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欧洲三驾马车应该成长

2013-05-29 14:28

2010年初,一群西装革履的人来到雅典。他们属于一个全球性机构——国际货币基金组织(IMF)和两个区域性组织,欧洲委员会(European Commission)和欧洲央行(ECB)。他们的任务是协商金融救助希腊的条件和条款。几个月后,所谓的“三驾马车”前往爱尔兰,然后到葡萄牙,再到塞浦路斯。

这个努力定会产生广泛的影响。三驾马车的谈判最终成就了史上最大的金融援助计划:IMF和欧洲合作伙伴向希腊提供的贷款数目将达到2,400亿欧元(3,100亿美元),达该国2013年国内生产总值(GDP)的130%——从绝对和相对的角度来说,都比该国曾接受过的贷款数额多。爱尔兰(850亿欧元) 和葡萄牙(780亿欧元)获得的贷款也明显高于IMF通常提供的金额。

此外,这三个机构之间的合作是前所未有的。在1997年至1998年亚洲金融危机期间,7国集团(G7)断然拒绝了日本有关建立亚洲货币基金(Asian Monetary Fund)的提议。现在IMF甚至接受了少数放款人的角色,在欧洲稳定机制(ESM)——被视为欧洲货币基金组织胚胎——的支持下运作。

援助计划的大小通常被看作欧洲在IMF内部影响力的见证。然而,也许欧洲受到了援助计划的限制。

在货币联盟中,经济调整通常比在拥有本国货币的国家中慢,因为即使是非常灵活的经济体,价格变化也比汇率变化缓慢。因此产生相同的结果需要更多的时间,也会使国家重症监护的时间更长,成本更高。

三年后,结果最多是喜忧参半。失业率增长远远超过预期,社会困难显而易见。有一个亮点:爱尔兰将从异常严重的金融危机中恢复。但还有一个暗点:自2009年以来,希腊的GDP缩水了20%,公共债务/ GDP比率高于援助计划启动时的预期。这并不是因为缺乏财政整顿。相反,在这方面,希腊当局所做的超过了计划的。但由于GDP崩溃意味着债务比率上升,该国或将陷入削减开支的恶性循环之中。

三驾马车能做得更好吗?这不是在现有货币条件下——央行十分关注价格稳定的货币联盟——能做到的。但欧洲官员应对危机时的犹豫不决将增加困难的程度。有关援助条款和条件的争论及过高的官方贷款利率使本已处于困境中的国家付出了惨重的代价。

此外,三驾马车犯了3个错误。首先,希腊债务削减延期太久。许多债权人都在要求到期偿付。

第二,三驾马车将项目基于过于乐观的假设。它错误地判断了财政整顿和信贷约束的后果,低估了就业收缩,高估了出口和私有化收入。

最后,与90年代末亚洲金融危机不同,三驾马车一个接一个的处理各国的问题。因此,它并没有对跨境溢出效应和欧元区状况的恶化给予足够的关注。

三驾马车应该存活下来吗?三个参与机构有不同的要求,不同的角色。他们起初通力合作也许是不可避免的,但人们现在有理由怀疑这种方法。

操作上和经济上,IMF在欧洲的参与度超过了其全球股东公认的可持续程度。它应该成为催化放款人——继续参与欧元区计划,但不是必不可少的组成部分。

欧洲央行同样处在尴尬的位置上,但原因不同。作为欧元区的中央银行,而非贷款机构,它在谈判中并未明确代表债权人的利益。如果它仍然在三驾马车中,它的参与应该主要是无声的。

欧洲应该将ESM变成能够提供政策评估和建议及金融援助的欧洲货币基金(European Monetary Fund)——可以利用欧洲委员会的工作人员。

除了对欧洲的具体影响,三驾马车的实验回答了对世界其他地区较为重要的一个问题:IMF能配合区域性机构吗?答案是肯定的,但不容易。三驾马车是有用的,没有IMF的参与和支持,欧洲在向欧元区国家提供援助时将很痛苦。但合作是困难的,因为每个参与机构都有自己的规则和约束,不容易与他人协调。

Europe’s Troika Should Grow Up

2013-05-29 14:28

In early 2010, a group of men (and a few women) in dark suits landed in Athens. They belonged to a global institution, the International Monetary Fund, and to a pair of regional ones, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. Their mission was to negotiate the terms and conditions of a financial bailout of Greece. A few months later, what became known as the “troika” was dispatched to Ireland, then to Portugal, and later to Cyprus.

