Monday, July 28, 2014
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安倍经济学的祝福

东京—日本首相安倍晋三的经济复苏计划极大地激发了国内信心。但“安倍经济学”可信度几何?

有趣的是,仔细考察日本过去数十年的经验,你会觉得没有什么理由持续看空。事实上,从工作人口人均产出增长看,日本从上世纪末以来表现相当出色。在劳动力人数下降的情况下,2012年(即安倍经济学之前)的日本标准估计是工作人口人均产出年增长率3.03%。这比美国稳健得多——美国去年人工作人口人均产出只增加了0.37%;也比德国坚挺得多——德国的数字是下降0.25%。

尽管如此,许多日本人正确地觉得,安倍经济学只是有助于日本的复苏。安倍晋三在做很多经济学家(包括我)一直建议美国和欧洲所做的事:包括货币、财政和结构政策在内的全面的计划。安倍晋三用三支箭的故事来为这一计划打比方:一支箭易折,三支箭不可折。

日本银行新任行长黑田东彦曾任日本财相和亚洲开发银行行长,积累了丰富的经验。在20世纪90年代末东亚危机期间,他在第一线目睹了美国财政部和IMF所推行的传统智慧的失败。黑田东彦没有央行行长的陈词滥调,他承诺逆转日本的长期通缩形势,将通胀目标定在2%。

通缩增加了真实(经通胀调整的)债务负担和真实利率。尽管没有证据表明真实利率的微小变动事关重大,但哪怕是略有通缩,年复一年对真是债务的影响也是巨大的。

黑田东彦的立场让日元贬值,日本商品变得更具竞争力。这反映出货币政策独立的现实:如果美联储的所谓量化宽松政策让美元贬值,则其他央行就必须采取应对措施防止本币过度升值。总有一天,我们会达到更紧密的全球货币政策协调;但是,目前日本根据其他国家的发展形势作出的应对措施尽管姗姗来迟,却相当有效。

如果美国把更多的注意力放在信用渠道堵塞上——如大量屋主所面临的再融资问题(尽管利率已有所下降)和中小企业难以获得融资的问题,那么货币政策应该远比现在有效。希望日本的货币政策会专注于这些关键问题。

但安倍晋三的政策是三管齐下的。认为日本过去财政刺激无效——唯一结果是将大量投资浪费在无用的基础设施上——的批评家犯了两个错误。首先是违反事实:如果没有财政刺激,日本经济表现将如何?20世纪90年代末的金融危机后,信用供应量大幅萎缩,因此政府支出没能重塑增长并不令人奇怪。要不是政府支出,日本的情形会糟糕得多;事实是失业率从未超过5.8%,即使受到了金融危机的严重打击,失业率最高也只达到了5.5%。其次,任何访问过日本的人都认为其基础设施投资好处多多(美国在这方面可以学到极有价值的一课)。

正真的挑战是设计第三支箭,即安倍晋三所谓的“增长”。这包括旨在重组经济、改善生产率和增加劳动力参与率(特别是妇女)的政策。

有人大谈“去监管化”——全球金融危机爆发后,这个词声名狼藉。事实上,如果日本放松其环境监管或卫生和安全监管,将是一个错误。

日本需要的是正确的监管。在一些领域,政府的积极介入是确保更有效竞争之所必须。但在很多需要改革的领域,如用工政策等,需要的是私人部门的约定俗成,而不是政府监管。安倍晋三可以定调而不规定结果。比如,他要求企业增加妇女工资,而许多企业计划在3月结束的本财年发放比往年更高的奖金。

提高服务部门生产率的政府动作或许将特别重要。比如,日本有很好的条件实现在改善的卫生部门及其世界级制造能力之间形成协同效应,发展医疗仪表化。

家庭政策与公司劳动力雇用行为变化一起可以促进移风易俗,使女性更多(也更有效地)参与劳动力。尽管日本学生在国际评比中的排名很高,但普遍缺乏国际商界和科学界通用语英语的训练,这使得日本在全球市场中落在了下风。进一步提高研究和教育投资或能产生极高的收益。

