Savings of rich fuels government spending and why huge fiscal deficits is and isn’t a bad idea.
The Macroeconomic Implications of the CARES Act (Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog, 7 min read) US debt to GDP ratio could accelerate to 170% in the coming years. However, as the interest rate on the national debt remains lower than the growth rate of GDP, the ratio of debt to GDP will have a finite ceiling (default or hyperinflation scenario is avoided as debt wouldn’t explode). Provisions like loans to small businesses will mitigate supply-side constraints.
“Whatever it takes.” Getting into the specifics of fiscal policy to fight COVID-19 (Peterson Institute for International Economics, 7 min read) Olivier Blanchard argues that roles for fiscal policy in the COVID-19 crisis are crucial for; fighting infection disaster relief and supporting aggregate demand. He believes even if the fiscal deficit for advanced economies rises by 30% – the low-interest rate would make welfare cost for future generations small. However, the Emerging market wouldn’t have this fiscal liberty and would require grants.
The Saving Glut Of The Rich And The Rise In Household Debt (NBER, 47-page read) The study finds saving glut of the rich has been linked to a large accumulation of debt by the non-rich (household debt). Since the Great Recession, the saving glut of the rich has also been significant in financing government deficits.
The case for YCC in the UK and ex-post fiscal targeting
COVID-19 Crisis: Fiscal Policy Should Lead and the Bank of England Should Follow for the Duration of the Crisis (VoxEU, 5 min read) With the UK’s conventional monetary policy space limited the BoE can support the government’s ‘whatever it takes’ pledge through Yield Curve Control or by temporary monetary financing of the deficit. Permanent money creation through a helicopter drop is another option.
A Proposal for Social Insurance During the Pandemic (Greg Mankiw, 2 min read) As targeted fiscal support takes time one solution is to provide everyone with monthly payments now and tax it later contingent on how much income has fallen. Where earnings don’t fall this will amount to a loan which will be fully repaid.
Sicken Thy Neighbor Trade Policy (Marginal Revolution, 2 min read) Export bans on health equipment are misguided as both the globalised production process means equipment relies on imported parts and such bans can lead to lower domestic production.
Rajan on the need for global leadership to flight COVID-19 and the case for higher sick pay in the US
Creative Economic Solutions Could Help Us Avoid the Next Great Depression (Washington Centre for Equitable Growth, 5 min read) More generous sick pay would help the economy recover more quickly and reduce hardship for those affected. A universal income floor for the duration of the crisis would work better than a one-off payment and Denmark’s example of paying 75% of workers’ salaries for the next several months should be replicated.
Rich Countries Cannot Win the War Against Coronavirus Alone (FT, 4 min read) Raghuram Rajan argues that while rich countries may have the wealth and administrative capacity to respond to the coronavirus without strong global leadership to facilitate assistance to those less well able to respond the virus cannot be fully defeated. The IMF, WHO and easing in trade restrictions can all play an important role.
How to Get to a UBI (Crooked Timber, 3 min read) Australia’s decision to increase welfare benefits within the existing system for those unemployed due to coronavirus is a first step to introducing a universal basic income.
Why Such a Large Difference in Fatality Rates Across European Nations? (Marginal Revolution, 1 min read) Countries where the young and old are more likely to live together, those with a larger share of smokers and those more tactile could be a way to explain the higher fatality rates in countries such as Italy.
Buiter on Piketty and the coming debt crisis
COVID-19 is an Opportunity for Europe (Project Syndicate, 4 min read) With no appropriate EU-wide fiscal tools currently available to response to the current crisis the EU should use this opportunity to pool resources and create an “insurance fund”. Europe has a history of coming together in difficult times, it should do so again.
Piketty’s Latest Charge (Project Syndicate, 12 min read) Piketty’s idea of “participatory socialism” is, according to Willem Buiter, wishful thinking lacking in any basic economic analysis. It also ignores incentives and assumes global cooperation on fiscal and regulatory issues.
The COVID-19 Debt Deluge (Project Syndicate, 4 min read) The huge run-up in debt since the financial crisis could now expose significant financial vulnerabilities as growth and profits collapse. High stocks of FX-denominated corporate debt in EM and upcoming repayments on sovereign Eurobonds alongside declining reserves stocks point to an imminent debt crisis.
