Thursday, April 24, 2014
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日本的错误增长战略

美国剑桥—以安倍晋三为首相的日本新政府大概要搬起石头砸自己的脚了。为了提振经济增长,当局可能会破坏其一大优势:国债和私人借贷的低利率。果真如此的话,在安倍晋三任期结束时,日本所面临的条件极有可能会比现在更加糟糕。

10年期日本国债利率现在还不到1%,为世界最低,尽管日本国债水平和预算赤字水平极高。事实上,如今日本债务量大约在GDP的230%,比希腊(175%)更高,几乎是意大利(125%)的两倍。年度预算赤字接近GDP的10%,比任何欧元区国家都高。在名义GDP停滞不前的情况下,如此赤字造成债务/GDP比率每年升高10%。

日本政府之所以能够获得如此低的利率,是因为十多年来国内物价一直在下降,而日元则对其他主要货币升值。国内通缩意味着日本债券的真实利率高于名义利率。日元升值则提高了日本债券相对于其他货币债券的收益率。

这一情况马上就要结束了。安倍晋三要求日本银行采取量化宽松政策,让通胀率达到2—3%,让日元贬值。他很快就会任命新的日本银行行长和两位副行长,人们预计,这三人将不折不扣地执行这一目标。

金融市场对安倍晋三的战略反应激烈。上个月,日元对美元汇率猛跌7%。而欧元对美元有所升值,故日元相对欧元的贬值更为强烈。

日元的贬值将意味着更高的进口成本,从而推高通货膨胀率。日本银行激进的货币创造政策可能造成日元的进一步贬值,从而让国内物价以比安倍晋三所希望的更快的速度上涨。

随着日本物价上涨以及日元相对其他货币贬值,欲让投资者继续愿意持有日本国债,唯有名义收益率较过去大幅提高。利率升高的一个直接效应将是扩大预算赤字和国债增长率。在债务/GDP比率已经高达230%的情况下,借贷成本上升4个百分点将导致年度赤字翻番,达到GDP的20%。

日本政府可能会采取快速通胀的手段降低债务的真实价值。对这一战略的担忧可能造成投资者要求更高的真实利率。

债务爆发和利率上升的综合效应将是经济灾难。广受尊敬、将在4月届满卸任的日本银行行长白川方明以其惯有的克制语气总结了这一情况,说“长期利率可能暴增,对经济产生消极影响。”

长期利率的暴增会压低日本国债的价格,摧毁家庭财富,并反过来抑制消费支出。高利率还会对公司债券和银行贷款产生作用,抑制商业投资。

即使不存在通胀加速和日元贬值预期,日本的基本条件也表明利率将上升。日本政府之所以能够向国内买家出手债券,是因为国内储蓄率很高。相对投资的超额储蓄给日本带来了经常项目盈余,使其能够在国内解决政府融资问题,除此之外还有足够的余额投资美元债券和其他外国证券。但这一情况马上就要结束了。

家庭储蓄率近几年大幅下降,跌至不到2%。高公司储蓄和低商业投资共存的局面维系着日本的经常项目盈余,让日本能够在国内找到预算赤字融资源。但盈余在过去五年中迅速下降,从2007年的约占GDP的6%降至现在的1%。随着家庭储蓄率的下降和新财政赤字前景,经常项目很快会转为赤字,迫使日本向外国买家兜售债务。

安倍晋三计划在宽松的货币战略之外辅之以政府增支1 200亿美元(或GDP的2%)。安倍晋三及其幕僚为何认为这能将真实GDP增长率维持在每年2%不得而知。尽管1 200亿美元增支只是今年的计划(如果支出可以以如此之快的速度进行的话),但在竞选过程中,他还声称将在10年中让政府增支200万亿日元,即每年的增支幅度都会超过1 200亿日元。所有这些对国民债务和日本利率的影响都将是巨大的。

安倍晋三有一点是正确的:日本需要摆脱无增长和通缩陷阱。但其所偏好的政策绝非达到这一目标的良策。

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  1. CommentedG. A. Pakela

    It's been well over a decade and more since we've heard how the Japanese economy is deflationary. However, I have never read nor heard of the situation that Japanese employees are routinely taking annual pay cuts commensurate with the amount of deflation (not counting layoffs, downsizing and replacing high priced employees with cheaper ones.) If they typical Japanese worker is not facing annual cuts, the deflation cannot be too big of a problem. However of modest pay cuts have become part of the Japanese economic fabric, and it has been aborbed without issue, how can that be any different than annual modest pay increases that account inflation?

  2. CommentedStefan S

    Prof. Feldstein fails to prescribe the "right" growth strategy for Japan. In every nation, rebalancing will prove to be a high wire act. Feldstein fails to mention that Abe's project would make Japanese exports cheaper, perhaps the most obvious route to growth. By not offering a balanced review, Feldstein throws his whole analysis into doubt.

  3. CommentedJoshua Ioji Konov

    Mr. Feldstein, the economic data coming from European Union that your theories dominate and the US and China from another side who use unorthodox to your theory approach shows that the liberalism is inadequate steering growth, therefor on default the new Japanese administration's approaches to fight deflation and boost economic growth could be considered maybe the only comprehensive way they possibly could follow, however , in a long term all governments should make some adjustment to stimulate, I believe, small and medium businesses & investors into a market driven marketplace...., Sincerely

  4. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    'Abe-fication' of the economy in Japan has a two pronged strategy, aggressively move out of 'depressed prices' in the domestic market, may be at the cost of inflation, and weaken yen. It is not such a straight correlation that one can draw on what happens to the current account, but surely the impact of rising domestic prices would make the real interest rates move to a trajectory that we may not have seen in Japan in the last decade. But spending $120 Billion so fast and seeing its impact would be the first step.

    On debt/GDP ratios, what Japan is today, most of the developed nations (barring a few) would be reaching there in just one more decade, that is what Morgan Stanley's current report is already on record.

  5. CommentedShane Beck

    The problem here is not that the Japanese government and the BOJ are employing this strategy, it is that the US Federal Reserve, the ECB and others are doing it at the same time

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