This endeavor was bound to have wide implications. The troika negotiated what ended up being the largest financial assistance packages ever: loans to Greece from the IMF and European partners are set to reach €240 billion ($310 billion), or 130% of the country’s 2013 GDP – far more in both absolute and relative terms than any country has ever received. Loans to Ireland (€85 billion) and Portugal (€78 billion) are also significantly bigger than those usually provided by the IMF.

Moreover, cooperation between the three institutions is unprecedented. Back in 1997-1998, during the Asian crisis, the G-7 flatly rejected Japan’s proposal for an Asian Monetary Fund. Now the IMF has even accepted a minority-lender role, with the bulk of assistance coming from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a new institution often viewed as an embryonic European Monetary Fund.

It is frequently argued that the size of the assistance packages is a testament to Europe’s clout within the IMF. Perhaps, but the packages are, first and foremost, a consequence of the constraints to which Europeans were (and still are) subject.

Economic adjustment is necessarily slower within a monetary union than it is for countries with their own currency, because, even for very flexible economies, prices change more slowly than the exchange rate. Delivering the same result therefore takes more time, and requires keeping countries in intensive care for longer – and at higher cost.

Three years later, the results are mixed at best. Unemployment has increased much more than anticipated and social hardship is unmistakable. There is one bright spot: Ireland, which is set to recover from an exceptionally severe financial crisis. But there is also a dark spot: Greece, where GDP has shrunk by 20% since 2009 and where the public debt/GDP ratio is now higher than anticipated at the launch of the program. This is not because of a lack of fiscal consolidation. On the contrary, the Greek authorities have done more than planned on this front. But the collapse of GDP has necessarily implied a rising debt ratio, driving the country into a recessionary spiral as economic contraction forces further spending cuts.

Could the troika have done better? It was not responsible for existing monetary conditions – a currency union with a central bank focused on price stability. But European officials’ hesitant response to the crisis added to the difficulty. Prolonged controversies over the terms and conditions of assistance and the absurdly high interest rate initially set on official loans exacted a heavy toll on countries already under stress.

Furthermore, the troika made three mistakes. First, Greek debt reduction was postponed for too long. oo many creditors were reimbursed at par on their maturing claims.

Second, the troika based its programs on overly optimistic assumptions. It misjudged the consequences of fiscal consolidation and credit constraints, underestimating the contraction of employment and overestimating exports and privatization receipts.

Finally, not unlike what happened during the Asian crisis in the late 1990’s, the troika took country cases one by one. As a result, it did not pay enough attention to cross-country spillovers and deteriorating conditions in the wider eurozone.

Should the troika survive? Its three participating institutions have different mandates and different roles. It was perhaps inevitable that initially they worked jointly; but there is reason to question such an approach now.

Operationally and financially, the IMF has become much more involved in Europe than its global shareholders deem sustainable. It should become a catalytic lender whose participation in eurozone programs remains desirable but not indispensable.

The ECB is in an odd position as well, but for different reasons. As the eurozone’s central bank, rather than a lending institution, it does not have a clear role in negotiations on behalf of creditors. If it remains in the troika, its participation should be mostly silent.

Finally, Europe should transform the ESM into a European Monetary Fund capable of providing policy assessment and advice, as well as financial assistance – possibly drawing on European Commission staff.

Beyond European specifics, the troika experiment answers a question of major importance to other parts of the world: Can the IMF cooperate with regional institutions? The answer is yes – but not easily. The troika has proved functional, and Europe would have been at pains to provide conditional assistance to eurozone countries without the IMF’s participation and support. But cooperation has proved to be difficult, if only because each participating institution has rules and constraints that are not easy to reconcile with the others’.

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