Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Shinzo Abes geldpolitische Illusionen

NEW HAVEN – Die Politisierung der Zentralbankgeschäfte schreitet unvermindert voran. Die Auferstehung von Shinzo Abe und der japanischen Liberaldemokratischen Partei – Säulen des politischen Systems, das die japanische Wirtschaft im Morast von zwei verlorenen Jahrzehnten versinken ließ, und ein Ende ist nicht in Sicht – ist nur der letzte Fall, der dies beweist.

Die jüngsten Wahlen in Japan drehten sich um Abes Ansichten der Geldpolitik der Bank von Japan. Er argumentierte, die zurückhaltende Bank sollte von ihren aggressiveren Schwestern, der US-Notenbank und der Europäischen Zentralbank, lernen. Genauso wie die Fed und die EZB offenbar die Lage durch ihre unkonventionelle und aggressive quantitative Lockerung retteten, so sei es jetzt an der Zeit, dass die Bank von Japan dasselbe tue, so Abe.

Es sieht so aus, als würde er sich durchsetzen. Wenn die Amtszeit des Governeurs der Bank von Japan, Masaaki Shirakawa, im April endet, wird Abe einen Nachfolger ernennen – mitsamt zwei Stellvertretern – um seine Ansichten in die Tat umzusetzen.

Aber wird es funktionieren? Die experimentelle Geldpolitik ist jetzt zwar allgemein als Standard-Vorgehensweise in der heutigen Nachkrisenzeit anerkannt, aber ihre Wirksamkeit ist zweifelhaft. Fast vier Jahre, nachdem die Welt in den Nachwehen der globalen Finanzkrise ganz unten angekommen war, sind die Folgen der quantitativen Lockerung erstaunlich asymmetrisch. Die massiven Liquiditätsinjektionen waren zwar wirksam, als es darum ging, die Kreditmärkte wieder freizugeben und die Welt aus der Krise zu holen – interessant ist in diesem Zusammenhang auch die Rolle der Fed in der ersten Runde der Lockerungen von 2009 bis 2010 – aber die nachfolgenden Bemühungen haben nichts hervorgebracht, was auch nur annähernd mit einer normalen zyklischen Erholung vergleichbar wäre.  

Der Grund ist nicht schwer zu verstehen. Stark eingeschränkt durch die Schäden an privaten und öffentlichen Bilanzen und mit den Zinssätzen um Null, befanden sich die Volkswirtschaften nach der Blase in einer klassischen Liquiditätsfalle. Sie konzentrieren sich jetzt eher auf die Rückzahlung massiver Schuldenüberhänge, die sich vor der Krise angehäuft haben, als darauf, neue Schulden aufzunehmen und die Gesamtnachfrage anzukurbeln.

Der traurige Fall des amerikanischen Verbrauchers ist ein klassisches Beispiel dafür, welche Folgen das hat. In den Jahren vor der Krise befeuerten zwei Blasen – Immobilien und Kredite – einen noch nie da gewesene Privatkonsumparty. Als die Blasen platzten, konzentrierten sich die Haushalte verständlicherweise auf die Bilanzreparatur, das heißt, sie bezahlten ihre Schulden und bauten ihre persönlichen Spareinlagen wieder auf, anstatt zu alten Ausgabengewohnheiten zurückzukehren.

Trotz einer noch nie da gewesenen Verdreifachung der Fed-Aktiva auf circa drei Billionen Dollar – die wahrscheinlich im nächsten Jahr auf vier Billionen ansteigen werden – haben sich US-Verbraucher zurückgehalten wie noch nie zuvor. In den 19 Quartalen seit Anfang 2008 betrug das jährliche Wachstum der inflationsbereinigten Verbraucherausgaben im Durchschnitt lediglich 0,7 Prozent – fast drei Prozentpunkte unter den tendenziellen Anstiegen, die in den elf Jahren bis 2006 aufgezeichnet wurden.

Auch die EZB hat keinen Grund, mit ihrer eigenen quantitativen Lockerung zufrieden zu sein. Trotz einer Verdoppelung ihrer Bilanzsumme auf etwas mehr als drei Billionen Euro (vier Billionen Dollar), ist Europa zum zweiten Mal in vier Jahren in die Rezession gerutscht.

