Friday, October 31, 2014
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Plombés par le poids de la dette

LONDRES - Presque quatre ans après le début de la crise financière mondiale, beaucoup se demandent pourquoi la reprise économique prend autant de temps. En effet, sa lenteur a confondu même les experts.& Selon le Fonds Monétaire International, l'économie mondiale devrait s'être développée de 4,4% en 2011, et devrait se développer de 4,5% en 2012. En fait, les derniers chiffres de la Banque mondiale indiquent que la croissance a tout juste atteint 2,7% en 2011 et ralentira cette année à 2,5% - un chiffre qu'il faudra peut-être revoir à la baisse.

Il y a deux raisons possibles à l'écart entre les prévisions et les résultats. Soit les dommages provoqués par la crise financière étaient plus sérieux qu'on ne s'en est d'abord rendu compte, soit le traitement économique prescrit a été moins efficace que l'ont cru les décisionnaires.

En fait, on a rapidement compris la gravité de la crise bancaire. Des mesures de stimulation énormes ont été mises en application en 2008-09, menées par les États-Unis et la Chine, coordonnées par la Grande-Bretagne, avec l'appui réticent de l'Allemagne. Il y a eu des réductions des taux d'intérêt, des sauvetages des banques insolvables, une remise en service des planches à billets, des réductions d'impôts et des augmentations des dépenses publiques. Quelques pays ont dévalué leur devise.

En conséquence, le dérapage a été stoppé et la relance a été plus rapide que celle à laquelle les prévisionnistes s'attendaient. Mais les mesures de stimulation ont transformé une crise bancaire en crise financière de la dette souveraine. À partir de 2010 et au-delà, les gouvernements ont commencé à augmenter les impôts et à diminuer les dépenses en réponse aux craintes croissantes de défaillance de l’emprunteur souverain. À ce point, la reprise s'est inversée.

Comme l'indiquent Carmen Reinhart et Kenneth Rogoff dans leur livre magistral This Time is Different, il n'existe aucune méthode sûre pour court-circuiter une crise bancaire profonde. La crise commence avec «& la contraction d'une dette excessive & », qui rend des économies «& vulnérables aux crises de la confiance& ». Les banques commerciales doivent être sauvées par les gouvernements ; les gouvernements doivent alors être renfloués par les banques commerciales. En fin de compte, les banques commerciales et les gouvernements doivent être renfloués conjointement par les banques centrales.

Tout ceci implique selon Reinhart et Rogoff, «& un ralentissement prolongé et prononcé de l'activité économique& ». Ils estiment que la longueur moyenne des crises d'après-guerre a été de 4,4 ans - le temps nécessaire pour que le «& désendettement & » se produise - après quoi arrivent la fin de la crise de confiance et le rétablissement de la croissance économique.

Cependant, il manque une pièce à ce tableau. La reprise de la Grande Dépression a pris environ 10 ans, soit deux fois plus que la moyenne d'après-guerre. Reinhart et Rogoff proposent quelques explications à la différence des taux de reprise : la lente réponse politique à la Grande Dépression et l'étalon or, qui ont signifié que les différents pays ne pourraient pas sortir de la dépression grâce à leurs exportations. En d'autres termes, la politique financière et le régime de politique monétaire ont une influence décisive à la fois sur la profondeur de l'effondrement et sur la durée préalable à une reprise économique.

Il est également important de noter que les grands effondrements financiers se sont produits à nouveau dans les années 1970, après avoir été pratiquement absents dans les années 1950 et 1960, quand le système keynésien des économies dirigées et le système des taux de change dirigés de Bretton Woods étaient en vigueur. Les principales crises d'après-guerre prises en compte par Reinhart et Rogoff s'étendent de 1977 à 2001. Elles se sont produites parce que le règlement des banques et les contrôles des mouvements de capitaux ont été allégés ; elles étaient plus courtes que dans les années 1930 parce que les réponses politiques n'étaient pas idiotes.

