Thursday, September 18, 2014
4

恢复力投资不足

纽约—上周美国东海岸的飓风(我在下曼哈顿也经历了)是又一次极端天气事件,我们必须从中吸取教训。气候专家早就指出,这类事件的频度和强度走在增加,这一迹象显然会影响到预防步骤,并让我们定期检查这些步骤。

灾难准备包括两大不同的关键部分。其一是快速而有效的响应。毫不奇怪,这一点引起了人们最多的注意。这种能力永远是必须具备的,其重要性毋庸置疑。如果响应能力缺乏或不足,则可能导致可怕的生命和生活损失——2005年摧毁海地和新奥尔良的卡特里娜飓风就是明证。

其二是最小化经济的破坏期望的投资。这一方面的准备通常所受关注甚少。

事实上,在美国,卡特里娜飓风的教训似乎增强了响应能力——飓风桑迪过境后的快速而高效的干预就是明证。但旨在控制破坏程度的投资似乎一直被忽略了。

修正这一失衡需要关注关键基础设施。当然,你不可能以有限的成本防止所有灾害造成的可能破坏,因为灾害袭击是随机的,受害地是不可预测的。但某些灾难具有很大的放大作用。

这其中包括对组成现代经济运行平台的电网、信息、通信和交通网络等关键系统的灾难。只要对恢复能力、充足性和这些系统的完整性稍作投资,就能获得极高的回报,即使灾难的时间间隔是随机的。其中,充足性是关键。

纽约市的例子是很好的证明。曼哈顿南部断电几乎一整周,这显然是因为位于东河(East River)边上的电网主变电站在飓风桑迪和潮涌导致河水漫堤时被毁所致。该地区没有预先建设好输送电力的第二方案和路线。

这场大断电的成本难以计算,但肯定小不了。与重建被毁有形资产的重建支出会提振经济不同,这场断电的成本属于无谓损失。当地断电或许是不可避免的,但若以充足性为原则,本可以建设不至于如此脆弱的电网——或者说不至于导致如此大范围经济陷入停滞的电网。

2011年日本东北部的地震和海啸之后,全球供应链也给我们以类似教训。全球供应链现在已变得更具弹性,因为我们对可能拖垮更大体系的瓶颈做了复制。

碳安全专家的担心是正确的:袭击电力、通信和交通网络的控制系统并使之瘫痪可能导致整个经济陷入停顿。诚然,自然灾害的影响不那么具有系统性;但如果一场灾害袭击了缺少充足性和后援的网络的关键部分,将造成类似影响。即使是快速反应,如果关键网络和系统——特别是电网——恢复力强的话也将更为有效。

为什么我们总是对经济的关键系统的恢复力投资不足?

一种论点是充足性在平常时候与浪费无异,成本-效益分析抑制了高投资。这显然是错误的:很多专家的估计表明,除非你给破坏性事件分配低得不现实的概率,否则内嵌充足性就有利可图。

这引出了第二种、也是更具说服力的解释,这种解释从心理和行为入手。我们有低估投资界所谓的“左尾事件”的概率和后果的倾向。

让这种模式雪上加霜的是不良激励。委托人(投资者或选民)决定了代理人(资产管理人或当选官员和决策者)的激励。如果委托人对系统风险理解错误,则其代理人即使理解系统风险,可能也无法在没有支持的情况下做出响应(不管是选举情形还是资产管理情形)。

另一个理由是严重依赖连续性的企业——比如医院、印度外包公司和证券交易所——会投资建设自身的支持系统。实际中确实如此。但这忽略了可移动性、安全性以及员工安置等一系列问题。恢复力基础设施投资不足导致的大规模自我保险模式是低效的、远为劣等的次优选择。

基础设施的投资不足(包括维修不力)在后果不确定和/或不紧迫的情形特别严重。在现实中,债务融资的投资不足和投资充足从某个关键角度看是等价的:它们都把成本转嫁给了后来者。但由于无谓损失的存在,即便是债务融资也比完全不投资要好。

渴望成为全国或全球金融和经济体系枢纽和关键部分的城市和国家必须是可预测、可靠、恢复力强的。这意味着透明的法治以及胜任、保守、反周期的宏观经济管理。但这也意味着有形资产的恢复能力和抵抗冲击的能力。

缺少恢复力的枢纽在失灵时会造成大量附带伤害。随着时间的推移,它们将失去枢纽地位,被更具恢复力者取代。

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  1. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    Under-investment in resilient infrastructure that tends to defer costs to the future, is an inherent problem, not just due to lack of incentives, but because very few understand the concept of depreciation in physical infrastructure till the point is reached when investment must be made several times the physical depreciation in assets; Michael is so right when he talks about self-insurance and the bloated faith in it, the malaise that plagues many institutions, countries and administration who live in the short term world view.

    Procyon Mukherjee

  2. CommentedRichard Potter

    Why should taxpayers have to pay one cent in taxes to provide "resilience" to homeowners who never should have built homes on floodplains, barrier islands and oceanfronts in the first place, please? The economics of providing subsidized flood insurance, artificially depressed in price auto and home insurance, seawalls and dikes are just perverse. Like the TBTF banks, such residents enjoy their costly water views while they can, and then pass along the costs of a natural disaster to those of us who can not or will not live in such risky places. Let such homeowners pay the fully-loaded, risk-adjusted costs of their homes, and only then come to me with hands out for "resilience" investments.

  3. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    The article started in a promising way, mentioning the worsening climate events, hinting at human responsibility, also mentioning that besides effective crisis management we also need prevention, and then it just stopped connecting the two together.
    It does not matter what structural preparation humans do, how high walls we build, how deep we bury the electric lines, how the financial markets prepare, unless we actually try to get to the root problem.
    This root problem is humanity's total opposition to nature's system.
    While nature is based on the laws of general balance and homeostasis, when in nature each species is tightly interconnected within themselves and even with other species building a self sustaining and developing chain, human beings within their own species are each other's predators, killing each other, wiping out whole nations, cultures either physically or culturally, psychologically.
    And as a species they apply such a socio-economic system that is all about total exploitation of the human and natural resources around, basically behaving like a cancer within the body of nature.
    By the way latest research shows that even cancer cells have very sophisticated communication system with each other, so at least the cancer within itself is well organized and united, while the human cancer even within itself is self destructive, moreover each human being is destroying itself with the harmful lifestyle they pursue.
    In short it does not matter what we build or how we build it until we correct the only problem there is: the inherent self serving, subjective human nature.
    And this is where humans are superior to any other living creature, people are capable of self assessment and self adjustment provided they receive positive motivation to do so.
    The negative motivation is already upon us, either natural catastrophes, or the internal imbalance and explosion within human society is threatening our future.
    The positive motivation should come from an informed, transparent and scientific understanding of the global, fully integrated natural system we exist in and how humanity should adapt to this system in order to survive.

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