Friday, October 24, 2014
20

Die Linderung der Schuldenlast

LONDON – Fast vier Jahre nach dem Ausbruch der weltweiten Finanzkrise fragen sich viele, warum die wirtschaftliche Erholung so lange dauert. Selbst Experten zeigen sich angesichts des schleppenden Aufschwungs verblüfft. Dem Internationalen Währungsfonds zufolge hätte die Weltwirtschaft im Jahr 2011 um 4,4% wachsen sollen, für das Jahr 2012 rechnet er mit 4,5%. Den jüngsten Zahlen der Weltbank zufolge hat das Wachstum im Jahr 2011 tatsächlich lediglich 2,7% erreicht und wird in diesem Jahr voraussichtlich nur noch 2,5% betragen – wobei gut möglich ist, dass diese Zahl nach unten revidiert werden muss.

Es gibt zwei mögliche Gründe für die Diskrepanz zwischen Prognose und Ergebnis. Entweder hat die Finanzkrise schwerwiegendere Schäden angerichtet, als gemeinhin erkannt worden ist, oder die Medizin, die der Wirtschaft verabreicht wurde, war weniger wirksam als politische Entscheidungsträger angenommen haben.

Eigentlich ist der Ernst der Bankenkrise schnell erkannt worden. In den Jahren 2008-9 sind gigantische Konjunkturpakete aufgelegt worden, angeführt von den Vereinigten Staaten und China, koordiniert von Großbritannien und mit der zögerlichen Unterstützung Deutschlands. Die Zinssätze wurden drastisch gesenkt, insolvente Banken gerettet, die Druckerpressen angeworfen, Steuern gesenkt und die Staatsausgaben erhöht. Einige Länder werteten ihre Währungen ab.

Infolgedessen wurde die Talfahrt aufgehalten und die Erholung setzte schneller ein als Wirtschaftsprognostiker erwartet hatten. Doch die Konjunkturmaßnahmen verwandelten eine Bankenkrise in eine Finanz- und Staatsschuldenkrise. Als Reaktion auf die wachsende Angst vor einem Staatsbankrott, begannen Regierungen ab 2010 die Steuern zu erhöhen und die Ausgaben zu senken. An diesem Punkt legte die Erholung den Rückwärtsgang ein.

Wie Carmen Reinhart und Kenneth Rogoff in ihrem meisterhaften Buch Dieses Mal ist alles anders schildern, gibt es keinen sicheren Weg, eine tiefe Bankenkrise zu umgehen. Die Krise hat ihren Ursprung in einer „exzessiven Anhäufung von Schulden“, die Volkswirtschaften „anfällig für Vertrauenskrisen“ werden lässt. Geschäftsbanken müssen von Regierungen gerettet werden; anschließend müssen Regierungen von Geschäftsbanken gerettet werden. Letzten Endes müssen beide von Zentralbanken gerettet werden.

Reinhart und Rogoff zufolge geht all das mit einem „langwierigen und ausgeprägten Rückgang der Wirtschaftstätigkeit“ einher. Sie veranschlagen die durchschnittliche Dauer von Krisen der Nachkriegszeit mit 4,4 Jahren – die Zeit, bis es zum notwendigen Abbau der Fremdkapitalfinanzierung kommt, dem so genannten „Deleveraging“. Danach ist die Vertrauenskrise vorbei und das Wirtschaftswachstum erholt sich.

Die Schilderung ist damit allerdings noch nicht vollständig. Die Erholung von der Weltwirtschaftskrise hat etwa zehn Jahre gedauert, mehr als doppelt so lange wie im Nachkriegsdurchschnitt. Reinhart und Rogoff geben mehrere Gründe für die unterschiedliche Dauer des Erholungsprozesses an: Die langsame politische Reaktion auf die Weltwirtschaftskrise und den Goldstandard, der bedeutete, dass einzelne Länder sich nicht mithilfe von Exporten aus der Krise herauswirtschaften konnten. Anders gesagt, haben Fiskalpolitik und geldpolitische Rahmenbedingungen entscheidenden Einfluss sowohl auf die Tiefe des Zusammenbruchs, als auch auf die Dauer bis zur wirtschaftlichen Erholung.

Ebenfalls von Bedeutung ist, dass es in den 1970er-Jahren erneut zu großen finanziellen Zusammenbrüchen kam, nachdem es diese in den 1950er- und 1960er-Jahren, als das keynesianische System einer staatlich gesteuerten Gesamtwirtschaft und das Bretton-Woods-System fester Wechselkurse eingeführt worden waren, praktisch nicht gegeben hat. Die großen Krisen der Nachkriegszeit, die Reinhart und Rogoff untersuchen, fallen in die Zeit von 1977 bis 2001. Diese sind aufgetreten, weil die Regulierung von Banken und Beschränkungen des Kapitalverkehrs aufgehoben wurden. Diese Krisen waren kürzer als in den 1930er-Jahren, da die politischen Maßnahmen nicht idiotisch waren.