Le Président indonésien Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a souligné ce point ce mois-ci, en vantant devant le Premier Ministre britannique David Cameron le plan de rétablissement réussi de l'Indonésie après l'effondrement de 1998, inspiré par John Maynard Keynes. «& Nous devons nous assurer que le peuple peut acheter ; nous devons nous assurer que les industries peuvent produire…& »

Aujourd'hui, beaucoup de gouvernements, particulièrement dans la zone euro, semblent avoir manqué de possibilités d'action.& Avec l'austérité fiscale qui a fait fureur, ils ont négligé de s'assurer que les «& gens peuvent acheter& » et que les «& industries peuvent produire& ». Des banques centrales ont été désignées pour remettre les économies à flot, mais la plupart des devises qu'elles impriment restent coincées dans le système bancaire, incapables d'arrêter la stagnation de la consommation et la chute des investissements.

En outre, la zone euro elle-même est un mini-étalon or, avec des membres fortement endettés incapables de dévaluer leur devise, parce qu'ils n'ont aucune devise à dévaluer. Ainsi, étant donné que la croissance chinoise elle aussi ralentit, l'économie mondiale semble destinée à draguer le fond pendant un certain temps encore, avec un chômage en augmentation dans quelques pays à 20% ou davantage.

Avec les politiques financières, monétaires et de taux d'intérêts bloquées, existe-t-il une issue possible à la récession prolongée ? John Geanakoplos de l'Université de Yale avait plaidé pour de grandes radiations de dette. Plutôt que d'attendre pour se débarrasser de la dette par des faillites, les gouvernements devraient «& exiger l'annulation de la dette& ». Ils pourraient acheter de mauvais prêts aux bailleurs de fonds et accorder une remise partielle du capital payable par des emprunteurs, en réduisant simultanément les exigences de garantie supplémentaires des bailleurs de fonds et le surendettement des emprunteurs. Aux États-Unis, le programme Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) et le Programme d'Investissement Public-Privé (PPIP) étaient en effet des arrangements de remise de dette visant les détenteurs de prêts hypothécaires à risque, mais à trop petite échelle.

Mais le principe de la remise de dette a aussi de claires implications dans la dette publique, particulièrement dans la zone euro. Ceux qui craignent une dette publique excessive sont les banques qui la détiennent. Pour les banques, les obligations d'État ne sont pas plus sûres que les obligations privées à haut risque. Les prêteurs et les emprunteurs s'en sortiraient mieux par une annulation globale de la dette. Tout comme les citoyens dont les moyens d'existence sont détruits par les tentatives de désendettement désespérées des gouvernements.

D'un point de vue philosophique, l'approche de la remise de dette repose sur la croyance que les créanciers partagent la culpabilité des défaillances avec les débiteurs, puisqu'ils ont d'abord contracté les mauvais prêts. Tant que l'emprunteur n'a pas trompé le bailleur au moment de contracter le prêt, le bailleur endosse au moins une certaine responsabilité dans la transaction.

En 1918, Keynes a vivement conseillé l’annulation des dettes interalliées résultant de la Première Guerre Mondiale. «& Nous ne pourrons plus jamais bouger, à moins de libérer nos membres de ces chaînes de papier& », écrivait-il. Et en 1923, son appel est devenu un avertissement que les décisionnaires d'aujourd'hui feraient bien d'observer : «& Les absolutistes du contrat… sont les vrais parents de la révolution.& »

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  1. CommentedGary Marshall

    By the way, here is a solution to the Greek problem. If anyone can find the flaw, I shall be more than happy to give him or her $50,000. I am just tired of doing this.

    ####

    The costs of borrowing for a nation to fund public expenditures, if it borrows solely from its resident citizens and in the nation's currency, is nil.

    Why? Because if, in adding a financial debt to a community, one adds an equivalent financial asset, the aggregate finances of the community will not in any way be altered. This is simple reasoning confirmed by
    simple arithmetic.

    The community is the source of the government's funds. The government taxes the community to pay for public services provided by the government.

    Cost of public services is $10 million.

    Scenario 1: The government taxes $10 million.

    Community finances: minus $10 million from community bank accounts for government expenditures.
    No community government debt, no community
    government IOU.

    Scenario 2: The government borrows $10 million from solely community lenders at a certain interest rate.

    Community finances: minus $10 million from community bank accounts for government expenditures.
    Community government debt: $10 million;
    Community government bond: $10 million.