Why fiscal policy is the better tool to offset the impact from coronavirus and global health care rankings
The Fiscal Fight Against COVID-19 (Project Syndicate, 4 min read) Fiscal policy can have a more direct impact on the sectors hurt by the coronavirus and should be deployed quickly. Low interest rates and excess savings in Japan and elsewhere make deficit levels less relevant than in the past.
Ranking Health Care Systems By Country (Econospeak, 3 min read) The US scores poorly in these health system rankings although the results are admittedly quite mixed. The UK performs well on some metrics, it comes top of the international insurance 11-country rankings, fourth in the Cigna ranking and ninth on Health Care tracking.
How business cycles impact inequality plus evidence on basic income schemes
Shocks, Frictions, and Inequality in US Business Cycles (VoxEU, 7 min read) Business cycles, and the associated policy response, account for half of the increase in US wealth inequality between 1980 and 2015 and almost all of the increase in income inequality. More expansionary fiscal policy following the financial crisis would have lowered wealth inequality.
Is Basic Income a Good Idea? Here’s What the Evidence From Around the World Says (The Conversation, 4 min read) A review of studies on past basic income schemes in North America shows reduced working by women and single parents but little change for men. Health outcomes were little changed.
Skidelsky on fiscal policy and automatic stabilisers plus the US fiscal shortcomings
The Monetarist Fantasy Is Over (Project Syndicate, 4 min read) Robert Skidelsky views the recent forced resignation of UK Chancellor Sajid Javid as part of the wider shift from monetary to fiscal policy, with Javid seen as standing in the way of the Prime Minister’s spending ambitions. This increasing shift towards fiscal policy needs strengthened fiscal stabilisers.
Good U.S Monetary Policy Can’t Fix Bad U.S. Fiscal Policy (Washington Centre for Equitable Growth, 11 min read) Historically low levels of US unemployment with muted inflationary pressures points to an appropriate stance for monetary policy. Fiscal policy, by contrast, is hampering the US economy with needed investment into infrastructure and research absent.
Is the US an Outlier on Health Care Spending? (Library of Economics and Liberty, 2 min read) The 17% of GDP in US healthcare spending partly reflects inflated costs related to the insurance system rather than higher spending compared with other rich countries.
A new fiscal Taylor rule and big pharma’s transfer pricing
A Model-based Fiscal Taylor Rule and a Toolkit to Assess the Fiscal Stance (IMF, 36 page read) Assesses the fiscal stance, defined as the change in the structural primary balance, by using public debt, output gap and primary balance in the preceding period as the starting point. The model points to G7 primary balances below the recommended levels.
Tax Games: Big Pharma Versus Big Tech (CFR, 6 min read) In contrast to profit shifting by US tech firms that lower US exports, pharma profit shifting raises US imports. The US trade deficit on pharma is now bigger than the surplus on aircraft and comes from Ireland, Singapore and Switzerland, all of which have favourable tax treatment for multinationals.
Another take on the size of fiscal multipliers and quality versus size in government functions
Understanding the Size of the Government Spending Multiplier: It’s in the Sign (Barcelona GSE, 48 page read) The fiscal multiplier is above 1 during austerity, and larger if the economy is operating with spare capacity. Expansionary fiscal policy, by contrast, has a multiplier of less than one and does not vary with the economic cycle. A contrasting view from the research we included previously on fiscal multipliers from VoxEU.
Quality Of Government Matters More Than Size Of Government For Human Development, Education And Life Expectancy (Then Do Better, 6 min read) Health, education, peace and human development are more dependent on the quality of government, rather than its size.
Two contrasting views on inequality
Inequality and Economic Growth (Project Syndicate, 4 min read) Former Chief Economist of IMF, Simon Johnson, argues for a wealth tax, refocused antitrust policies and changes to campaign finance rules to achieve a more equal society, and to sustain economic growth.
The Truth About Income Inequality (Reason, 15 min read) Not all income inequality is bad nor has inequality risen to the extent often cited. Global inequality is falling and both the poor and middle class in the US are now better off than in the past. And using a more complete definition of income the top 1% have seen incomes rise more slowly than Piketty suggests.
