Sunday, October 26, 2014
18

El último respiro del euro

NUEVA YORK - Al igual que un preso en el corredor de la muerte, el euro ha recibido otro aplazamiento de última hora: va a sobrevivir un poco más. Los mercados están celebrando, como lo han hecho después de cada una de las cuatro anteriores cumbres de "crisis del euro", hasta que comprendan una vez más que aún no se han abordado los problemas fundamentales.

Hubo buenas noticias en esta cumbre: los líderes europeos entendieron que finalmente no va a funcionar la operación circular en que Europa presta dinero a los bancos para salvar a los fondos soberanos, y a los fondos soberanos para salvar a los bancos. Asimismo, ahora reconocen que los préstamos de rescate que dan al nuevo acreedor un mayor orden de precedencia sobre los demás empeoran la situación de los inversores privados, que reaccionarán simplemente exigiendo tasas de interés todavía más altas.

No deja de ser profundamente preocupante el que las autoridades europeas se hayan demorado tanto en ver algo tan obvio (y evidente hace más de una década y media en la crisis del Este asiático). Pero lo que falta en el acuerdo es aún más significativo que lo que hay. Hace un año, los líderes europeos reconocieron que Grecia no iba a poder recuperarse sin crecimiento y que el crecimiento no puede lograrse únicamente con austeridad. Y sin embargo, es poco lo que se ha hecho para corregir el asunto.

Lo que se propone ahora es la recapitalización del Banco Europeo de Inversiones, que forma parte de un paquete de crecimiento de alrededor de $ 150 mil millones. Pero los políticos son buenos para el reenvasado y, según algunas versiones, el nuevo dinero es una pequeña fracción de esa cantidad, e incluso eso no entrará en el sistema de inmediato. En resumen: los remedios (demasiado escasos y tardíos) se basan en un diagnóstico errado del problema y en análisis económicos defectuosos.

La esperanza es que los mercados premien la virtud, que se define como austeridad. Pero los mercados son más pragmáticos: si, como es casi seguro el caso, la austeridad debilita el crecimiento económico y por lo tanto socava la capacidad de pago de la deuda, las tasas de interés no se reducirán. De hecho, la inversión caerá en una viciosa espiral descendente que ya ha comenzado en Grecia y España.

Alemania parece sorprendida por esto. Al igual que con las sangrías de la Edad Media, sus gobernantes se niegan a ver que la medicina no sana al paciente e insisten en administrarle más hasta que acaba por morir.

Los eurobonos y un fondo de solidaridad podrían promover el crecimiento y estabilizar los tipos de interés a los que se tienen que enfrentar los gobiernos en crisis. Las menores tasas de interés, por ejemplo, permitirían liberar dinero para que incluso los países con fuertes restricciones presupuestarias pudieran destinar más fondos a inversiones de estímulo al crecimiento.

La situación es peor en el sector bancario. Cada gobierno respalda el sistema bancario de su país, y si se desgasta su capacidad de apoyo, también lo hará la confianza en los bancos. Incluso los sistemas bancarios con buena gestión se verían en problemas en una crisis económica como las que se viven en Grecia y España; con el colapso de la burbuja inmobiliaria española, los bancos enfrentan riesgos todavía mayores.

En su entusiasmo por crear un "mercado único", los líderes europeos no se percataron de que los gobiernos proporcionan un subsidio implícito a sus sistemas bancarios. La seguridad de que si surgen problemas el gobierno los apoyará es lo que da confianza en los bancos, y cuando algunos gobiernos se encuentran en una posición mucho más sólida que otros, el subsidio implícito es mayor para esos países.

Sin un campo de juego uniforme, ¿por qué no debería huir el dinero de los países más débiles, e irse a las instituciones financieras de los más fuertes? De hecho, es notable que no haya habido un mayor nivel de fuga de capitales. Los líderes europeos no reconocieron este peligro creciente, que se podría haber evitado fácilmente con una garantía común que a la vez corrigiera la distorsión del mercado causada por la subvención implícita del diferencial.

El euro estaba viciado desde el principio, pero estaba claro que las consecuencias quedarían en evidencia solamente en una crisis. Política y económicamente, nació con las mejores intenciones. Se suponía que el principio de un mercado único promovería la distribución eficiente del capital y el trabajo.