Anfang dieses Monats wurde dieser Umstand vom indonesischen Präsidenten Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono nachdrücklich betont, der sich gegenüber dem britischen Premierminister David Cameron rühmte, dass der erfolgreiche Sanierungsplan Indonesiens nach dem Zusammenbruch von 1998 von John Maynard Keynes inspiriert gewesen sei. „Wir müssen dafür sorgen, dass die Menschen kaufen können; wir müssen dafür sorgen, dass die Industrien produzieren können…“

Heutzutage sind vielen Regierungen, vor allem in der Eurozone, offenbar die politischen Optionen ausgegangen. Da Sparmaßnahmen groß in Mode sind, haben sie es aufgegeben dafür zu sorgen, dass die „Menschen kaufen können“ und „Industrien produzieren können“. Die Aufgabe, die Volkswirtschaften über Wasser zu halten wurde an Zentralbanken abgetreten, doch das meiste Geld, das diese drucken, bleibt im Bankensystem stecken und kann stagnierenden Konsum und sinkende Investitionen nicht aufhalten.

Hinzukommt, dass die Eurozone selbst ein Mini-Goldstandard ist und hoch verschuldete Mitgliedsländer außerstande sind, ihre Währungen abzuwerten, weil sie keine Währungen haben, die sie abwerten könnten. Angesichts der Tatsache, dass sich auch das chinesische Wachstum verlangsamt, scheint die Weltwirtschaft dazu verurteilt, sich noch einige Zeit lang durch das Konjunkturtief zu schleppen und in einigen Ländern einen Anstieg der Arbeitslosigkeit auf 20% oder mehr zu erleben.

Gibt es einen Ausweg aus einer lang anhaltenden Rezession, wenn die Fiskal-, die Geld- und Wechselkurspolitik blockiert sind? John Geanakoplos von der Universität Yale plädiert für umfangreiche Schuldenerlasse. Anstatt darauf zu warten, die Schulden durch Bankrotte loszuwerden, sollten Regierungen „Schuldenerlasse anordnen“. Sie könnten Kreditgebern faule Kredite abkaufen und Kreditnehmern einen Teil der fälligen Kreditsumme erlassen und somit gleichzeitig die Deckungsanforderungen der Kreditgeber und den Schuldenüberhang der Kreditnehmer reduzieren. Die US-amerikanische Kreditfazilität Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) und das öffentlich-private Investitionsprogramm Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP) waren faktisch an Subprime-Hypothekenschuldner gerichtete Schuldenerlassprogramme, allerdings in zu geringem Umfang.

Das Prinzip Schuldenerlass lässt sich eindeutig auch im Bereich der Verschuldung öffentlicher Haushalte anwenden, besonders in der Eurozone. Diejenigen, die eine Überschuldung der öffentlichen Haushalte fürchten, sind die Banken, die Staatsanleihen halten. Schrott-Staatsanleihen sind für Banken auch nicht sicherer als Schrottanleihen des privaten Sektors. Sowohl Kreditgeber als auch Schuldner wären mit einem umfassenden Schuldenerlass besser gestellt. So auch die Bürger, deren Lebensgrundlagen durch die verzweifelten Versuche der Regierungen ihre Schulden abzubauen zerstört werden.

Philosophisch betrachtet beruht der Schuldenerlass-Ansatz auf der Überzeugung, dass Gläubiger die Schuld für Zahlungsausfälle mit den Schuldnern teilen, da sie es waren, die die faulen Kredite überhaupt vergeben haben. Sofern der Kreditnehmer den Kreditgeber zum Zeitpunkt der Kreditaufnahme nicht getäuscht hat, trägt der Kreditgeber zumindest teilweise Verantwortung für die Transaktion.

Im Jahr 1918 drängte Keynes auf den Erlass der interalliierten Kriegsschulden, die im Ersten Weltkrieg aufgelaufen waren. „Wenn es uns nicht gelingt, unsere Glieder von diesen Fesseln aus Papier zu befreien, werden wir uns nie wieder bewegen können.“ Und im Jahr 1923 wurde seine Aufforderung zu einer Warnung, die die politischen Entscheidungsträger von heute besser beherzigen sollten: „Die Fanatiker der Vertragsheiligkeit…sind die wirklichen Väter der Revolution.“

Aus dem Englischen von Sandra Pontow.

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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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