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索罗斯&辛恩:德国问题之辩

2013-05-08 16:15

德国的选择

索罗斯(George Soros)

欧元危机已经使欧盟从自愿平等的国家联盟成为债权债务人关系。如果有成员国退出,债权人将承担巨大的损失,而债务人受到政策的限制,衰退加深,债务负担加重,处于从属地位。因此,这场危机正威胁要摧毁欧盟本身。这将是一个历史性的悲剧,只有德国领导人才可防止悲剧的发生。

不承认欧元的致命缺陷不能理解欧洲危机的原因:通过创建一个独立的央行,成员国因此受限,因为他们不能控制该货币。首先,政府和市场参与者表现得好像所有政府债券都是无风险的,导致银行买入过量较差的债券。当希腊危机引起违约恐慌,金融市场以复仇的方式应对,将所有负债累累的欧元区成员国的地位降至第三世界国家水平。随后,负债累累的成员国被视为要为他们的不幸负全责,欧元的结构性缺陷仍未修正。

一旦理解了这点,解决方案自明。它可以总结为一个词:欧元债券。

如果遵守欧盟新财政契约的国家被允许将他们全部的政府债务转换为欧元债券,正面影响会成为奇迹。违约的危险会消失,风险溢价也会下降。银行的资产负债表会收到立竿见影的提升效果,负债累累的国家预算也会。

按照财政契约,成员国将被允许发行取代已发行债券的新债券;五年后,未偿付债务将会逐渐减至GDP的60%。如果一个成员国家发行额外的债务,只能以自己的名义。诚然,财政契约需要一些修改,以确保处罚是自动的、准确的,不太严重且可信。一个更严格的财政契约实际上消除了违约风险。

因此,欧元债券将不会破坏德国的信用评级。相反,他们会比较容易的与美国、英国和日本的债券相比。

可以肯定的是,欧元债券并不是万能的。源自欧洲债券的推动力可能不足以确保复苏,额外的财政和/或货币刺激措施可能是必要的。但这个问题将成为奢侈品。更麻烦的是,欧元债券将不能消除竞争力的分歧。个别国家仍需要进行结构性改革。欧盟还将需要一个银行联盟,是每个国家信贷条件平等。但德国接受欧元债券将转换气氛,促进必要的改革。

不幸的是,德国仍然坚决反对欧元债券。因为德国总理默克尔(Angela Merkel)否决了这个想法,它没有经过任何考虑。德国公众并未认识到同意发行欧元债券将大大减少风险和成本,比仅仅维系欧元要好。

德国有权利拒绝欧元债券。但它没有权利阻止负债累累的国家逃避他们的痛苦,联合发行债券。如果德国反对欧元债券,它应该考虑退出欧元区。令人惊讶的是,没有德国,欧元债券仍比美国、英国和日本债券要好。

原因很简单。因为所有的累积债务以欧元计价,如果有国家离开欧元区,事情将大不同。如果德国离开,欧元将贬值。债务人国家将恢复其竞争力。他们的债务会减少,如果他们发行欧元债券,债务的威胁就会消失。他们的债务会突然变得可持续。

同时,大部分的调整负担将会落在离开欧元区的国家身上。它们的出口竞争力下降,他们会遇到激烈的竞争。他们以欧元计价的索赔和投资也会蒙受损失。

相比之下,如果意大利离开欧元区,欧元计价债务负担将变得不可持续,必须重组,使全球金融体系陷入混乱。所以,如果有人必须离开,它应该是德国,不是意大利。

有充足的理由要求德国决定是否接受欧元债券或退出欧元区,但两个选择中哪个更好还不明确。只有德国选民能决定。

如果德国今天举行公民投票,支持退出欧元区的人会轻易获胜。但仔细的思考可能会改变人们的想法。他们会发现德国授权欧元债券的成本被严重夸大,退出欧元区的成本被低估了。

麻烦的是,德国没有被迫选择。它可以继续保护欧元。这显然是默克尔的优先选择,至少直到下届选举。

如果德国做了明确的选择,不管结果如何,德国将会更好。局势正在恶化,而且,从长远来看,它势必变得不可持续。一个无序的解体将导致互相指责,无法解决的索赔将使欧洲不如统一前。当然,那不会是德国的利益所在。

* * *

德国应该退出欧元区吗?

