Monday, September 1, 2014
11

Invertendo a Renacionalização da Europa

NOVA IORQUE - Longe de diminuir, a crise do euro agravou-se nos últimos meses. O Banco Central Europeu conseguiu atenuar uma crise incipiente do crédito através da operação de refinanciamento de longo prazo (LTRO, na sigla inglesa), que emprestou mais de um bilião de euros aos bancos da zona do euro a uma taxa de 1%. Esta situação trouxe um alívio considerável aos mercados financeiros e a recuperação resultante abafou a ruína subjacente, mas é pouco provável que este efeito dure muito mais tempo.

Os problemas fundamentais não foram resolvidos, na verdade, o fosso entre países credores e devedores continua a aumentar. A crise entrou numa fase que pode ser menos volátil, mas que é potencialmente mais letal.

No início da crise, a ideia de uma ruptura da zona euro era inconcebível: os activos e passivos denominados em moeda comum estavam tão mesclados que uma situação de ruptura conduziria a um colapso incontrolável. Mas, com a evolução da crise, o sistema financeiro da zona euro tem sido progressivamente reorientado de acordo com os moldes nacionais.

Esta tendência tem evoluído nos últimos meses. A LTRO permitiu o envolvimento de bancos espanhóis e italianos numa arbitragem muito rentável e de baixo risco dos títulos dos seus próprios países. E o tratamento preferencial recebido pelo BCE nos seus títulos gregos irá desencorajar outros investidores de deter a dívida soberana. Se esta situação continuar por mais alguns anos, será possível uma ruptura da zona euro sem uma crise – será possível separar o trigo do joio - mas os bancos centrais dos países credores enfrentariam enormes dificuldades para fazer executar as suas cobranças aos bancos centrais dos países devedores.

O Bundesbank tem consciência do perigo. Está agora envolvido numa campanha contra a expansão indefinida do sistema de massa monetária e começou a tomar medidas para limitar as perdas que teriam de suportar no caso de uma ruptura. Esta situação está a criar uma profecia auto-realizável: a partir do momento em que o Bundesbank começar a proteger-se contra uma ruptura, todos terão de fazer o mesmo. Os mercados estão a começar a reflectir esta situação.

O Bundesbank também está a restringir o crédito a nível interno. Esta seria a política correcta, se a Alemanha fosse um país independente, mas os países altamente endividados da zona euro precisam urgentemente de uma procura mais forte por parte da Alemanha para evitar a recessão.

Sem isso, o "pacto fiscal" da zona euro acordado no passado mês de Dezembro, não terá qualquer possibilidade de ser bem-sucedido. Os países altamente endividados não irão implementar as medidas necessárias, ou, se o fizerem, não conseguirão cumprir os seus objectivos, uma vez que a crise no crescimento diminui as receitas orçamentais. De qualquer forma, os rácios da dívida irão subir e os desníveis de competitividade em relação à Alemanha irão aumentar.

Quer o euro permaneça ou não, a Europa enfrenta um longo período de estagnação económica ou algo pior. Outros países já passaram por experiências semelhantes. Os países latino-americanos sofreram uma década perdida após 1982 e o Japão tem estado estagnado há quarto de século; ambos sobreviveram. Mas a União Europeia não é um país e é pouco provável que sobreviva. A armadilha da dívida deflacionária ameaça destruir uma união política ainda incompleta.

A única maneira de escapar à armadilha é reconhecer que as políticas actuais são contraproducentes e mudar o rumo da situação. Não consigo propor um plano pré-estabelecido, mas há três observações que merecem destaque. Em primeiro lugar, as regras que regem a zona euro fracassaram e precisam de uma revisão integral. A defesa de um status quo que é inviável só piora as coisas. Em segundo lugar, a situação actual é altamente irregular e são necessárias algumas medidas excepcionais para restaurar a normalidade. Finalmente, as novas regras devem permitir a instabilidade inerente dos mercados financeiros.