Permanent spending cuts are needed to rein in the US fiscal deficit plus Europe’s fiscal multipliers remain sub 1
Structural, Not Cyclical, Budget Reform (Economics One, 2 min read) John Taylor cautions against reforming automatic fiscal stabilisers in the US as they work as well now as in the past. Instead, gradual reduction in the spending/GDP ratio would provide a structural improvement in the fiscal deficit and debt position.
Learning About Fiscal Multipliers During the European Sovereign Debt Crisis (VoxEU, 6 mins read) Rising fiscal austerity had an increasingly negative impact on economic growth during Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. But, in contrast to earlier studies, the fiscal multiplier did not rise above 1.
Peter Thiel on the Funding of Science (Marginal Revolution, 2 min read) Advances in science are being held back by increased bureaucracy and a slow regulatory process. A body channelling funding towards more high-risk research, as well as moving away from the standard double-blind trials could boost scientific progress.
New findings that show austerity doesn’t negatively impact public opinion after all, and what’s needed to ensure the 2030 sustainable development goals are on track.
Mad about Austerity? The Effect of Fiscal Consolidation on Public Opinion (Wiley, 18 page read) The effect of a tighter fiscal stance on public opinion is relatively small and closely follows the impact of austerity on economic activity. The findings do not concur with the view that austerity creates a negative effect on public opinion and the popularity of public institutions.
Closing the SDG Gap (Project Syndicate, 5 mins read) Continuing progress at the same rate as the past decade would mean the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDG) will not be met. So far, pledges such as eradicating extreme poverty, ending preventable child deaths and averting a climate disaster have gone unfulfilled.
European Green Finance is Expanding, a Discount on Bank Capital Would Discredit it (Bruegel, 5 min read) Financing for the 1.5% of GDP in annual spending under the recently agreed “European Green Deal” will largely come via by bank loans, not capital markets. But reduced capital requirements for those with eligible loan books could prove counterproductive through higher funding costs.
Britain’s changing class divide and Piketty on inequality
What Does Class Mean in 21st Century Britain? (Open democracy, 6 min read) In the context of Labour’s election defeat, the author argues that the class divide is no longer as clear as in the past. The switch out of traditional Labour seats was partly attributable to economic and social factors.
After the Climate Denial, the Inequality Denial (Le Monde, 4 min read) Economist Thomas Piketty argues that rising inequality is being ignored in France and other rich countries. Economic policies in recent years have clearly benefitted the well off and governments have failed to improve transparency. A sobering reminder that reduction in inequality and climate change must be addressed simultaneously.
Europe’s past lack of fiscal stabilisation plus another estimate on the cost of the US bailout.
Fiscal Activism in the Euro Area and in Other Advanced Economies: New Evidence (ECB, 53 page read) The ECB finds that discretionary fiscal policy hasn’t helped to stabilise European economies over the past 20 years. Generally, policy is pro-cyclical and often counteracted by higher long-term interest rates and debt-to-GDP ratios. [Bearish European growth/stocks]
Measuring the Cost of Bailouts (Annual Review of Financial Economics, 23 page read) The paper calculates that the total direct cost of the 2008 crisis-related bailouts in the US at around $500 billion, or 3.5% of 2009 GDP. So the bail-outs were not fully repaid, but also it didn’t run into the trillions of dollars. [Bullish banks]
Tackling Inequality from the Middle (Project Syndicate, 4 min read) The increased scarcity of stable jobs is a convincing argument for policy makers to start looking at inequalities. But the fundamental question has received relatively little attention: what type of inequality should these measures tackle? Public agendas on inequalities were historically shaped by either taxing the rich or providing direct help to those at the bottom, however economists now rightly seem to put more weight on reinvigorating the economy’s capacity to generate good jobs.
Europe’s Green Deal (Project Syndicate, 4 min read) ‘Europe’s Green Deal’ is the first comprehensive plan to achieve sustainable development and forms a global benchmark for the transformation of the economy into one that is prosperous, socially inclusive, and environmentally sustainable economy; and all with a citizen-based approach. For the deal to be effective, three challenges must be addressed: first, overcoming status quo interests; second, financing R&D, infrastructure, etc.; and lastly, diplomacy. [Neutral Euro area, Bullish ESG]
The European Green Deal Needs A Reformed Fiscal Framework (Bruegel, 4 min read) For green policies to work, EU companies and citizens will need a stable fiscal framework that will allow rising costs of green transition to be offset by favorable treatments. Even if the current clause already allows for deviation from MTO to finance such initiatives, the whole system still needs several more refinements to reach its maturity stage.
