Austerity Measures

Austerity Measures: IELTS Academic Reading Sample Question

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Austerity Measures

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-14, which are based on Reading Passage below.

Austerity measures are actions that a state undertakes in order to pay back its creditors. Those measures typically involve slashing government expenditure and hiking taxes, and most of the time, these are imposed on a country when its national deficit is believed to have become unsustainable. In this situation, banks may lose trust in the government’s ability or willingness to repay existing debts, and in return can refuse to roll over current loans and demand cripplingly excessive interest rates on new lending. Governments frequently then turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an intergovernmental organization that functions as a lender of last resort. In return, the IMF typically demands austerity measures so that the indebted country is able to curtail its budget deficit and fulfill their loan obligations.

A wave of austerity measures across Europe in 2010 has seen cuts and freezes to pensions, welfare and public sector salaries as well as hikes to some taxes and excises. The Greek programme attempts to narrow its budget shortfall from 8.1 per cent of GDP in 2010 to 2.6 per cent of GDP in 2014 primarily by freezing public sector incomes during that period and reducing public sector allowances by 8 per cent. Additionally. VAT – the Greek sales tax – will be elevated to 23 per cent, and excises on fuel, tobacco, and alcohol arc also subject to an increase. The statutory retirement age for women will be raised to 65, matching it with the current retirement age for men. These reforms have been deeply unpopular in Greece, prompting a succession of general strikes that have further dented the economy.

IMF-imposed austerity measures have been indicted for encouraging the deep recession following the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Starting from the early 1990s, international investors from wealthier countries such as Japan and the United States began pouring money into Southeast Asia, looking to make some quick returns, and the soaring economies of Thailand. Philippines, Malaysia and others earned themselves the title “the Asian tigers”. When things started to turn sour, however, the foreign investors panicked and retracted their investments en masse. decimating Asian currencies and turning millions of employees out of work. The IMF’s role in the recovery was to impose austerity measures that kept interest rates high while driving down wages and labour standards at a time when workers were already suffering. According to one former IMF economist, these interventions on a global scale have caused the deaths of 6 million children every year.

Many economists consequently view austerity measures as a terrible blunder. John Maynard Keynes was the first to propose an alternative method, long before the Asian financial crisis. Governments, he attempted to demonstrate, could conceivably spend their national economy out of debt. Although logically implausible at first blush, this argument is based on the notion that recessions deepen from a persistent cycle of low incomes, low consumer spending, and low business growth. A government can theoretically reverse this downward spiral by injecting the economy with much needed (albeit borrowed) capital. This is not equivalent to an indebted consumer spending further into the red, Keynes argued, because while the consumer gains no further income on that expenditure, the government’s dollar goes into the economy and then partially boomerangs later on in the form of taxation.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz follows up on this approach by noting that households across the world are currently burdened with debt. For businesses to grow, he argues, government and consumer expenditure must kick in first. Austerity measures lower the spending capacity of households, and are, therefore, considered under-productive. Another recipient of the Nobel Prize. Paul Krugman, points to the recent experiences of countries such as Ireland, Latvia and Estonia. Countries that implement austerity are the “good soldiers” of the crisis, he notes, implementing savage spending cuts. “But their reward has been a slump, and financial markets continue to treat them as a serious default risk.”

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron defended the necessity of austerity measures for his country by denouncing the frivolity of governments that ratchet up spending at a time the economy is contracting. This is in line with the counter-Keynesian viewpoint, known broadly as the neoclassical position. Neoclassical economists argue that business is “inspired” by fiscally conservative governments, and this “confidence” helps re-ignite the economy. A British think-tank economist, Marshall Auerback, questions this line of thinking, wondering if Cameron suggests governments should only “ratchet up spending when the economy is growing”. This Auerback warns, should be avoided because it presents genuine inflationary dangers.

Questions 1-4:

Complete the summary below. Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 1 – 4 on your answer sheet.

