to positively. By using the equation of debt dynamics, the fact that net debt interest payments are higher for a country within EMU indicates, all else equal, that they have on average higher levels of debt. Nevertheless, this realization might be a crisis phenomenon and the implication of this is not clear. However more importantly, the regressions based on the years of 1995 and 2007 (prior to the crisis) did not display any significant results. These results indicate that there is no significant relationship between a country’s membership in EMU and its level of debt prior to the crisis.
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