Para ser realista, o actual acordo fiscal que rege a zona euro deve ser considerado como ponto de partida. Naturalmente há alguns defeitos já visíveis que necessitarão ser modificados. Especificamente, o pacto deve incluir as dívidas comerciais, bem como as dívidas financeiras e os orçamentos do governo devem fazer a distinção entre investimentos que pagam e despesas correntes. A fim de evitar a fraude, o que for qualificado como investimento deverá ser sujeito a aprovação por uma autoridade europeia. Um Banco de Investimento Europeu alargado poderia, então, co-financiar os investimentos.

Mais importante ainda, é preciso criar algumas medidas extraordinárias para repor as condições. A carta fiscal da UE obriga os Estados-Membros reduzir anualmente a sua dívida pública por um vigésimo do valor pelo qual excede 60% do PIB. Proponho que os Estados membros recompensem em conjunto o bom comportamento, assumindo essa obrigação.

Os Estados-Membros transferiam os seus direitos senhoriagem para o BCE e este está actualmente a ganhar cerca de 25 mil milhões de euros (32,7 mil milhões de dólares americanos) ao ano. Os direitos de senhoriagem foram calculados por Willem Buiter do Citibank e Huw Pill da Goldman Sachs, trabalhando independentemente, num valor que se situa entre os 2 e os 3 biliões de euros, porquanto irão render mais quando a economia crescer e as taxas de juros voltarem à normalidade. Um veículo de titularização (SPV) que possuísse os direitos poderia usar o BCE para financiar o custo de aquisição dos títulos, sem violar o artigo 123º do Tratado de Lisboa.

Se um país violasse o pacto fiscal, perderia total ou parcialmente a sua recompensa e seria obrigado a pagar juros sobre a dívida detida pelo SPV. De facto, isso seria impor uma disciplina fiscal dura.

Como gratificação por boa conduta, o pacto fiscal deixaria de constituir uma armadilha de dívida deflacionária e as perspectivas melhorariam drasticamente. Além disso, todos os membros deviam ser capazes de refinanciar a sua dívida actual à mesma taxa de juro. Mas isso implicaria uma maior integração fiscal, assim, a sua implementação teria de ser gradual.

O Bundesbank nunca aceitará essas propostas, mas as autoridades europeias deveriam levá-las a sério. O futuro da Europa é uma questão política e, portanto, está além da competência de decisão do Bundesbank.

Hide Comments Hide Comments Read Comments (11)

Please login or register to post a comment

  1. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    Soros has to be given credit for this. He has vast experience with an acute intelligence. But his most valuable characteristic is his resistance to 'group think'.
    The Euro area problem can be interpreted as dog-wagging-tail or as tail-wagging-dog. A currency union with insufficient political and social integration or a loose federation with an inflexible currency union. Something has to give and opportunists will bet on this. They have.
    I do not question Soros' integrity, his ability, his intellect, his originality, his good intentions or his character. He has interests that cannot be obscured. Does this colour his views? In fact I doubt that he is doing anything other than expressing his views. But I do not know if hedge fund management is closer to chess or poker.
    What is the way out of the Euro mess? A looser currency union with two or three or more 'Euro' s? Or a closer political union?
    Take your time to think about this. But do not forget we are dealing with Germany. And France. And Italy. And Spain. Each one of these has tried for not just European domination at least once but the world.
    We are heading for 'integration'.
    It used to be termed "Empire".

  2. CommentedH Gerken

    "In order to avoid cheating, what qualifies as investment should be subject to approval by a European authority." -- Ha ha, you have no idea how the EU process works. Greece won't get carrot without stick.

  3. CommentedH Gerken

    Why take a nation serious where the electorate votes trash parties, where their government fakes their balance sheets with Goldman Sachs. Greece has a reputation crisis and austerity is the only way out. They are the victims of their own political leadership and have to suffer the consequences. You can't blame any other creditor nation. Agreed rules have to apply or the deal is bust. Now the EU treaty is already broken. this means we are in the state of exeption.