辛恩(Hans-Werner Sinn)

去年夏天,金融家索罗斯敦促德国同意建立欧洲稳定机制,呼吁该国“领导或离开”。现在他说,德国应该退出欧元区,如果它继续阻碍欧元债券的引入。

索罗斯是在玩火。离开欧元区正是新成立的“德国二选一”党支持的。

关键时间快到了。塞浦路斯几乎离开了欧元区,其银行业的崩溃因欧洲央行提供的紧急流动性援助而延迟,而格里罗(Beppe Grillo)和贝卢斯科尼(Silvio Berlusconi) 在意大利最近的大选中获得了总计55%的选票。

此外,希腊和西班牙人不太可能继续承受紧缩压力,青年失业率缓慢向60%前进。

法国也有竞争力问题,无法满足其在欧盟财政契约中的承诺。葡萄牙需要新的救援计划,斯洛文尼亚可能很快就会要求救援。

许多投资者与索罗斯意见一致。他们希望削减和运行——将有毒的债券放到政府间援助者圣殇,把自己的钱藏在安全的避风港里。

如果索罗斯是对的,德国不得不在欧元债券和欧元之间选择,许多德国人肯定会倾向于退出欧元区。新的德国政党将吸引更多的支持,情绪可能转变。欧元本身将会终结;毕竟,它的主要任务是打破德国央行在货币政策方面的主导地位。

但索罗斯是错误的。首先,他的要求没有法律依据。《欧盟运作条约》第125条规定,禁止相互化的债务。

最糟糕的是,索罗斯未认识到欧元区问题真正的本质。正在进行的金融危机只是货币联盟潜在疾病的一个症状:其南部成员国丧失了竞争力。

欧元给这些国家低息贷款,用于资助工资增长,却未支撑生产力。这导致了价格和大量外部赤字爆炸。

维持这些国家过度的价格和名义收入,以及其他国家人为担保的廉价信贷只会使其永久丧失竞争力。债权债务关系的隔阂将使欧元区政治紧张。

为了重获竞争力,南方国家将不得不降低他们的产品的价格,而北欧国家将不得不接受更高的通货膨胀。然而,欧洲债券将遏制这种结果,因为北方的相对价格只有当北方储户进行国内投资时才会上升。

根据高盛的一项研究,希腊、葡萄牙和西班牙等国家将不得不便宜 20-30%,德国的价格将相对于欧元区平均水平上调20%。可以肯定的是,如果德国离开欧元区,南方国家竞争力恢复的道路将会更容易,因为欧元会发生贬值,但危机国家的根本问题仍将留在欧元区。

从这个角度来看,危机国家只要待在货币联盟中,他们的痛苦就不会减少。唯一的方法就是让他们退出欧元,他们的新货币贬值。但是,到目前为止,他们不愿意走这条路线。

在政治上,德国退出欧元区将是个很大的错误,因为莱茵河将再次成为法国和德国之间的边界。法德和解,战后欧洲最大的成功将会被破坏。

因此,剩下的唯一选择是加强欧元区的预算约束。经过多年的货币宽松,必须回到现实。如果一个国家破产,就必须让其债权人知道它不能偿还债务。投机者必须承担自己的决定。

Soros versus Sinn: The German Question

2013-05-08 16:15

"Germany's Choice"

by George Soros

The euro crisis has already transformed the European Union from a voluntary association of equal states into a creditor-debtor relationship from which there is no easy escape. The creditors stand to lose large sums should a member state exit the monetary union, yet debtors are subjected to policies that deepen their depression, aggravate their debt burden, and perpetuate their subordinate position. As a result, the crisis is now threatening to destroy the EU itself. That would be a tragedy of historic proportions, which only German leadership can prevent.