Inequality is here to stay, especially in big cities. This could see continued protests in 2020
2019 Was a Year of Global Unrest, Spurred by Anger at Rising Inequality – and 2020 is Likely to be Worse (The Conversation, 7 min read) Conditions that spawned global unrest on every continent in 2019, are likely to worsen in the face of a slowing global economy and little sign of causes of disaffection being addressed. In 1950, there were only two mega-cities with populations of 10 million or more – the New York metropolitan area and Tokyo. Today, there are 25. The megacities overcrowding phenomena contributes to the anger of the masses that feel left out [Bearish EM]
There’s no hiding from the perception of growing inequality. Clamping down on the super-rich and more public spending are some of the proposed remedies. But at least with the latter, many are question their efficacy if fuelled by higher debt.
How to Tax the Super Rich (Project Syndicate, 30 min podcast) Emanuel Saez, one of the architects behind Elizabeth Warren’s “Ultra-Millionaire Tax” plan sits down with Project Syndicate in this podcast to elucidate why a wealth tax may be key to solving some of the issues with inequality facing the US today.
Public Debt and Private Investment (VOX CEPR, 6 min read) Public debt doubled from $35 trillion in 2007 to $70 trillion by 2018. 70% to 102% of GDP in advanced economies and from 35% to 50% of GDP in developing economies. Massive increases in public debt has a crowding-out effect for firms looking to expand via debt financing. The ones hardest hit are credit-constrained, small unlisted firms. [Bearish SME]
Fiscal Policy Cannot Save The ECB (VOX CEPR, 7 min read) The problems of low inflation and negative interest rates cannot be addressed by expansionary fiscal policy, which provides temporary salves at best and which cannot be implemented on a scale large enough to make any real dent on the issues. [Bullish bunds]
How Long Will US Foreign Net Income Dark Matter Continue?(ECONOSPEAK, 2 min read) Despite the mounting foreign debt, the US still has a positive capital flow. Data suggests that US-owned assets abroad are earning far higher rates of return than what foreigners are earning from their assets in the US. This has for quite a long time been labelled the “dark matter” phenomenon. The question arises: how long can this odd situation continue? [Bullish US dollar]
It’s clear wealth inequality is a big issue and new research suggests it could get worse. Yet some policies like rent control could make it worse, while others like putting workers on company boards could actually make a difference.
Heterogeneity and Persistence in Returns to Wealth (Equitable Growth) Using micro data from Norway to show that the wealthy actually earn higher returns in similar asset classes than the less wealthy. This perpetuates wealth inequality. [Wealth taxes are coming]
Who Benefits from Rent Control? Evidence from San Francisco (Microeconomic Insights) Stanford University study finds that rent-control policy actually contributes to even more unaffordable housing.
Ownership and Productivity (Stumbling and Mumbling) Argues that UK Labour Party’s proposal to reform corporate governance – by putting workers on boards – may actually increase the UK’s overall productivity as a country.
Germany’s Energy Transition at a Crossroads (Mckinsey) Despite Germany’s transition toward a low-carbon energy system, it will still miss most of its energy-transition targets for 2020.
Populism is affecting all dimensions of policy. A less discussed but very likely shift will be clamping down in corporate tax dodges. Underlying much of the shift in sentiment is growing inequality. Yet, we may be measuring wrong and we may picking the wrong tools to fix it.
2020: An Inflection Point in Global Corporate Tax? (Deutsche Bank) Jim Reid argues that populism will see higher corporate tax rates across the world. [Bearish big tech]
Declining Labor Shares of GDP Are Not the Story of Inequality (CEPR) Argues that using declining labour shares of GDP as an indication of inequality is incorrect. This is partly because of the way depreciation of capital is accounted for.
Why US Inequality Is Higher Than Europe’s (Project Syndicate) The pre-income of the US bottom-half has only gone up by 3% since 1980 compared to 40% for Europe. This is due to Europe’s national minimum wages, greater worker protections, free public education and free healthcare. [Bullish Europe]
We continue our discussion on wealth inequality, a heavily featured topic in the US Presidential run. Harvard’s Taehoon Kim finds that the role of the US as the “banker of the world” contributes to wealth concentration there. The IMF came out with a handy map to use when targeting regional inequality with fiscal policy.