Pero los detalles tienen su peso. La competencia fiscal significa que puede que el capital no vaya a donde sea más alta su rentabilidad social, sino a donde puede encontrar las mejores utilidades. El subsidio implícito a los bancos significa que los bancos alemanes tienen una ventaja sobre los de otros países. Los trabajadores pueden emigrar de Irlanda o Grecia, no porque su productividad sea más baja, sino porque, al hacerlo, pueden escapar del endeudamiento contraído por sus padres. El mandato del Banco Central Europeo es garantizar la estabilidad de los precios, pero hoy la inflación está lejos de ser el problema macroeconómico más importante de Europa.

A Alemania le preocupa que, sin una supervisión estricta de los bancos y los presupuestos, termine teniendo que pagar las cuentas de sus vecinos más derrochadores. Pero ese no es el punto clave: España, Irlanda, y muchos otros países en dificultades tenían superávits presupuestarios antes de la crisis. La crisis dio origen a los déficits, y no al revés.

Si estos países cometieron un error, fue solo que (al igual que la Alemania de hoy) creyeron demasiado a los mercados, por lo que (al igual que Estados Unidos y tantos otros) permitieron que creciera sin control una burbuja de activos. Si se aplican políticas racionales y se crean mejores instituciones -lo que no significa solamente más austeridad y una mayor supervisión de los bancos, los presupuestos y los déficits- y se recupera el crecimiento, estos países serán capaces de cumplir con sus obligaciones crediticias, y no habrá necesidad de recurrir a las garantías. Además, Alemania tiene las de perder en ambos casos: si colapsan el euro o las economías de la periferia, va a tener que enfrentar costes muy altos.

Europa tiene grandes fortalezas. Sus puntos débiles de hoy reflejan, principalmente, políticas y arreglos institucionales erróneos. Se pueden modificar, pero solo si se reconocen sus debilidades fundamentales, tarea mucho más importante que las reformas estructurales al interior de cada país. Si bien los problemas estructurales han debilitado la competitividad y el crecimiento del PIB en determinados países, no dieron origen a la crisis y hacerles frente no la resolverá.

El enfoque europeo de ganar tiempo no puede funcionar indefinidamente. No es solo la confianza en la periferia de Europa lo que se está perdiendo. También comienza a ponerse en duda la supervivencia del euro mismo.

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  1. CommentedBakhodur Rakhimov

    Dear readers,
    I had a sudden feeling/thought the other day after constant reading of the Business section in the International Herald Tribune: it's simply should be renamed to CRIME section!!! Almost the entire selection of articles is about banks' (the financial sectors' or people related to them) fraud,cheat, greed, bailouts,speculations,bets,investigations,lawsuits ...and the list goes on with no end in sight. And it's all in the name of markets and money. How come our moral sentiments became so corrupted and we ended up in such a commercial, moneyterised society?

      CommentedGary Marshall

      Then you should stop reading the newspapers, or believing what you read in them.

      GM

  2. CommentedDaniel Gomes

    It's amazing the amount of misinformation theses days.
    In particular a certain group of people which started with Anglo-saxon conservatives with which now misinformed Germans with supremacist complexes have formed a strange alliance.

    Such alliance founded on their completely unfundamented belief that their austerity recipe will make the world a better place when every single bit of evidence and history shows the complete opposite.

    Now these strange German allies, chose to add another set of principles to this one concerning the virtue of austerity. Namely the hail to hypocrisy and amnesia together with a generous portion of decades old supremacist believes.

    Lets see...

    It was not in such a distant past that German financial sector (and regulators) joined ranks with their Anglo-saxon deregulation jihadist to crater the world economy through widespread thievery and stratospheric amounts of irresponsible speculation on the U.S. subprime market.

    A very little publicised fact was that German banks were on the first line of major delinquents in the U.S. subprime speculation crisis.

    And lets remember that at this time southern European banks had relatively healthy balance sheets and even the so called Spanish property bubble showed no signs of unsustainability.

    As matter of fact in all the splendor of their arrogant ignorance, the members of this alliance are completely oblivious to the laws of supply and sustained demand .. Yes Spanish population increased 10% during that period, whereas unless you know something i don't, Spanish territory apparently did not increase a single inch.

    Now.. for their destroying the economy the financial sectors of these strange allies, were rewarded with the mother of all bailouts and transfer their toxic assets to the U.S. and European tax payer.

    And lets remember that there were government controlled banks involved and a lot of tax revenue from this speculation which was not socialized throughout Europe.. only the debt and toxic assets.

    But lets see how unbelievably enormous is this hypocrisy and how much German debt and toxic assets were socialised into the balance sheets of U.S. and Europe taxpayers.

