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全球经济误读

2013-05-24 13:59

2010年4月,国际货币基金组织(IMF)的《世界经济展望》对全球经济给出了一个乐观的评估,并指出全球经济复苏强劲,在可预见的未来足以支持每年约4.5%的国内生产总值(GDP)增长——高于2000年到2007年泡沫期间水平。但是,自那以后,IMF稳步下调其经济预期。事实上,今年的GDP增长预期为3.3%——这是最近的《世界经济展望》下调后的结果——可能无法实现。

持续的乐观反映在全球经济的严重误诊问题上。最值得注意的是,经济预期都大大低估了欧元区危机的严重程度,以及其对世界其他地区的影响。复苏前景继续取决于新兴经济体,尽管他们的经济正在经历急剧减速。《世界经济展望》预测,今年经济复苏势头加强,这仍是误诊。

欧洲央行行长德拉基(Mario Draghi)去年夏天宣布,欧洲央行将“不惜一切代价”来保护欧元。随着金融市场压力的缓和,欧洲领导人解决欧元区潜在经济和政治问题的动机也降低了。欧洲央行流动性正在维持欧洲的银行系统。

欧元区的运作建立在公共和私人债务在某些时候会被偿还的假象上,在许多国家,现在的痛苦程度大于5年前危机开始时。因此,银行、借款人和政府相互将对方拖进一个恶性循环。政客们通过加倍财政紧缩加剧了这一状况,财政紧缩已经破坏了GDP增长,却未能缩小政府债务/ GDP比率。没有旨在治愈迫在眉睫的私人资产负债表疾病的决定性的政策行动。

此外,欧洲问题不再是欧洲自己的。欧洲广泛的地区和全球贸易网络意味着其内部问题将阻碍世界贸易,从而影响全球经济增长。2012年,世界贸易增长只有2.5%,而全球GDP增长3.2%的速度也令人失望。

贸易增长速度慢于产出的时期是罕见的,这严重威胁全球经济健康。尽管创伤不再像2009年那样是急性,伤痛依然存在——新疾病也将出现。不幸的是,损伤悄然发生,这使得政治利益掩盖了正在加剧、亟待解决的全球经济问题。

在这一暗淡的背景下,庆祝新兴市场的成功。毕竟,新兴和发展中经济体的增长速度远超过发达国家。但即使是世界上最具活力的新兴市场——包括中国、巴西和印度——也正在经历急剧减速,这不能被忽略。

想想印度,目前年增长率为4.5%,低于2011年的7.7%。可以肯定的是,IMF预计,印度经济将在2013年晚些时候反弹,但是鉴于到目前为止,所有指标都表明经济增长惨淡,因此这种乐观主义的基础尚不清楚。

新兴经济体所谓的适应力支撑着近几年的经济预期,这一适应力需要重新评估。同发达经济体一样,新兴经济体在2000年至2007年间经历了繁荣。但是,与发达经济体不同,他们甚至在危机最严重的时期也保持了较高的GDP增长率和相对的稳定性。这被视为他们新经济实力强有力的证据。事实上,在很大程度上,这是由于大规模的财政刺激和信贷扩张。

事实上,随着经济刺激计划的影响逐渐减弱,新的弱点正在出现,如印度持续的通货膨胀度和中国的信贷分配不当。鉴于这一点,新兴经济体将重回泡沫年代增长水平的观点似乎有些牵强。

经济预期基于经济体最终会治愈自己这一假设。但经济体强大的自愈能力工作缓慢。更严重的是,误诊可能导致治疗阻碍病愈。基于对全球经济疾病的错误评估,过于乐观的经济预期威胁了经济复苏前景——潜在影响深远。

在欧洲,银行的创伤必须根治——较弱的银行必须关闭,或与实力较强的银行合并——这样复苏才能开始。这将需要股票和私人债务之间的广泛交换。就全球经济而言,贸易增长乏力要求世界主要经济体协调财政刺激。否则,全球经济再次衰退的风险将持续上升。

Misreading the Global Economy

2013-05-24 13:59

In April 2010, the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook offered an optimistic assessment of the global economy, describing a multi-speed recovery strong enough to support roughly 4.5% annual GDP growth for the foreseeable future – a higher pace than during the bubble years of 2000-2007. But, since then, the IMF has steadily pared its economic projections. Indeed, this year’s expected GDP growth rate of 3.3% – which was revised downward in the most recent WEO – will probably not be met.