  4. Commentedpeter fairley

    Many market participants feel threatened by Greeks voting for a suicidal party who would leave the Euro this day of 5/28/12?
    Other market participants may feel like me: More mildly threatened by Europe very busy in complexity & democracy but essentially trying to play the same dysfunctional games, leading to continued weakness, recessions and alarm for increasing EU loan extensions to poor credit countries headed for bankruptcy, such that eventually a STRONG COUNTRY LEAVES THE EURO. The stronger countries can leave the euro with a sense of damage, but hopeful that they are cutting losses; certainly they will not feel suicidal or 'playing chicken'. One of the smaller strong countries without as much Club Med bank exposure as France would be a likely candidate.
    The size of the first strong country leaving is an issue, and the rate of political contagion it inspires for other strong countries to leave the euro is an issue.

  5. CommentedMarco Saba

    "A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) owning the rights could use the ECB to finance the cost of acquiring the bonds without violating Article 123 of the Lisbon Treaty." I suggested a similar operation in my 2010 article here: http://leconomistamascherato.blogspot.it/2010/06/salvare-leuro-e-la-bce-zeitnot-o.html
    But seigniorage rights have to be credited directly to the sovereign (the state or the citizenry as a basic income) as a compensation for the forfeited rights on all banking monetary rents arising from creating money out of thin air and interests. This was suggested to me by Gennaro Di Stasi, an old time companion in monetary fights. Obviously Mr Soros stand by the rentiers worldwide hoping that the sovereign issue on money rent never surfaces up.

  6. Commentedcaptainjohann Samuhanand

    The crux of the matter is " Germans must work and save and sacrifice" while the rest of Europe will spend,splash and enjoy.Now with Germans themselves opposing this, I feel break of EURO will show to the rest Germans are not NAZIs as some Spanish,Italian news papers have shown but are "hard workers". Germany must call the bluff of laggards.

  7. CommentedJohn Doe

    I think it important to ask, why Mr. Soros "cannot propose a cut-and-dried plan?"

    It is because it is very hard to admit that somethings, like currency unions (and currency pegs) cannot be done. The United States learned that lesson with Prohibition, albeit we are too stupid to remember it.

    It is time to make lemonade out of a lemon. End the Euro and accept the pain. Use the pain to create a political union.

    The United States did this after the Revolution. We had the Articles of Incorporation and the separate states, huge debt, and a severe Depression.

    Hamilton, Franklin, and Washington formed the United States and paid the debt.

    Europe's problems are political, not economic. Until that reality is accepted, there will be no solution

      CommentedOliver R

      I would argue that if the Eurozone was to take lessons from the USA after its civil war between 1861 and 1865, it would be that greater integration is the answer to problems between the northern and southern members of the currency union. The reason the USA was able to achieve rapid economic growth in what became known as the "gilded age" and transform itself into the worlds leading economic power was through greater cooperation and sharing the pain of reconstruction, rather than the wealthy northern US states hanging the sinful southerners out to dry, which seems to be what we are seeing in Europe today.

      If only Germany could see the error of its ways in trying to enforce budgetary discipline with such an iron fist, and instead promoted greater investment in countries such as Greece and Spain, then Europe may not be careering towards the messy breakup which Mr Soros predicts.

  8. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    The reversal in some ways is asking the lender to force the borrower into a profligacy of fiscal austerity, something that would further demean the legitimacy of the compact that the EU is drawn into as aggregate demand has moved to a grinding halt and supply is high-cost. The suggestions make the lender win at the cost of the borrower, something like the cure at the cost of the patient’s life.
    U.S. has been able to deal with the same problems without it being front page news, while the minuscule Greek debt problem makes the headlines. If one accounts for the debt situation of the state of California, the combined debt of Greece and Portugal would be put to shame. This is also part of the problem that bond markets force nations to comprehend; it only shows the power of the bond market intermediaries.