    For example... through programs such as the Fed the buy-back of toxic assets:
    - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703865004575649102179786756.html
    - http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-01/deutsche-bank-credit-suisse-lead-traders-of-fed-s-mortgage-backed-bonds.html

    Or the hundreds of billions of cheap money against worthless collateral
    - http://www.bloomberg.com/data-visualization/federal-reserve-emergency-lending/#/overview/?sort=nomPeakValue&group=none&view=peak&position=244&comparelist=Deutsche_Bank_AG-Hypo_Real_Estate_Holding_AG-Commerzbank_AG-Dresdner_Bank_AG-Bayerische_Landesbank&search=

    Because German financial system was the one cut off from the markets in 2008-2009
    - http://www.forbes.com/2007/08/21/germany-landesbanks-subprime-markets-equity-cx_po_0821markets20.html


    Unfortunately only data from the Fed is available because the ECB is only accountable to the German-French clique.

    Now with no shame whatsoever, Germans still top up this amnesia with further claims of the financial discipline of their government's accounts when the eurostat numbers show clearly that German debt and budget defict are no better than Southern europe until the collapse of the economy in 2008 and the wave of German austerity pushed southern europe into the abyss:

    German public debt:
    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/graphCreator.do?tab=graph&a=2&c=1&d=0&h=0&time=2-16&x=time&geo=8,10,12,24&y=geo&unit=0&language=en&pcode=tsieb090&plugin=0

    German budget deficit:
    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/graphCreator.do?tab=graph&a=2&c=1&d=0&h=0&time=3-10&x=time&geo=8,10,12,14,24&y=geo&unit=0&language=en&pcode=tsieb080&plugin=0

    The rest is history..

    1. German and U.S. financial systems were being rescued from the abyss they created, by the tax payers of Europe and U.S.

    2 meanwhile the smaller more vulnerable countries had to pile huge amounts of debt due to the collapse of tax revenue, increase in social welfare expenses and last but not least as part of the worldwide agreement to bring back the ecnomy from the crater created by the likes of Deutsche.

    3. The revered ratings agencies told periphery crountries "oops.. i don't like your balance sheet anymore and i'm going to effectively cut you off from the credit markets."

    4. ECB and Fed awashs banks with cash to absorb the risk that these banks had taken in the sovereign debt of periphery countries thus allowing them to get rid of these assets with o concern for the interest spiral it caused.

    5. Banks took that money and bought German bunds because market panic triggered by ratings agencies distorted the markets to the point in which the country which was about to fail 5 years ago is now considered the only safe investment in Europe.

    Hope this was informative for those people who believe in the superiority of their financial discipline.

      CommentedMoritz G€d1g

      Sounds like blaming others for own faults. You are right in many respects but it is not like Greece for example did not cause it's problems. Mr Merkel might be making it hard for them now, but they are the ones to blame. As a German I want to see reform progress for the money I know I have to continue to give them.

  3. CommentedMATTHEW M

    I am amazed at this sites lack of really addressing the obvious- out of control global finance. Where do we start: 1) JPMorgan cooking its books and the $2B hedge loss that some estimate will be north of $9B. 2) LIBOR rate rigging - why is anyone surprised as central banks have been artificially manipulating rates/markets for a long time - current S&P gains are primarily linked in the last few years to FED easing - same with LTRO in EU 3) HSBC "apologizing" for money laundering 4) JP and HSBC RICO suit on silver market manipulation and on and on.

    We witness Barclays executives committing suicide, PFS head attempting to take his own life, and one has to ask is a mass seppuku of banking executives or the current increased spate of lawsuits amongst financial players (the inevitable self cannibalization) the only remedy to clean up the toxic and corrupt banking sector.

    Unfettered, unhinged and irresponsible banks that are engaged in a massive fraudulent feeding frenzy that is bankrupting whole countries. The increased debt loads all related to massive bailouts to banks that have inept and corrupt executive teams.

    This is the core problem. We need to pull back the corporate veil, (executives, incestuous Boards, auditors, and lawyers) and expose where all the warts are.

    Regulation is sorely needed. A global come to Jesus meeting is sorely needed: declaring all CDO/CDS null and void is a great starting place. And then onto those that took the risk bearing the losses rather than the continued socialization of the losses on the backs of the world's people.

  4. CommentedAndré Rebentisch

    What you call "virtue" is another word for trusted governance, also known as pacta sunt servanda. Now, from a EU Treaty perspective we are in a state of exception because member states were prohibited to finance each other. Trusted relations are more important than the current interest rates, but you could argue that interest rates reflect the current level of trust. The longer it takes governments to meet their obligations the harder it gets for them to restore trust. Without trust no Eurobonds.