A government can undergo austerity measures by cutting spending and/or raising 1) …………………….. If banks do not believe that a government will settle its debts, they may ask for 2) ……………… that are too high to pay back. In these cases, the IMF is sometimes prepared to lend money to these governments. One of the conditions of IMF loans is that recipient countries undergo austerity measures to reduce their 3) ………………… and repay any debts. The IMF has attracted criticism for its role in Asia after the 1997 financial crisis. The crisis was caused when international investors pulled their money out of the region at once, causing 4)………………………… to foil and unemployment to rise. The IMF’s austerity measures set conditions that lowered incomes and 5)  ………………….  These policies have caused great suffering internationally.

Questions 6-9:

Choose FOUR letters A—G. Write the correct letters in boxes 6-9 on your answer sheet.
Which FOUR items are identified as features of the Greek government’s austerity measure programme in 2010?

A. reducing public sector wages between 2010 and 2014
B. cutting allowances for public sector workers
C. raising the sales tax
D. making the compulsory retirement age the same for both genders
E. multiple general strikes
F. making cigarettes more expensive
G. eliminating the budget deficit

Questions 10-14:

Look at the following people (Questions 10-14) and the list of statements below.
Match each person with an appropriate statement, A—F.
Write the correct letter A-F in boxes 9-14on your answer sheet.

10) John Maynard Keynes
11) David Cameron
12) Marshall Auerback
13) Joseph Stiglitz
14) Paul Kingman

Answers for IELTS Reading Sample Question

1) Taxes
Paragraph 1 – Line 1, 2
Austerity measures are actions that a state undertakes in order to pay back its creditors. These measures typically involve slashing government expenditure and hiking taxes, and most of the

2) interest rates
Paragraph 1 – Line 4, 5, 6
unsustainable. In this situation, banks may lose trust in the government’s ability or willingness to repay existing debts, and in return can refuse to roll over current loans and demand cripplingly excessive interest rates on new lending. Governments frequently then turn to the International

3) budget deficit
Paragraph 1 – Line 8, 9
In return, the IMF typically demands austerity measures so that the indebted country is able to curtail its budget deficit and fulfil their loan obligations.

4) Asian currencies/ economies
Paragraph 3 – Line 6. 7
turn sour, however, the foreign investors panicked and retracted their investments en masse. decimating Asian currencies and turning millions of employees out of work. The IMF’s role in the

5) Labour standards
Paragraph 3 – Line 8, 9
decimating Asian currencies and turning millions of employees out of work. The IMF’s role in the recovery was to impose austerity measures that kept interest rates high while driving down wages and labour standards at a time when workers were already suffering. According to one former IMF

6 – 9) B C D F (in any order)

Paragraph 2 – Line 4, 5, 6
of GDP in 2014 primarily by freezing public sector incomes during that period and reducing public sector allowances by 8 per cent. Additionally, VAT – the Greek sales tax – will be elevated to 23 nper cent, and excises on fuel, tobacco, and alcohol are also subject to an increase. The statutory

10) c
Paragraph 4 – Line 3, 4
Governments, he attempted to demonstrate, could conceivably spend their national economy out of debt. Although logically implausible at first blush, this argument is based on the notion that

11) E
Paragraph 6 – Line 1, 2, 3
In the United Kingdom. Prime Minister David Cameron defended the necessity of austerity measures for his country by denouncing the frivolity of governments that ratchet up spending at a time the economy is contracting. This is in line with the counter-Keynesian viewpoint, known

12) D
Paragraph 6 – Line 7, 8
think-tank economist. Marshall Auerback, questions this line of thinking, wondering if Cameron suggests governments should only “ratchet up spending when the economy is growing”. This Auerback warns, should be avoided because it presents genuine inflationary dangers.

13) A
Paragraph 5 – Line 2, 3
households across the world are currently burdened with debt. For businesses to grow, he argues, government and consumer expenditure must kick in first. Austerity measures lower the spending

14) B
Paragraph 5 – Line 5, 6
Nobel Prize, Paul Krugman, points to the recent experiences of countries such as Ireland, Latvia and Estonia. Countries that implement austerity are the “good soldiers” of the crisis, he notes,…

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