各种原因表明,日本的重振经济战略将会成功:这个国家从强大的制度中获益良多,拥有教育程度高、技术技能强、设计敏感度卓越的劳动力,并且身处世界(唯一?)最具活力的地区。它受不平等性影响的程度比诸多发达工业国都要低(尽管比加拿大和北欧国家更大),它的环境保护眼光更加长远。

安倍晋三的全面计划若能完美实施,今天的信心提高就会得到印证。事实上,日本可以称为死气沉沉的发达国家中的活力之光。

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  1. CommentedParrain Boursorama

    It is instructive that Professor Rogoff cites Harmston. The value of gold is more discussed than the value of bread but there is no doubt which one is the more important and it is not the value of the mineral. Malthusian limits will devalue gold in the long run.

  2. CommentedJoshua Ioji Konov

    The PM Abe actions are revolution in economics, whereas instead of waiting economic activities to happen, they are provoking and promoting such with the connecting their monetary, fiscal and stimulus policies to the inflation (not to the debt as current geniuses of economics hold on). PM Abe's economics is one of the future prompted by the globalization and rising productivity, and China's overproduction. However, such actions would succeed if the beneficiaries are the small and medium businesses and investors that would boost the real market competition, instead of further concentration of capital into the big transnationals and investors..

  3. CommentedGOPI KRISHNAN K.K.VIJAYARAGHAVAN

    In my opinion Prof. Stiglitz is being very optimistic about the Japanese economic future. The artificial way of adjusting inflation upward and increasing nominal GDP could only benefit in the short run, but in the long run the real economy will have minimal or negative growth. To critically analyst Japanese economy, once should not fail to address the demographic and consumer behavior. In my opinion, the spurious way of increasing the money supply will only lead to increase in the saving of the aging population rather than spending. This has already started showing from improvement in the trade balance and expected higher current account balance which reflect enlarging saving-investment gap. In conclusion, to some extend I would accept the optimistic view on Japan in the short run, but the economy may not be able to correct it in the long run. In fact the risk of a greater failure in the medium to long run is much higher now than ever before.

  4. CommentedA.J. Sutter

    As Prof Stiglitz correctly notes, Abe doesn't have the clout to do more than ask employers to raise wages. But he has recklessly embarked on a policy of inflation, regardless of whether employers do so. (For this to lead to increased growth in real terms requires of course that they increase wages in excess of the rate of inflation.) Even if they comply, this will only benefit those who are employed by firms.

    Unfortunately, everyone in Japan is affected by inflation: at least 60% of Japan's food calories are imported, including an even higher percentage of soy beans and soy bean products, which are important staples. Bigger bonuses from employers won't help Japan's elderly, unemployed, or single mothers who have only part-time and/or temporary employment. Abe's advisers, such as Takenaka Heizo, are the same Koizumi-era proponents of "structural reforms" that led to making employment more precarious. It is unlikely they will reverse their policies now that they're back in power.

    It's especially galling that Prof Stiglitz highlights that the BoJ's exchange rate manipulations have made Japanese goods "more competitive." He should check the statistics of his old employer, the World Bank. Far from being an export-dependent economy, in 2011-2012 Japan earned only 15% of its GDP from exports -- the lowest figure in the G7 other than the US (14%), and among the lowest in the world. But that figure, accomplished during the DPJ administration and with a strong yen that benefits Japan's residents, is near a HISTORICAL HIGH: during the heyday of "Japan Inc.," the figure was in the single digits.

    The discourse of exports is a smoke-screen to hide the fact that the financial economy, not the economy of goods and services, is the real reason for the exchange rate. A weak yen benefits the earnings statements of Japan's multinationals. It does nothing for Japan's GDP, since those multinationals are producing and selling goods overseas -- which is also precisely why they want a weak yen, so that repatriated profits will appear plumper. Those companies are hiring overseas, too, so it doesn't help reduce unemployment in Japan, which although low by global standards is near historical highs by domestic ones.