The causes of the crisis cannot be properly understood without recognizing the euro’s fatal flaw: By creating an independent central bank, member countries have become indebted in a currency that they do not control. At first, both the authorities and market participants treated all government bonds as if they were riskless, creating a perverse incentive for banks to load up on the weaker bonds. When the Greek crisis raised the specter of default, financial markets reacted with a vengeance, relegating all heavily indebted eurozone members to the status of a Third World country over-extended in a foreign currency. Subsequently, the heavily indebted member countries were treated as if they were solely responsible for their misfortunes, and the structural defect of the euro remained uncorrected.

Once this is understood, the solution practically suggests itself. It can be summed up in one word: Eurobonds.

If countries that abide by the EU’s new Fiscal Compact were allowed to convert their entire stock of government debt into Eurobonds, the positive impact would be little short of the miraculous. The danger of default would disappear, as would risk premiums. Banks’ balance sheets would receive an immediate boost, as would the heavily indebted countries’ budgets.

In accordance with the Fiscal Compact, member countries would be allowed to issue new Eurobonds only to replace maturing ones; after five years, the debts outstanding would be gradually reduced to 60% of GDP. If a member country ran up additional debts, it could borrow only in its own name. Admittedly, the Fiscal Compact needs some modifications to ensure that the penalties for noncompliance are automatic, prompt, and not too severe to be credible. A tighter Fiscal Compact would practically eliminate the risk of default.

Thus, Eurobonds would not ruin Germany’s credit rating. On the contrary, they would compare favorably with the bonds of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

To be sure, Eurobonds are not a panacea. The boost derived from Eurobonds may not be sufficient to ensure recovery; additional fiscal and/or monetary stimulus may be needed. But having such a problem would be a luxury. More troubling, Eurobonds would not eliminate divergences in competitiveness. Individual countries would still need to undertake structural reforms. The EU would also need a banking union to make credit available on equal terms in every country. But Germany’s acceptance of Eurobonds would transform the atmosphere and facilitate the needed reforms.

Unfortunately, Germany remains adamantly opposed to Eurobonds. Since Chancellor Angela Merkel vetoed the idea, it has not been given any consideration. The German public does not recognize that agreeing to Eurobonds would be much less risky and costly than continuing to do only the minimum to preserve the euro.

Germany has the right to reject Eurobonds. But it has no right to prevent the heavily indebted countries from escaping their misery by banding together and issuing them. If Germany is opposed to Eurobonds, it should consider leaving the euro. Surprisingly, Eurobonds issued by a Germany-less eurozone would still compare favorably with those of the US, UK, and Japanese bonds.

The reason is simple. Because all of the accumulated debt is denominated in euros, it makes all the difference which country leaves the euro. If Germany left, the euro would depreciate. The debtor countries would regain their competitiveness. Their debt would diminish in real terms and, if they issued Eurobonds, the threat of default would disappear. Their debt would suddenly become sustainable.

At the same time, most of the burden of adjustment would fall on the countries that left the euro. Their exports would become less competitive, and they would encounter heavy competition from the rump eurozone in their home markets. They would also incur losses on their claims and investments denominated in euros.

By contrast, if Italy left the eurozone, its euro-denominated debt burden would become unsustainable and would have to be restructured, plunging the global financial system into chaos. So, if anyone must leave, it should be Germany, not Italy.

There is a strong case for Germany to decide whether to accept Eurobonds or leave the eurozone, but it is less obvious which of the two alternatives would be better for the country. Only the German electorate is qualified to decide.

If a referendum in Germany were held today, the supporters of a eurozone exit would win hands down. But more intensive consideration could change people’s mind. They would discover that the cost to Germany of authorizing Eurobonds has been greatly exaggerated, and the cost of leaving the euro understated.

The trouble is that Germany has not been forced to choose. It can continue to do no more than the minimum to preserve the euro. This is clearly Merkel’s preferred choice, at least until after the next election.