    At x years in the future: the asset held by the community (lenders) will be $10 million + y interest. The deferred liability claimed against the community (taxpayers) will be $10 million + y interest.

    The value of all community government debts when combined with all community government IOUs or bonds is zero for the community. It is the same $0 combined worth whether the community pays its taxes immediately or never pays them at all.

    So if a community borrows from its own citizens to fund worthy public expenditures rather than taxes those citizens, it will not alter the aggregate finances of the community or the wealth of the community any
    more than taxation would have. Adding a financial debt and an equivalent financial asset to a community will cause the elimination of both when summed.

    Whatever financial benefit taxation possesses is nullified by the fact that borrowing instead of taxation places no greater financial burden on the community.

    However, the costs of Taxation are immense. By ridding the nation of Taxation and instituting borrowing to fund public expenditures, the nation will shed all those costs of Taxation for the negligible fee of borrowing in the financial markets and the administration of public
    debt.

    Regards,
    Gary Marshall

  2. CommentedGary Marshall

    Hello Robert,

    How about a third option. All that increased government expenditure and borrowing doesn't work. How about that one?

    People to buy and industries to produce is the aim. The means so far have failed. How about tax cuts, for individuals and businesses. Wouldn't that do the trick? Businesses will have more money and incentive with which to invest. Individuals will have more money with which to save, retire debt, invest, and consume.

    GM

  3. CommentedJohn Doe

    It will do no good to cancel debts until the Euro is ended. As long as " the eurozone itself is a mini-gold standard," nothing can be done.

    One has to understand that the present crisis came about because of the deflationary pressures of this "gold standard," which in effect and operation has been no different than when everyone returned to the Gold Standard after WWI.

    End the Euro and the problem will solve itself

  4. CommentedJonathan Lam

    Gamesmith94134: Down with debt weight
    At first, I would doubt that excessive debt accumulation which makes economies “vulnerable to crisis of confidence”; crisis of confidence may show more of its external than internal, perhaps, it is only for those purchase of the bonds. In term of the austerity program to shrink its economies, growth is not. As for eradicate debts, it helps the liquidity and sustainability, but it is nothing to the competitiveness or affordability for the debtor nations. Perhaps, it helps to stability of pricing on the durables but the lack of adjustment internally could hurt more in affordability on the populace to strive especially when unemployment is high like 20%, even the cut on repayment of debts can relieve the budgetary constraints to expand job market.
    Since I learned the cycle of growth that complies investment or debit/credit to the sovereignty accountable, adjustments to growth or debt bound to sustainability, modifies through inflation or deflation to yield affordability, then, competitiveness makes each recession to adjust, depression to modify, reform to correct in order to growth. It sound too conservative as a cycle of business, perhaps, it is just my mindset for my uncomfortableness.
    However, if the economy is not under kind of reform to adjust and the pricing adjustment like deflation, the level of affordability or competitiveness would remain as the hurdle for its populace to jump. Eventually it would suffer high inflation caused by the external elements like oil, and imports; it is just another austerity program by external force, and growth is not within its strength to revive if reform or deflation is not complied.
    I am not sure of the consequence of the “Twist” of the short term to longer term debts after the forgiveness of the debts; since the jump of 20 folds in monetary in the last ten years or the next ten years. I see the 2014 is where the counterforce of the growth if it is not inflationary for the developed nations through their external elements.
    May the Buddha bless you?

  5. CommentedVesa T

    Some thoughts. Firstly, it seems that so called intellectual elite is proposing two solutions for the current debt problems, either through stimulus (more debt) or now through debt-forgiveness. I will now comment only the latter one.

    I have some mortgages left for my house. Who decides whose debt will be forgiven? I’m sure that this debt forgiveness wouldn't help me and others like me; instead there would be some debt forgiveness for the big ones; banks, large investors, countries.

    Further, what would be the lesson for this? Simply, buy assets with too much leverage, and the bigger the better since if you are TBTF, your debts will be forgiven but you can keep the assets.

    In my opinion, if you have overly leveraged and made some bad investments, you ought to be suffered loss and go even bankruptcy. How do we ever learn anything if the lesson is that don't save, instead borrow and gamble.