    Like most economists, Prof. Stiglitz ignores the political dimensions of what is happening in Japan. Nobel laureates of course speak to Very Important People, such as academics and businesspeople who have been schooled in mainstream economics at major US or UK institutions. What elevates the mood of such august persons may be far removed from -- or even antithetical to -- what makes the average Japanese better off. To the extent that average people in Japan are positive about the Abe Administration, is it really because of the government's inflation policies? because of Abe's determination to open Japan up to competition?

    There are at least two important factors at work that help to explain high approval ratings for Abe. One is his stand on foreign affairs, which have nothing to do with the economy. The DPJ administrations were all terrible in this regard, and now that China and the Koreas have been more aggressive, each in their different ways, the country is shifting to the right. Another is that there isn't a free press in Japan. The press cooperate with the government to get the government's message out -- otherwise, they will lose access or even licenses. If you don't live in Japan, the extent of this self-censorship -- or outright propagandizing, in the case of some of the more conservative media companies like Yomiuri -- may be hard to appreciate.

    The Abe Administration especially needs to rely on media manipulation because it is entirely lacking in democratic legitimacy. It and its coalition partners took over the country with a minority of the popular vote between them (41% of the votes cast, 25% of the electorate). Moreover, the election law under which they were elected was unconstitutional. They are in fact usurpers, though it is very possible that Japan's ultra-conservative Supreme Court will let them get away with it, as they have done with many other unconstitutional elections held in the past (unconstitutional, mind you, according the Supreme Court's own judgment, not merely my or constitutional scholars' opinions).

    Abe's recent comments about increasing the number of women in the workforce need to be seen in this light, too. The context was a hint of his "new growth strategy," the first to be released by a Japanese administration since 2010. The release is expected for June. In July, there is an election for the Sangiin, the upper house of the Japanese parliament a/k/a the Diet. Abe's party doesn't yet hold a majority there, which means he faces some possible resistance in his project to amend the constitution (mainly to broaden the role of Japan's military, but also to limit the human rights of Japanese citizens, as a draft released earlier this year makes clear). His comments were meant to flatter female voters. In fact, his proposal to allow women to keep their jobs through 3 years of maternity leave will probably have exactly the opposite effect from its ostensible intention: many companies simply will hire fewer women. (Even though the parental leave would in theory benefit men, too, management and peer pressure in Japanese companies already prevent men from taking the full amount of parental leave to which they are currently entitled. One professional acquaintance in his 40s proudly told me he took off the afternoon when his first child was born earlier this year.)

    Among finance professionals here, "Abenomics" has been replaced by a new buzzword, "AKB". A sarcastic allusion to the Guinness world record-holder for Largest Pop Group, the cloying and talentless Japanese girl group AKB48, it stands for "Abe-Kuroda Bubble." Prof. Stiglitz ought to learn more about the local music before he lends his prestige to destructive policies such as the ones he endorses here.

  5. CommentedLuis de Agustin

    Since last September when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power and donned pink colored glasses, the yen has declined about 18 percent against the US dollar and 9 percent relative to gold. Mr. Abe’s explicit goal is to increase Japanese inflation to two percent. At first sight, the stock market welcomed the new policy, with a gain of 34 percent over the last six months, but that’s in yen. In dollars, the Japanese market has returned 12.6, not much more than the 10.7 return earned by the recession ridden euro zone.

    Strategic investment research consultancy, Wainwright Economics, continues to suspect that stock market gains in the US, Europe and Japan alike have been carried more by an acceleration of growth in the emerging world than by domestic economic improvement. The research house believes that a weak yen will not help Japan any more than a weak dollar has helped the United States historically, notwithstanding the initial rosy picture.

    In an update to analysis that Wainwright Economics published over ten years ago, the work demonstrates that inflation has been bad for Japanese economic growth and that much feared deflation has been a blessing. Although Wainwright asserts that inflation is the wrong goal for Japan, there is plenty of evidence that weakening the yen is the right way to go about achieving it; except that the convention of expressing currency change relative to the US dollar does not work in a world in which the dollar itself is a variable.