  5. CommentedJuergen Goebel

    Hello Mr. Stiglitz,
    if I got you right, your main hypothesis is:
    More debt leads to more growth, which leads to higher tax revenue, which leads to a lower debt burden.
    This sound like a very easy and pleansant way to go.
    Unfortunately, the times of strong growth have come to an end, at least for the Western world. Peak oil, for example, lies behind us.
    Moreover, there must be an approriate basis for growth. One necessary part would be a reasonable public service. Unfortunatley, there is none in Greece.
    I believe that the German people have good reasons to become tired of the Euro. The recovery measures are unlikely to be successful, but at the same time they destroy our political institutions, because our politicians have to break promise after promise to take them.

      CommentedMoritz G€d1g

      I doubt that that is what Mr. Stiglitz ment.
      Instead of more debt there is also higher taxes.
      What he said is that the current economy of Greece is not able to pay back it's debt.
      "growth could not be achieved by austerity alone"
      Greece must first start collecting it's taxes properly and raise the productivity of it's administration.

  6. CommentedGabriela Meissner

    I still don't understand why people think that Ms. Merkel is really interested in solving the crisis. I think that she is only interested in winning the next elections in 2013, and therefore she does and says what a felt majority of people in Germany wants to hear.

  7. CommentedGordon Tolleson

    The problem is not understanding the problem, the problem is implementing the solution when soverign countries unlike the "states in the USA" will not give up their soverign rights to unelected official in Brussels.

    The Euro was design originally to make this the solution in the end, but it is not working. While we tend to blame Germany for the Euro's woes we tend to forget the soverign countries overspent and nothing more. They are fiscally constrained and cannot print. Germany is the largest contributor to all of these bailout schemes.

    What makes absolutely no sense to me is Spain must borrow at 6% to loan Italy at 3% and vise vera. This is not going to work at all and anyone stating it will is off their rocker. Math does not lie.

    I think Europes biggest problem to be honest is when they made last minute swaps subordinating all bond holders making them take a loss. The Euro politicians came out of their meeting and immediately announce they would not do this again. The ECB will do it again if they get into trouble. So now they are paying for the mistake.

    Just today Finland and Norway will not approve the new funds unless eveyone else is subordinated to this new scheme. Bottom line to me currently is broke nation loaning money to broke nations borrowing at 6% to loan to others at 3% is never going to work. A fiscal and governmental Union is not going to happen this year.

  8. CommentedLuke Ho-Hyung Lee

    We have developed numerous “job-killing machines” in the real market (or supply chain process) through the use of IT and networking technology over the last 20 to 30 years of the Modern Information Age. These machines have significantly contributed to the shift to a more efficiency-oriented supply side environment by killing jobs and have altered the whole economic environment. Strangely, it seems nobody has recognized this yet, and no expert has considered this at all in his or her public ruminations about the economy.

    Without first replacing those job-killing machines, can we change this worsening course of the employment situation and revitalize the economy? That is, can we solve the current economic crisis only with the old economic policies or stimulus plans? I believe it to be impossible in most existing market or supply chain processes. That’s the real problem.

    I would strongly suggest you see this article: “Job-Killing Machines in the Modern Information Age” http://savingtheworldeconomy.blogspot.com/2012/07/job-killing-machines-in-modern.html

  9. CommentedGary Marshall

    Hello Mr. Stiglitz,

    My. My. How far from reality you reside!

    The great Keynesian system is coming to its Waterloo, I do hope. And all the great Keynesians can do is find fault with irrelevant or extraneous issues.

    All those people who contribute here can only offer the same tried and failed remedies of the past: more government expenditure funded by borrowing.

    Sadly, the Euro does not afford nations the freedom they once had in printing up and squandering all that Federal money. With the Euro, the money has to actually be borrowed, not from the former and always availing national central bank, but from the financial markets.

    And what a wonderful instrument the Euro is. And if all these Keynesian beliefs in government expenditure creating wealth were true, Greece would be among the wealthiest of European nations. But it isn't. So either Keynesian beliefs are wrong, or the Euro is at fault.

    And Mr. Stiglitz, beholden to his dear flawed, corpulent, hideous, wasteful, corrupt, money addicted, slothful child, faults the Euro.

    How much folly one finds in erroneous belief.

    Well, its not the death of the Euro. Its the death of modern Keynesian economics and big, corrupt, and wasteful government.

    And once your Keynesian child finishes puking green slime all over your fine Nobel prize, perhaps you might read through the proof below. Find the true flaw, which seems a bit of a challenge for you, and collect $50,000US.