    I, as a prudent individual, I'm very saddened about these kind of suggestions. I don’t want to be the one whose savings will be used to bail out others reckless behavior.

  6. CommentedJohn Hawkins

    To forgive or not to forgive, that is the question. The answer may be in the Merchant of Venice, a pound of flesh!

    But who`s flesh is the question now, a bankers or a workers?



  7. CommentedAndres Jaime

    Stimulus measures after the crisis just added debt to a problem that began years ago... it was just the straw that broke the camel´s back

  8. CommentedJennifer Ruddock

    Is it possible that the forecasts couldn't predict that dampened "animal spirits," as Keynes would say, would have as much of an effect as they are having on growth? Maybe the forecasts are flawed to begin with. It has almost become "fashionable" to talk about how gloomy things are these days...just take a look at the papers.

  9. CommentedJ. C.

    Sarchis, Lucky me that don´t have no "frustations" on this matters so I can post with your approval...

    We are not just talking about property market and greedy bankers here We are talking about emerging markets and other bondholders of such called "developed world". Why should chinese people pay for US excesses for example???

    Contracts are agreements between two parties based available information and trust.. and what if the borrower "lied" to about his numbers...

    If I buy a car and then I´m fired: 1 I give the car back to the bank 2 I make an effort and keep paying, since I gave my word...

    There is no much to understand in Mr. Skidelsky^s article, at the end it´s all about who will pay for the party... because someone will certainly pay for it. And it´s easier for politicians to justify haircuts to bondholders that to tell people to change their ways (and even more if "everybody does it")... but not allways the easy solution is the best solution or the right solution.

      CommentedA. T.

      M.F.,

      Creditors, be they Chinese paying the Americans or whoever else, are on the hook because they freely decided to loan their money to someone, and charged interest for the privilege. With interest being the compensation for bearing the risk of potential default, they can hardly complain when a debtor actually decides to stop paying. No one forced them to do anything – they just figured that giving out a loan would be a nice way to make a profit.

      Economies function best when they function on contracts, not on moral principles. Contracts are shared and explicit while moral principles are fuzzy and vary from person to person. "One's word" is valuable when you are doing a favour for a friend, but not for a market-mediated debt transaction.

  10. CommentedArthur Doohan

    This para' glosses over the issues of the lenders (banks) gaming property markets to drive prices up, of encouraging abnormal gearing by borrowers and of abandoning any pretense of 'fiduciary care' to borrowers and to the depositors....

  11. CommentedSarchis Dolmanian

    This thing called Internet is such a teriffic tool.
    It bridges distances magnificently and enables us to find out what other people think about current developments.
    Unfortunately it is us, the users, that cannot rise to meet the challenges. Maybe we should try harder to understand what others have to say before venting our own frustrations and even more so when the points we want to raise are raisonable.
    Mr. Skidelsky makes a perfectly valid observation when he says that "creditors share culpability for defaults with debtors, since they made the bad loans in the first place". It makes no difference if the creditor was a 'savvy' investment banker in the City or a nice 'old lady that has her savings in sovereign "safe" european....'. They both made loans that turned sour. Even citizens that find their public pension funds being driven into red had made bad investments: they invested too much trust into incapable politicians and very well paid public officials.
    Nowhere in this article has Mr. Skidelsky mentioned debtors being forgiven of their entire debts or keeping 'the spoils' yet people are acusing him of doing so. Some others speak about moral hasard.
    Yet nobody in his right mind would let someone retain ownership of an unpaid house and moral hazard also appears when lenders who squandered resources are kept afloat using tax money, specially so when those tax money are raised in a different country.
    And yes, we should change our ways. But we'd do a better job of it if we start with a clean plate than with one full of recriminations about who did what. History lessons should be well understood so that we wouldn't need to live them a second time but we shouldn't let the past overcome the future.