    When considering currency rallies or tumbles, these need to be compared relative to something else, says Wainwright’s head of research David Ranson. If the rally, for example, is relative to the euro and/or another currency, then it must be said that currency values are primarily the result of government policy and of agreements between governments. Only secondarily or derivatively do they respond to economic factors such as relative growth rates or the current account deficit.

    According to Ranson, major currencies do not really float. While there’s no publicly announced agreement among the US, European and Japanese central banks regarding exchange rates, “closet pegging” prevails. None of these regions will allow the others’ currencies to be significantly cheaper than its own, threatening to undercut its export industries. Behind a veil of secrecy, there are talks and negotiations about this all the time. Japan has so far been given leave to talk down the yen, but at some point, there will be opposition. When Japan’s finance ministry’s cool shades are finally flipped up, it may unfortunately see a monochromatic economy sinking below the horizon.

    Luis de Agustin

  6. CommentedMatt Russo

    "Abe likens this approach to holding three arrows – taken alone, each can be bent; taken together, none can."

    Perhaps this is an old Japanese kotowaza, or Abe perhaps lifted this from Akira Kurosawa's 'Ran', but it forgets that in the latter film, the hero, Saburo (the "third son"), then took this proposed lesson from his father in the form of 3 actual arrows, and then broke all three together over his knee. End of "lesson"!

  7. CommentedAvraam Dectis

    .
    The monetary part of Abenomics is clear and widely accepted. The fiscal part seems to still be up in the air. I suggest a vigorous effort to increase the birth rate, through generous incentives. This would effectively provide a decades long stimulus as the additional taxpayers paid taxes and provided services.

    People are the ultimate infrastructure.
    .

  8. CommentedYoshimichi Moriyama

    Abe has started from a very good place to start. It was the only place to start; no one could have started from anywhere else.

    I am amazed so many people of foreign countries know so well about Japanese economy. All is well that ends well, but the sad fact is that all is not well that begins well. As Prof. Stiglitz has said. there are hurdles to jump over.

    Joseph Grew was US ambassador to Japan from 1932 to 1942. He watched the turbulent years of the1930's Japan. One comment of his was that the Japanese shy away from difficult problems instead of facing up. What I have in mind is the Japanese inefficient use of national land. I understand European countries have stricter reglulations concerning the use of land.

    The Japanese Liberal Democratic Party has been in power almost without a break for the past sixty years and it has consistently avoided this land problem. This misguided land policy has been the cause for the generally lower, otherwise bigger, level of disposable incomes of the people in general. It has also made production costs unavoidably and unnecessarily higher, shrinking domestic demand.

    Another hurdle, usually unobserved, is that leaders of the economic circles are naively credulous. They read and belived Prof. Ezra Vogel's Japan As The Number One. They thought amidst the bubbles of economy that Japan was overtaking the United States. They believed that the huge deficits of the US was because the Japanese market was closed. They believed like economists what rational expectations hypothesis and supply-side economics said. They believed, after the bubbles burst, everything of Japanese economic and corporate management was wrong.

    The best I can say for now is that we must keep to the started course and bon voyage.

  9. CommentedG. A. Pakela

    Ever so optimistic! Let's hold your feet to the fire, Professor Stiglitz and let's see how well Japan performs over the next year, two or three years down the road.

    I think that a better policy would be for Japan to tighten spending and end the infrastructure profligacy and reduce its personal, VAT and corporate income taxes by 30% or more. Let the people decide how to spend their money and stimulate private sector growth that the same time!

    In fact, if a loss of confidence results in a destablized currency in Europe, Japan, Switzerland and the U.S., we can blame you, your colleague at Princeton and Dr. Bernanke for this massive, untried experiment in monetary easing.

  10. CommentedMarco Cattaneo

    Kuroda "saw firsthand the failure of the conventional wisdom pushed by the US Treasury and the International Monetary Fund". Right. Unfortunately this failure is currently being replicated and surpassed by the European Union.
    http://bastaconleurocrisi.blogspot.it/2013/02/tax-credit-certificates-to-start-up.html

  11. CommentedDouglas Carr

    A big problem for Japan is that, at the zero bound, monetary policy loses its effectiveness. The JCB (and the Fed) are like ships that have lost steerage; they can hammer the rudder all they want, but it will produce nothing. 20 years of Japanese experience with massive deficits, zero rates, and subpar growth, along with 5 years of our own experience with the same, demonstrate these are failed policies.

