Variacioncompensada's Blog

El problema de los países acreedores | noviembre 2, 2011

R. Fischer

El Financial Times de hoy realmente vale la pena. Tiene un clarísimo artículo de Martin Wolf que muestra que la solución a los problemas de los países europeos con déficit (o de los Estados Unidos) necesariamente pasa por que los países con superávit comiencen a consumir más. (También he escrito sobre esto, aquí, y en otros posteos que no puedo encontrar en este blog). Voy a citar el artículo más de lo que hago habitualmente, porque me parece tan clara la forma de exponer el problema.

“Blessed are the creditors, for they shall inherit the earth. This is not in the Sermon on the Mount. Yet creditors believe it: if everybody were a creditor, we would have no unpaid debts and financial crises. That, creditors believe, is the way to behave. They are mistaken. Since the world cannot trade with Mars, creditors are joined at the hip to the debtors. The former must accumulate claims on the latter. This puts them in a trap of their own making.

Three of the world’s four largest economies – China, Germany and Japan – are creditors: they run current account surpluses, in good and in bad times (see charts). They believe they are entitled to lecture debtors on their follies. China, an ascendant superpower, enjoys berating the US for its imprudence. Japan, a US ally, is more discreet. Germany’s ambitions are closer to home. It wishes to turn its eurozone partners into good Germans, instead.”

No es posible que todos los países se comporten como los alemanes y tengan superávits:

. “Germany states that it is all the fault of bad fiscal policies: correct those and bind fiscal policy for all time; the virtuous will then inherit the earth.”

[…]

“Germany wants both to minimise the financing and continue to run huge external surpluses. This cannot work. Some will argue that Germany adjusted into surplus in the 2000s. Why can’t its partners do so now? Germany moved into surplus with countries that willingly ran deficits. But Germany does not want to run deficits. Given that, its partners cannot run surpluses, unless they do so with the world. That would be possible only after a huge weakening of the euro or depressions in weaker countries. The latter would ensure waves of sovereign and bank defaults and the end of the eurozone. Such one-sided adjustment will surely fail.”

Según Wolf, los europeos creen que los chinos podrían ayudar, pero están equivocados:

“After all, China already runs its own risk of massive losses on the currency reserves – now worth $3,200bn – it has accumulated. That was a public capital outflow aimed at supporting its trade surpluses. But, in its attempts at managing the currency relationship with the US, it is the latter that controls the central bank. China can huff and puff. But it must either buy the money the US creates, to preserve competitiveness, or stop doing so. If it buys, it throws good money after bad. If it stops buying, it imposes a shock on itself.”

Wolf concluye que:

“Do creditors rule the world? Not really. In the short run, they can threaten to turn off the credit. But their surpluses depend on the willingness and ability of others to run deficits. It would be more sensible to admit that there has been too much borrowing by the profligate because there was too much lending by the supposedly prudent. Once it is understood that both are at fault, both must adjust. Imposing one-sided adjustment on erstwhile debtors will not work. As little Greece seems about to prove, debtors are able to inflict a great deal of damage on everybody – as the US discovered in the Great Depression.”

Creo que Wolf tiene toda la razón, aunque aún se queda corto en un sentido. Debido al cambio demográfico, hay un exceso de ahorrantes (personas en la edad en que se ahorra) en el mundo. Como no hay suficiente demanda de inversiones (porque hay relativamente menos jóvenes que antes), las tasas de retorno tenderán a caer. Para protegerse, las personas en edad de ahorrar reducirán su consumo, y en general obtendrán retornos muy bajos a sus ahorros, si es que obtienen un retorno positivo, esto, por supuesto, en el largo plazo. Los alemanes están experimentando una forma de ese problema con sus préstamos a los demás países de Europa.

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