Die Fähigkeit der quantitativen Lockerung, krisengeschüttelte Volkswirtschaften mit Haushaltsbeschränkungen auf Touren zu bringen, geht auch das erhebliche Risiko ein, die Unterscheidung zwischen Geld- und Steuerpolitik zu verwischen. Zentralbanken, die Staatsschulden aufkaufen, die von Steuerbehörden ausgestellt wurden, umgehen die vom Markt auferlegte Disziplin hinsichtlich der Kreditkosten und subventionieren öffentliche Verschwendung wirksam.

Leider sieht es so aus, als habe Japan viele seiner eigenen Lektionen vergessen – besonders die enttäuschende Erfahrung der Bank von Japan mit Zinssätzen von Null und quantitativer Lockerung in den frühen Nullerjahren. Aber es hat auch die 1990er Jahre aus dem Blickfeld verloren – das erste der so genannten verlorenen Jahrzehnte – als die Behörden alles taten, was in ihrer Macht stand, um das Leben von insolventen Banken und von vielen Nicht-Finanz-Unternehmen zu verlängern. Zombieartige Unternehmen wurden künstlich am Leben erhalten, in der trügerischen Hoffnung, dass die Zeit allein sie wieder zu neuem Leben erwecken würde. Erst später in dem Jahrzehnt, als der Bankensektor neu organisiert und die Umstrukturierung von Unternehmen ermutigt wurde, machte Japan Fortschritte auf der langen, beschwerlichen Reise der Bilanzsanierungen und Umstrukturierungen.

Die US-Behörden sind denselben Versuchungen erlegen wie die Japaner. Von der quantitativen Lockerung über rekordhohe Staatshaushaltsdefizite bis hin zu noch nie da gewesenen Rettungspaketen haben sie alles getan, was in ihrer Macht stand, um den Schmerz von Bilanzsanierung und Umstrukturierungen zu betäuben. Im Ergebnis hat Amerika seine eigene Generation an Zombies erzeugt, in diesem Fall: Verbraucherzombies.

Wie im Falle Japans war die Genesung Amerikas nach dem Platzen der Blase beschränkt – sogar angesichts der überdimensionierten Liquiditätsspritzen. Die Verschuldung der Haushalte betrug 112 Prozent der Einnahmen im dritten Quartal 2012 – immerhin ein Rückgang seit 2006, aber immer noch fast 40 Prozentpunkte über der 75-Prozent-Norm der letzten drei Jahrzehnte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts. In ähnlicher Weise betrug die private Sparquote mit gerade 3,5 Prozent in den vier Monaten bis November 2012 weniger als die Hälfte des Durchschnitts von 1970 bis 1999.

Dasselbe gilt auch für Europa. Die überaggressiven Maßnahmen der EZB haben wenig erreicht hinsichtlich der Umsetzung von lang erwarteten strukturellen Veränderungen in der Region. Krisengeschüttelte Ökonomien an der europäischen Peripherie leiden noch immer unter einer nicht haltbaren Schuldenbelastung und ernsthaften Produktivitäts- und Wettbewerbsproblemen. Und ein fragmentiertes europäisches Bankensystem bleibt eines der schwächsten Glieder der regionalen Kette.

Ist das wirklich die Kur, die Abe für Japan will? Das letzte, was die japanische Wirtschaft zurzeit braucht, ist ein Rückfall hinsichtlich der Strukturreformen. Aber wenn die die Bank von Japan gezwungen wird, in die fehlgeleiteten Fußstapfen von Fed und EZB zu treten, ist das genau das Risiko, das Abe und Japan eingehen.

Massive Liquiditätsspritzen, durchgeführt von den größten Zentralbanken der Welt – Fed, EZB und BOJ – , werden weder Zugkraft in ihren realen Ökonomien entfalten, noch Bilanzsanierung oder Strukturwandel fördern. Damit bleibt eine große Summe überschüssiger Liquidität, die in den globalen Anlagenmärkten herüberschwappt. Wo sie hingeht, folgt unweigerlich die nächste Krise.

Aus dem Englischen von Eva Göllner-Breust

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  1. Commentedlaurie gravelines

    In the absence of aggressive fiscal policy, monetary authorities are experimenting with ever increasingly 'exotic' instruments. frankly they have pushed monetary policy to unexpected levels. They are to be complemented. But it can only be pushed so far, the ultimate dangers are well documented, yet governments refuse all but the most timid fiscal levers. Indeed some move fiscal policy pro-cyclical and amplify the recession. I find it difficult to criticize aggressive central banks, when governments have abandoned the challenge. And I do agree, a great future price may be paid.