  12. CommentedDavid Boudreau

    You write that deflation increases debt burden and real interest rates. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that unexpected deflation has those effects? In Japan, after so many years of deflation, one would think that deflation is no longer unexpected and that much of the existing debt burden already takes mild deflation into account. It is Abe's plan to cause inflation that adds the unexpected component that will decrease debt burden (by robbing savers). It may temporarily lower real interest rates, but they can adjust very rapidly to anticipated inflation.

  13. CommentedLee Hubbard

    You write: "...the effect of even mild deflation on real debt, year after year, can be significant." Just what effect do you think "even mild" inflation can do to a private person's savings? Nowadays, to save and invest for a home, college, or retirement entails a running battle with the government to prevent devaluation of one's funds through inflation. Even 2% inflation over the time it takes to amass money needed for life's major expenses is a major difficulty to surmount. Of course, governments like to pay off their debts through inflation, but that's an insidious tax that most people don't understand.

      CommentedROBERT BAESEMANN

      US average annual inflation rate since 3/3/2008 is 1.75%. Since 3/1/2008 the CPI has risen by 9.1%. Hubbard thinks that "Nowadays, to save and invest ... entails a running battle ... with the government to prevent devaluation of one's funds through inflation.” A bold proclimation on behalf of no one living in the US where the inflation rate is 1.75%. (“Nowadays” seems to indicate that Hubbard is speaking here on behalf of the common folks.)

      Even worse, Hubbard steps up for the common folks and says, “Even 2% inflation over the time it takes to amass money needed for life's major expenses is a major difficulty to surmount.” Fisherian interest rate theory and years of empirical observation tell us that the common folks can put their savings in CDs, which pay interest at rates that cover the expected rate of inflation. Hence the common folks are doomed or saved by a system that returns on their savings the natural or real rate of interest. The current yield on 10 yeat Treasuries of about 3% seems to be that rate, which is all the common folks realize in real terms regardless of the inflation rate.

      So Hubbard’s thoughts are really concerned with bankers who steadfastly maintain that they cannot cope with any inflation at all. There really isn’t a soul out there who couldn’t easily cope with inflation rates of 4% to 7%. Everyone who has been an adult since 1975 has done this, and we all know we could do it again. Bankers do not know that that they prospered through inflationary times in the past, but who cares about bankers who don’t even understand their own business.

  14. CommentedR Lubman

    Only an academic could think that it makes sense for a government to buy 10 year notes at a 53 bp yield in order to create inflation at a 2% rate. In a highly indebted country a policy that unsophisticated people can see makes ZERO common sense could destabilize the country. Mrs. Watanabe could see that her savings are being confiscated by her government and moves her money out of JPY to protect her life savings.

    The policy is a favor to those hedge funds who have massive JPY shorts and are long Japanese stocks. Japanese individuals do not have an equity owning culture, and own ~ 20 % of the total Japanese stock market, so they don’t benefit. (see p.90 - http://www.tse.or.jp/english/market/data/factbook/b7gje60000003o32-att/b7gje6000000y9uq.pdf )

    The policy will increase inflation on traded goods. Due to the weakening JPY, imported energy will cost more. Because of the shutdown of nuclear plants post-Fukushima, this cost is not trivial. Japanese citizens will not run out to buy manufactured goods, because the deflation from reduced costs and annual technology improvements are still in place. The psychology of a retiree, when his fixed income is being reduced through increased inflation AND reduced interest income, is not to go on a spending spree!

    What must be understood is the demography of Japan. See –
    http://www.ipss.go.jp/site-ad/TopPageData/Pyramid_ea.html

    This is what is important!

    Japan needs to reduce their xenophobia and allow immigration into their country. That is the only solution to their economic problems.