  12. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    The prescription for increasing moral hazard has one weakness undeniably that we entrench ourselves in a perpetual state of dilemma that frugality and austerity would aggravate that gluttony would have done in any case; the power of global finance which has increased four folds after the crisis would now be as comprehensive as to engulf every aspect of our being. What Paul Myers has written is a new line of thought, one of shared value or sacrifice, but it has seeds of construction that the article has completely missed.
    I am attracted to the movement of funds, both public and private, and I am yet to see a deployment that gives confidence that it is moving to spur demand or create investments in innovation, infrastructure which has long term dividends for the economy. Funds seem to be moving at almost zero interest rate towards creation of the next bubble as stocks near their peak, while buy back arrangements gets the better of their intrinsic value.

    Procyon Mukherjee

  13. CommentedJ. C.

    "creditors share culpability for defaults with debtors..." you mean an old lady that has her savings in sovereign "safe" european debt (or pension funds) shares the culpability of incompetent rulers and bankers??? come on...

  14. CommentedJ. C.

    great idea! lets forgive all the debtors and keep living in a big lie until when?? until the next crisis??... Please...

    so who will lend again once you do that...?? and who will stop borrowers to borrow if they know they will be forgiven the next time...?? you are prescribing a medicine based on the assumtion that people is stupid...

  15. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    I honestly find the article scary.
    It completely ignores the main problem.
    We have in front us a terribly overweight patient, so obese from the excessive eating and drinking that he cannot live much longer.
    What is the modern day solution? Let him have stomach reducing surgery, thus he can lose the extra weight dramatically, but then as a result he could continue the same excessive eating and drinking. What will be the result?
    Why do not we think why we got in the debt accumulation in the first place?
    We get the answer in the article itself: “We must ensure that the people can buy; we must ensure that industries can produce…”
    We are under this mass hypnosis that people have to keep buying, the industry has to keep producing...
    But we are producing and consuming over 90% unnecessary, useless, harmful goods, simply in order to make profit for a handful or people, people have to keep buying on credit since they have no means to buy, and most importantly they would not even buy if they would not be tricked into consuming by receiving artificial desires from a very sophisticated, scientific marketing machinery which works better than the "Matrix" in the movie.
    The solution for all our problem lies in tackling the root problem, our present attitude and lifestyle, and not in any other superficial adjustment on economical or financial level.
    The global crisis is providing us with day to day objective data on this, we are not in a crisis or recession, our whole system failed.
    We have to be brave enough to make the changes where they count, and free ourselves from the slavery of excessive consumerism.

  16. CommentedPaul A. Myers

    One way to deleverage is to convert debt to equity. That works on both sides of the fraction.

    So, besides debt cancellation, policy makers should consider debt conversion. Debts should be converted into preference and common shares in such a way as to also attract fresh capital to new enterprises.

    So a central European investment authority, which could issue new bonds, could make investments alongside the conversion of existing bonds into an overall equity investment. German banks could even out their portfolio of Spanish investments from way too many Spanish bonds to a balanced portfolio of bonds and preference and common share investments.

    Northern European countries need to have equity investments in Southern Europe that will return a stream of dividends over time. In the process of negotiating these, efforts can be made to improve overall economic productivity in Southern European and other European economies. Investment tends to flow towards improving productivity.

    This process has the virtue of spending money to get to somewhere better--the missing virtue in austerity economics.

  17. CommentedPiotr Aleksandrowicz

    Sir. Great idea of debt cancellation. But there is one small problem. I am a little conservative and I have never borrowed money (I hate credit), so I live in small and old one bedroom flat. Many of my friends live in modern mortgaged houses. After cancellation nothing will change. I will live in my small flat, they in their homes. Oh, there will be small change. I will lose probably some savings in my bank beacuse it will not collect my money from its debtors.Really great idea.

      CommentedOnanist Misanthrope

      Piotr Aleksandrowicz you have a point. I think the idea (which seems similar to Professor Steve Keen's "debt jubilee") is to reward the savers equally. ie if they are given $100K and MUST pay down debt, you are given $100K to do with as you wish.

  18. CommentedChris Cowsley

    The second reason - ineffective medicine prescribed - can in turn be for two reasons. In this case, the wrong therapists prevailed, and only the secondary "recuperative" medicine was prescribed. The medicine package prescribed by Alpert, Hockett & Roubini included reparative and restorative elements we have yet to deploy.

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