    Procyon Mukherjee

  9. CommentedStephen Pain

    It seems the idea of "good behaviour" is highly questionable - often what is deemed "good behaviour" is in accordance with those who are in a more powerful position. So for example the financial policies of Greece which were for the benefit of a people who had long been economically disenfranchised through successive military regimes - is viewed as "bad behaviour" because it resulted in a massive debt - a debt incurred through the bond market - a market that has an unparalleled influence over policy and lives. Now that Greece and other countries which exploited the same financial means as the US and the UK are forced into becoming dependents and second class members of the EU. However, if we wish to fault and moralize regarding sovereign decisions and activities in countries, might I suggest we focus on the US which has an unprecedented debt - one that cannot be paid back (unlike the Greek debt that is so tiny in comparison ) whose laissez faire attitude to the subprime fiasco which was motored solely by recklessness and greed which in turn precipitated the recession worldwide. Here we see time and time again "bad behaviour". One that has contributed to an unhealthy balance of payments. Such profligate behaviour on the back of a debt of 50- 200 trillion dollar debt is unconscionable. Yet, the US enjoys the right to castigate and pronounce upon the financial behaviour of countries that had only the well-being of its people at heart. The melt-down which is forecast for the EU is a fiction. Place all the debt on the table and the US is beholden to the EU and China. The bond trading and the credit rating agencies have acted in self interest, earning commission and wealth for those mainly domiciled in the US - that was the criticism of the former Italian prime minister, and out of all the things he had said, it was probably the only truth. We have seen a US bond trader literally dictate to Angela Merkel the terms for continuance of buying EU bonds. Suppose we were to turn round and ask the US to pay its debts? Would it or could it? Oh no. It will print more dollars. Moreover as a role model the US has driven many economies into a ridiculous service to industry ratio that has led to greater trade imbalances. Here I can see that the Greek economy could with much less effort than the US improve the ratio by expanding its agriculture sector as a transition to improving its industrial output. It can be achieved. But the problem is that the bond traders will peck away at any efforts - and refuse Greece the right to become financially independent. With regard to Germany an export led economy with prudent fiscal policies, to be lauded, there is a danger that it could use its power to influence - in the sense that the lender to borrower relationship which should be grounded in a fiduciary relationship in which the lender concerns itself with the interest of the borrower... is absent.

  10. CommentedPaul A. Myers

    Let's discuss points in order and make some implementing suggestions. Whining without a stick gets you no where.

    1. The rules failed because there was no market feedback into national economic policy making. Almost all governments will excessively borrow if allowed to. The rules need to be changed, radically or otherwise, to send economic market signals back into national political institutions.

    2. The current status quo is unworkable primarily because it is excessively rigid.

    3. The way for new rules to deal with inherent financial market instability is to make them flexible so that there is continuous adjustment of key variables. And probably some big shock absorbers.

    4. An enlarged centrally financed development bank must respond to market signals and match central funds with local government funds.

    5. If you are going to have a centralized bond issuing institution, it must be matched with a centralized revenue raising function.

    6. More voter participation in selecting political leadership at the top of the European Union. Otherwise you're going to have some sort of Paris-Berlin political duopoly with lots of jostling and not much progress.

  11. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    What seems to be clear from this overview article is that there is no financial solution for the Eurocrisis.
    So far whatever they tried made things worse, and mostly all they did was to print virtual money and cover the gaping holes, but the rotten structure continued to rot.
    Mr. Soros's 3 observations do not give us much to grab hold of.
    From the title of the article I expected a deeper meaning for "remationalization", but it remained on the superficial financial, banking level.
    But in truth the only true solution is stopping "renationalization", and continuing, or finishing the building of a totally integrated supra-national structure for Europe.
    Only a fully integrated structure can sustain economical, financial unity, economics are simply the external expression of the deeper human relationships.
    The just question is why should the Europeans choose total integration, losing some of their individualism instead of breaking up and remain as separate countries as it happened before the European Union?
    Because we live in a different world today. Not only Europe, but the whole world has evolved into this global, integral network, where we overlap on multiple levels, and we depend on each other even for our necessities.
    Today no individual or nation can sustain itself alone, or through small scale associations.
    Due to this interdependent and interconnected structure any attempt of a breakup would make people's lives even more miserable, allowing far right or far left populists to gain control, leading us to very unpredictable scenarios.
    The key is the understanding the nature of our integral system and the natural laws governing it.
    After the understanding of the system we could easily work out the actual structures we need to build based on human ingenuity and adaptability.

Featured