The World’s Banker: On the Rise in U.S. Wealth Inequality (Harvard University) Harvard researchers have developed an equilibrium model to show that global financial integration contributes significantly to income inequalities and the current economic environment in the US exemplifies that. [Bearish global banks]
A Map of Inequality in Countries (IMF Blog) Regional income inequalities in developed economies are increasing over time and have created mobility issues. IMF researchers urge governments to introduce geographically-targeted policies to address this problem.
The idea of introducing a wealth tax to solve inequality in the US and beyond has been thrown around a lot recently. Most economists frown upon it (we previously featured Timothy Taylor’s piece crunching numbers to find it makes little sense), but this week we picked an opposing view by Nobel laureate Michael Spence. He sees value in a wealth tax but with some caveats.
Which Wealth Tax? (Project Syndicate) Spence supports Democratic candidates Warren and Sanders in pledging for the introduction of a wealth tax, but only if it’s done right and the cash goes to the bottom 50%. [Bearish US stocks]
How the Rich Are Different: Hierarchical Power as the Basis of Income Size and Class(Blair Fix) A new paper on inequality claiming that the rich of the world are different not because they are more productive or can exploit workers, but because of their hierarchical power or i.e. greater command over subordinates.
The Great Gatsby goes to College: Tuition, Inequality and Intergenerational Mobility in the U.S. (Damien Capelle) Finds that unequal access to higher education in the US has led to increases in returns to human capital, heightened income inequality, and has increased tuition fees and stagnated the enrolment of low-income students.
The way we work and do research is vastly changing thanks to tech and the automation it brings. There are worries around potential protests emerging from low-skilled workers but also from Academics. We also look at the continuing discussion around inequality, some widely dropping revenue sources in cities and how we can possibly tax the rich more.
Taxing Billionaires: Estate Taxes and the Geographical Location of the Ultra-Wealthy (NBER) Billionaires’ geographical location is highly sensitive to state estate taxes. For state-level policymaking, one-time tax revenue gains following the death of a wealthy resident often exceeds the foregone revenues over the remaining lifetime of those who relocate. Bearish state finances and munis.
More Power to the People: Electricity Adoption, Technological Change and Social Conflict (VOX) Uses a historical case of a new technology “shock” (electrification) in Sweden to predict potential reactions to the increasing automation. Finds more local strikes are likely, especially from lower skilled workers, but not against the technology itself, but for higher wages. Suggests higher inflation, therefore bearish rates.
Financial Fragmentation of the Eurozone in Pictures (Money Maven) Funds have been increasingly flowing towards “central” Eurozone countries from “peripheral” European countries since the financial crisis. The general distrust of the “peripheral” countries’ banking systems lies at the heart of the fragmentation problem. Bearish European banks.
Elizabeth Warren is gaining popularity in the polls. She’s floating the of a wealth tax. But they could have massive negative implications. Equally, tax data suggests taxing the rich more won’t fix the budget deficit.
Some Income Tax Data on the Top Incomes(Conversable Economist)Finds the top 50% pays almost all the federal income tax whereas the very top income brackets get away with proportionately less. However, simple math shows that taxing the rich more won’t be enough to balance out the $800bn yearly budget deficit.
MMT Heaven and MMT Hell for Chinese Investment and U.S. Fiscal Spending(Carnegie)Argues thatthere aren’t inherently unacceptable levels of government debt If the government can spend the additional funds in ways that make GDP grow faster than debt. That way, there wouldn’t be runaway inflation or the piling up of debt.
How to Argue for a Wealth Tax(Marginal Revolution)Estimates that a seemingly benign 2% increase in the wealth tax in the US ends up stacking up to a 50-70% net capital gains tax, which can’t be sustained. Proposes a higher consumption tax instead.
A tax system overhaul – to improve inequality or to solve the climate issues – seems to be on the cards. A concrete and actionable policy plan to be followed by governments is urgent, but no one is offering it.
Thomas Piketty’s New Book: Impressive Research, Problematic Solutions (Bruegel) Critiques three of Piketty’s bold suggestions: reforming corporate governance, a tax system overhaul, and European transnational Federalism – all are appealing but Piketty offers no concrete suggestions on policy.