  15. Portrait of Pingfan Hong

    CommentedPingfan Hong

    For a developed economy, with output per worker growing at annual rate of 3%, higher than other developed peers, unemployment rate at 5 %, lowest amond developed countries, why should people be concerned about a decline in prices? Why Japanese government wants to stimulate further?

  16. CommentedJoshua Ioji Konov

    Excellent comprehension. however the Prime Minister ABE's effort will have a positive long-run effect only if the transmission-ability and market security of the Japanese market could accommodate the extra liquidity and fiscal stimulus policies, other words, if the trickle-down economics is used by the result could be disastrous, but if some innovative methods of enhancing fairness of competition to promote small business and investors in a free market competition the results of His policies could be very positive for Japan.....

  17. Portrait of Michael Heller

    CommentedMichael Heller

    A comical piece. The idea that Japan (debt nearly 250% of GDP with one-quarter of its budget sacrificed to debt servicing) and its chronic autarkic institutions (gravity defying moribund semi-democracy with excess legal rigidities) should be the example for Europe is quite funny. Japan will be retrying policies which failed previously. Meanwhile the institutions prevent structural reform.

    The Japanese arrow proverb is well know. For Japan, however, and for Keynesians and socialists, I think the Chinese arrow proverb about moral hazard is apposite -- “It’s easy to dodge a spear coming at you from the front. But you must be well prepared for the arrow that comes from behind, since that one is very difficult to avoid”.

    Japan’s new policy might likely help increase the size of the debt, giving all unforeseen arrows an even more gigantic bubble to pop.

  18. CommentedTomas Kurian

    The monetary stimulus of such scale can be unnecessarily high, the size of it stemming from supporting supply side only again. Surely some of it will get translated to aggregate demand, but only a smaller portion.

    If there is a real need for infrastructural projects, than sure go for it. But just to unleash such spending to support inflation seems as a waste.

    The better way would be to provide stimulus directly to the demand side, by supporting wages in the form of wage supplements(by government), family support ( as is badly needed especially in the case of Japan, where there is lack of young people)

    In my theory ( www.genomofcapitalism.com ) I am showing an alternative to blind money printing in the form of new capital tax, in connection with fully digital financial system.
    It would provide better tools for stimulating demand, without the need to forever keep increasing monetary base or ever growing debt. Chapters 16.-18. are describing in particular how it should be constructed and benefits it would provide. It would also provide methods of growth without inflation at all, so size of monetary action needed would be only fraction of what is planned now.

    I believe that Japan, as highly organized country with strong social model of society would be capable of implementing it.

  19. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    Japan is a case significantly different from many developed countries where two things stand out:
    1. High debt, but almost entirely held domestically
    2. Low unemployment rate as the current figures show (Unemployment rate since 2010 has been in the region of 4.1% average although Japan's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 4.3 percent in February from 4.2 percent reported in January. The jobs-to-applicants ratio was steady at 0.85 in February, the same level seen in the previous month, which was the highest since August 2008. The number of new job offers rose 1.5 percent in February from the previous month and increased 4.7 percent from a year ago.

    These two positives make a solid foundation for Abenomics to take shape.

  20. CommentedSiddhartha Sharma

    Everything seems to work well but I don't see how any of these three tools could help reduce Japan's perpetual and huge public debt (way above 200% of its GDP) or you don't see it as an issue at all? However, there have been attempts recently not to worsen the situation by operating through almost balanced budget and trade.

  21. Commentedphlegyas 1404

    In my opinion, regardless of whether one believes increased public spending can be a solution to Japan's problem, the way the additional expenditures are currently earmarked can hardly be called optimal: Abe has allocated about $100bn to infrastructure investments.

    That represents 25% of yearly worldwide infrastructure investment needs, according to the OECD (Reuters story here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/21/us-japan-construction-idUSBRE91K1BM20130221).

    It might be wise to allocate capital to other industries, where hopefully the jobs created would be long-term jobs.

    And anyway, I consider doubling the monetary base to be a wild gamble. Especially when that surprises markets.

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