The Great Recession included five major surprises: (1) the severity of the global trade and output collapse, (2) the United States suffered a milder than expected recession, (3) Europe saw the onset of a severe sovereign debt crisis, (4) China grew at an extraordinary rate even though it’s greatly dependent on exports, and (5) Latin America showed remarkable resilience.
Each of the five surprises teaches policy makers critical lessons ranging from the need to rein in unbridled risk-taking in the financial sector, to the importance of a vigorous response from the private sector to crises, to the importance of quickly reestablishing sound macroeconomic fundamentals. Beyond the generally applied lessons, the surprises also hold lessons for specific regions, notably the need for reforms to strengthen the institutional mechanisms underpinning the Euro area.
While governments reacted quickly and appropriately with stimulus measures and bank rescues to prevent a descent into depression, they unfortunately have not acted forcefully enough on the lessons emerging from the five surprises. In particular, leaders have failed to enact the structural and regulatory reforms needed to protect the world against the next crisis.