Fiscal Policies to Curb Climate Change (IMF) The IMF recommends the best policies to tackle climate change, given the Paris agreement has fallen short. Main points revolve around jump in carbon taxes to $75 a ton by 2030 and how to best use the generated revenue.
Undisclosed Debt Sustainability (Alfaro, Kanczuk) Undisclosed and non-transparent lending to developing markets by creditors outside of the Paris Club, most notably by China, is surging and is negatively impacting debt sustainability for traditional (Paris) lenders.
Japan’s Public Sector Balance Sheet (IMF) In-depth analysis of Japan’s large public sector balance sheet, exceeding 210% of GDP in 2017, but now decreasing in net worth. Looks at risks of crossholdings with the public sector and how pension policies for the aging population will add pressure.
Fiscal stimulus is all the hype and is often cited as the only tool left to steer away from a recession, especially in the Eurozone. Germany might be just warming up to the idea. We also look at solution to the growing issue of unaffordable housing and how to actually build more – not just fuel buying with cheap debt.
Japan’s Government Will Soon Make a Profit on Its Huge Debt (CEPR) Amids raising worries about Japan’s tax lift from 8% to 10%, this commentary reminds that given the negative nominal rate, the debt service burden is virtually zero. Debt is now becoming a source of revenue.
It’s Time for German Fiscal Expansion (Project Syndicate) Advocates that it now makes sense for Germany to spend more without fears of overheating. It should spend more on infrastructure maintenance and modernization, and it could cut payroll taxes. This piece similarly supports fiscal action for the wider Eurozone.
Estimating Regional Wealth in Germany: How Different Are East and West Really? (Kreutzmann, Marek, Salvati, Schmid) Almost 30 years since the German reunification, this paper finds the East lagging in significantly in regional indicators, most notably private net wealth. Each eastern German federal state private wealth comes to less than half of the national mean.
We Cannot Build Our Way Out of Inequality (VOX) The path to a solution of the housing crisis in large metropolitan areas might be to cut regulation in order to build more and denser housing in metro regions (upzoning). The answer is not simple and needs combining education, social, health, and housing policies.
To Tackle Housing Affordability in Canada, Build MoreHouses (IMF) Argues that to solve the lack of affordable housing in Canada (and most of the Western World), we need accelerated process of supplying houses. Sounds simple – but governments have been too focused on making borrowing quicker and accessible – which fuels house price surges.
Many are clamouring for more fiscal policy, but it may not be so straightforward. There are clamours for taxing the rich, yet others argue for spending on big infrastructure projects. Then, some argue that fiscal policy won’t solve for real shocks to the economy like trade uncertainty.
The Return of Fiscal Policy (Project Syndicate) Former Goldmans Sachs Asset Management Chairman argues for greater government investments in long-term projects given interest rates are so low.
Taxing the Rich: Issues and Options (NYU, Batchelder and Kamin) Propose 4 viable ways to tax the rich – increase top tax rate, tax wealth on accrued gains, a wealth tax on the rich and a financials transactions tax.
Fiscal Stimulus Under Sovereign Risk (Minnepolis Fed) Finds that fiscal policy is often pro-cyclical as fears of heightened sovereign risk during recessions induce austerity. To overcome this, the authors argue for “fiscal policy forward guidance”.
Germany’s Real Business Cycle (Scott Sumner) He argues that Germany does NOT need a fiscal stimulus as its recent weakness is due to a real shock (trade war) rather than a nominal shock (eg sticky wages in face of weak labour market).
Taxing Wealth by Taxing Investment Income: An Introduction to Mark-to-Market Taxation (Washington Center for Equitable Growth) Argues for taxing capital gains on a mark-to-market basis rather than on disposal. Another policy aimed at introducing and refining wealth taxes at a time of rising inequality in the US.
Germany to Play Smokes and Mirrors Again (Bill Mitchell) MMT advocated Bill Mitchell argues that Germany uses entities like KFW to engage in fiscal stimulus.
Reallocating Public Spending to Reduce Income Inequality: Can It Work? (IMF) Paper finds that a country can reduce inequality while keeping expenditure fixed if it shifts money away from defense and towards social protection and infrastructure.
The Impact of Brexit on UK Firms (Bank of England) Finds business uncertainty has increased, investment has fallen by 11% over three years and productivity has fallen as top management diverts time to Brexit preparations.
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