Persistent optimism reflects a serious misdiagnosis of the global economy’s troubles. Most notably, economic projections have vastly underestimated the severity of the eurozone crisis, as well as its impact on the rest of the world. And recovery prospects continue to depend on the emerging economies, even as they experience a sharp slowdown. The WEO’s prediction of a strengthening recovery this year continues the misdiagnosis.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s announcement last summer that the ECB would do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro reassured financial markets. But, as pressure from financial markets has eased, so has European leaders’ incentive to address problems with the eurozone’s underlying economic and political dynamics. Easy ECB liquidity is now sustaining a vast swath of Europe’s banking system.

The eurozone is operating under the pretense that public and private debts will, at some point, be repaid, although, in many countries, the distress now is greater than it was at the start of the crisis almost five years ago. As a result, banks, borrowers, and governments are dragging each other into a vicious downward spiral. Politicians have exacerbated the situation by doubling down on fiscal austerity, which has undermined GDP growth while failing to shrink government debt/GDP ratios. And no decisive policy action aimed at healing private balance sheets appears imminent.

Moreover, Europe’s problems are no longer its own. Europe’s extensive regional and global trade networks mean that its internal problems are impeding world trade and, in turn, global economic growth. In 2012, world trade expanded by only 2.5%, while global GDP grew at a disappointing 3.2% rate.

Periods in which trade grows at a slower pace than output are rare, and reflect severe strain on the global economy’s health. While the trauma is no longer acute, as it was in 2009, wounds remain – and they are breeding new pathologies. Unfortunately, the damage is occurring quietly, enabling political interests to overshadow any sense of urgency about the need to redress the global economy’s intensifying problems.

Against this bleak background, it is easy to celebrate the success of emerging markets. After all, emerging and developing economies are growing much faster than the advanced countries. But even the world’s most dynamic emerging markets – including China, Brazil, and India – are experiencing a sharp deceleration that cannot be ignored.

Consider India, where growth is now running at an annualized rate of 4.5%, down from 7.7% annual growth in 2011. To be sure, the IMF projects that India’s economy will rebound later in 2013, but the basis for this optimism is unclear, given that all indicators so far suggest another dismal year.

The emerging economies’ supposed resilience, which has buoyed economic forecasts in recent years, needs to be reassessed. Like the advanced economies, emerging economies experienced a boom in 2000-2007. But, unlike the advanced economies, they maintained high GDP growth rates and relative stability even at the height of the crisis. This was viewed as powerful evidence of their new economic might. In fact, it was largely a result of massive fiscal stimulus and credit expansion.

Indeed, as the effects of stimulus programs wear off, new weaknesses are emerging, such as persistent inflation in India and credit misallocation in China. Given this, the notion that emerging economies will recapture the growth levels of the bubble years seems farfetched.

Economic forecasts rest on the assumption that economies ultimately heal themselves. But economies’ powerful self-healing capabilities work slowly. More problematic, a misdiagnosis can lead to treatments that impair the healing process. Overly optimistic economic projections based on mistaken assessments of the global economy’s ailments thus threaten recovery prospects – with potentially far-reaching consequences.

In Europe, the banks’ wounds must be closed – weak banks must be shut down or merged with stronger banks – before recovery can begin. This will require an extensive swap of private debts for equity. For the global economy, the malaise reflected in anemic trade growth calls for coordinated fiscal stimulus by the world’s major economies. Otherwise, the risk of another global recession will continue to rise.

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