Europe would be infinitely better off if Germany made a definitive choice between Eurobonds and a eurozone exit, regardless of the outcome; indeed, Germany would be better off as well. The situation is deteriorating, and, in the longer term, it is bound to become unsustainable. A disorderly disintegration resulting in mutual recriminations and unsettled claims would leave Europe worse off than it was when it embarked on the bold experiment of unification. Surely that is not in Germany’s interest.

***

"Should Germany Exit the Euro?"

by Hans-Werner Sinn

MUNICH – Last summer, the financier George Soros urged Germany to agree to the establishment of the European Stability Mechanism, calling on the country to “lead or leave.” Now he says that Germany should exit the euro if it continues to block the introduction of Eurobonds.

Soros is playing with fire. Leaving the eurozone is precisely what the newly founded “Alternative for Germany” party, which draws support from a wide swath of society, is demanding.

Crunch time is fast approaching. Cyprus is almost out of the euro, its banks’ collapse having been delayed by the European Central Bank’s provision of Emergency Liquidity Assistance, while euroskeptic parties led by Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi garnered a combined total of 55% of the popular vote in the latest Italian general election.

Moreover, the Greeks and Spaniards are unlikely to be able to bear the strain of economic austerity much longer, with youth unemployment inching toward 60%.

France, too, has competitiveness problems, and is unable to meet its commitments under the European Union’s Fiscal Compact. Portugal needs a new rescue program, and Slovenia could soon be asking for a rescue as well.

Many investors echo Soros. They want to cut and run – to unload their toxic paper onto intergovernmental rescuers, who should pay for it with the proceeds of Eurobond sales, and put their money in safer havens. The public already is being misused in an effort to mop up junk securities and support feeble banks, with taxpayer-funded institutions such as the ECB and the bailout programs having by now provided €1.2 trillion ($1.6 trillion) in international credit.

If Soros were right, and Germany had to choose between Eurobonds and the euro, many Germans would surely prefer to leave the euro. The new German political party would attract much more support, and sentiment might shift. The euro itself would be finished; after all, its primary task was to break the Bundesbank’s dominance in monetary policy.

But Soros is wrong. For starters, there is no legal basis for his demand. Article 125 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union expressly forbids the mutualization of debt.

Worst of all, Soros does not recognize the real nature of the eurozone’s problems. The ongoing financial crisis is merely a symptom of the monetary union’s underlying malady: its southern members’ loss of competitiveness.

The euro gave these countries access to cheap credit, which was used to finance wage increases that were not underpinned by productivity gains. This led to a price explosion and massive external deficits.

Maintaining these countries’ excessive prices and nominal incomes with artificially cheap credit guaranteed by other countries would only make the loss of competitiveness permanent. The entrenchment of debtor-creditor relationships between the states of the eurozone would fuel political tension.

In order to regain competitiveness, the southern countries will have to reduce their goods prices, while the northern countries will have to accept higher inflation. Eurobonds, however, would impede precisely this outcome, because relative prices in the north can be raised only when northern savers invest their capital at home .

According to a study by Goldman Sachs, countries like Greece, Portugal, and Spain will have to become 20-30% cheaper, and German prices will have to rise by 20% relative to the eurozone average. To be sure, if Germany were to leave the common currency, the road back to competitiveness would be easier for the southern countries, since the rump euro would undergo devaluation; but the crisis countries’ fundamental problem would remain as long as the other competitive countries remain in the eurozone.

From this perspective, the crisis countries would not be spared painful retrenchment as long as they remained in a monetary union that includes competitive countries. The only way to avoid it would be for them to exit the euro and devalue their new currencies. But, so far, they have not been willing to go this route.

Politically, it would be a big mistake for Germany to exit the euro, because that would reinstate the Rhine as the border between France and Germany. Franco-German reconciliation, the greatest success of the postwar period in Europe, would be in jeopardy.

Thus, the only remaining option is to tighten budget constraints in the eurozone. After years of easy money, a way back to reality must be found. If a country is bankrupt, it must let its creditors know that it cannot repay its debts. And speculators must take responsibility for their decisions.

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