    It shouldn't take you too long.

    #####

    The individual European countries have the means to remedy their current problems with ease. And the means to that end is contained in the little proof below for the abolition of Taxation, which novelty may be absurd on the face of it, but not so when examined.

    If you or anyone can find the flaw in this proof, I shall be more than happy to give the reward of $50,000. None have yet been successful. Perhaps because so few have tried.

    Its not the end of Europe or the world, but a new beginning.

    Enjoy!

    ####

    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


      CommentedMoritz G€d1g

      Gary M. does not like to pay his taxes so he had the idea that the government could simply pay him for financing the common expenditures.

      CommentedGary Marshall

      Hello Ignorant Prince,

      I forgot to add that the public expenditures will be made with an eye to costs and benefits. If the costs of the expenditure are greater than benefits, the expenditure will not be made. Otherwise it will.

      If costs of borrowed money run at 5% and benefits run at 8% of invested capital, then it should be a go.

      So why would anyone have to pay for public expenditures when they pay for themselves?

      For example, access to clean water could be accounted a worthy project with good returns. Dirty or disease laden water can cause a community grievous harm. The local hospital may be overrun with patients suffering all sorts of water borne maladies. The medical costs, lost work days, etc could be erased with a modest investment in purifying the water.

      Simple cost and benefit analysis. If the cost to the community of water borne diseases are $5 million, and construction costs of a water filtration plant $1 million with $1 million in annual expenditures, is this not a valued return to the community? Is it inflationary?

      No because the community now has $3 million per year to go and spend on other items, perhaps better healthcare, better education, a larger home.

      Imagine a shareholder in some company that must issue bonds to raise capital for some major and designedly profitable investment. Suppose he does not wish to buy the bonds and forgoes the offered interest, while others, some not even shareholders, do.

      Is this shareholder a free rider? Is he a free rider because he does not wish to obtain interest, but would rather just enjoy the increased value of his share in the company's new enterprise?

      Perhaps he does not wish to profit twice for a very good reason. Perhaps he holds bonds and earns greater interest from some other concern. Perhaps all his money is tied up in shares of various companies.

      In short, the expenditures by government will pay for themselves with returns sprinkled throughout the nation. Otherwise, they won't be made. Certainly, some investments will fail, but most will generate good returns, and a few spectacular returns.

      I hope this answers your question.

      Regards,
      Gary Marshall

      CommentedGary Marshall

      Hello Ignorant Prince,

      And why would the free rider problem enter into this matter?

      The government is interested only in obtaining revenue for its expenditures. It offers bonds with a market determined interest rate. The bondholder is enriched with interest, as would any bondholder.

      The government obtains its money and makes those needed public expenditures.

      What does the free rider have to do with any of this? That problem so prominent in the system of Taxation disappears when it is abolished.

      So perhaps you had better explain yourself so that I may better respond to your query.

      Regards,
      Gary Marshall

      CommentedIgnorant Prince

      Dear Gary Marshall,

      I admire your tenacity but before posting your opus magnum again I suggest you google "free rider problem" and consider the implications of your proposal. Appropriately, also see Greece, Italy.

  10. CommentedKevin Lim

    Stiglitz's central complaint seems to be that the EU needs to "get real" about the disconnect between the ideal of economic integration and the reality of the little details getting in the way (tax competition, the perceived stability of German banks encouraging capital flight etc)

    In all fairness, the EU cannot "get real" about itself without committing suicide. There is simply no democratic mandate for sweeping political and economic changes needed for greater integration. Even in the boom times getting a new treaty passed was an exercise in frustration. Brussels was a byword for byzantine lawmaking divorced from reality. So you can only imagine what would happen if the leaders tried to sell more "Europe" to their citizens now.

    That being the case, this half-cocked quasi-integration rife with unresolved questions and inconsistencies is already the best of all possible worlds. Methinks the leaders of the EU already know this, and their plan (if you can call it that) is to simply bumble along in the hopes that global growth will eventually pick up again so they can then get back to their usual business of pretending everything is OK.

  11. CommentedStéphane Genilloud

    This is indeed troubling. If the financial markets ask for a 5bp premium on Spanish bonds, why do Spanish people leave their money in their banks.
    As soon as the possibility of a Greek (or Portuguese, or Spanish) gained a reasonable likelihood, most capitals would have been supposed to flee (and thus, to trigger the collapse).
    It looks like there is some confidence that the ECB will come to rescue in the last moment. But then, a question remains, why this 5 bp spread?

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