  2. CommentedMerijn Knibbe

    It seems that there is more to Shinzo Abe than meets the eye. Deflation in Japan in the fourth quarter of 2012 was as high (low?) as -4% (GDP deflator) which must be rated as a massive failure of central bank policy: http://rwer.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/graph-of-the-day-a-deflation-shock-in-japan/

  3. Commentedpieter jongejan

    Central banks are no longer serving the general interests, but the short term interests of the financial sector, the political sector and the criminal sector. In the short run these sectors are benefitting most from almost zero interest rates. In the long run low interst rates will lead to a low profit rate (due to high real estate prices) and low investment an thus low economic growth and high unemployment. The winners in the long run are in my opinion the criminal sector and the populists.
    They benefit from increased poverty due to stagnant economic growth.

  4. CommentedJoshua Ioji Konov

    The Japanese QE may well be compared to the US policies whereas it is farther than the EU sterilized and not expanding their balance sheet, and very much conditional on austerity measures and strict EU policies.
    Both ways there is need of structural micro and macro economic changes to improve liquidity transmission-ability if these policies to be affective indeed..
    SEE
    How Globalization affects Market Economy

    If a Market Economy is considered the balance between Demand-to-Supply (in the currently used Economics it is Supply-to-Demand) for goods, services, resources and employment, the most recent changes of ongoing Globalization and rising Productivity have prompted, boosted and accelerated its role to some new levels never experienced through history. By including some huge marketplaces such as China, India, Brazil, Vietnam, and the expanding EU and by the rapid industrialization some of these countries are succeeding. High technologies in manufacturing and communications, the Internet and the open boarders trade, the open employment policies in EU, the high level education in India that give medical doctors and software specialists knowledge and skills to compete in US, and many more make the Global marketplace a common ground for competition well beyond any imagination in the past. However, these processes show the incredible vitality of the supply founded economics of Capitalism to fill any demand wherever and however such occurs elsewhere in the world. Hence, Market Economy is in its apogee, perhaps, only under the increasing sustained pace of economic development.

    Many economists associate Market Economy and Market Economics with the Supply-to-Demand trickle down economics of the Capitalism, and almost no one can even imagine major changes in the system. Regional and global lending founded on relatively high interest rate and relatively short term payoff could well help individuals and businesses live through short term economic turbulences, which approaches work very well when the term of such turbulence as long as economic activities returns to normal then the borrowers might payback and swim through. The supply founded Market Economy in theory self adjust economic turbulences and thus even improves the over all social and business environment by cutting off dead branches of over production, excessive financing, “artificial businesses”, crowded administration, and thus improves economies and marketplaces. This is the magic of the self-adjusting Market Economy of the Capitalism.

    However, many countries discovered that Market Economy, as explained by trickle-down economics, does not maintain best development and many business regulations and laws, and tax brakes and social programs are added to the powers of the Market Economy to distribute and redistribute wealth, to create jobs, and to balance demand-to-supply. Powerful socialization and governmental involvement into financial and business market operations prompted by the last Great Recession had more governments more involved into the Market Economy trying to save their economies from collapse. By pouring massive capital into financial institutions, or by taking over large corporations, or by implementing more social and employment generating programs the governments interfered with market forces and replacing such with vengeance.

    Market Economy is associated with a few indicators:
    • free flow of goods and services;
    • flow of free capital and trickle-down concentration of capital
    • return on invested capital;
    • free relocation and outsourcing of manufacturing that grew up into services and financial sectors;
    • large intercontinental corporations a main source for employment and the following fiscal reserves;
    • free employment marketplace based on demand and supply;
    Thus, the goods and services in a marketplace under the pressure of demand and supply balance prompt employment, whereas financing and capital being private or public, or both accelerate the spirals of economic growth and development.

    In the modern day Global Marketplace, the Market Economy is global too, where forces of demand-to-supply work globally and goods and services from one side and demand for such from another should prompt employment and supported by crediting, financing should accelerate growth and development.

    In a pro supply marketplace currently used instruments of economics it would be nothing wrong with this picture, however the conditions in the global marketplace of China’s and constantly rising Productivity prompted substantially different motors to maintain global balance. In case the pro supply-to-demand marketplace is in a progress to a pro demand-to-supply such, the distribution of wealth which always has been a minor problem for economic growth even in the opposite prompted by trickling-down such growth is becoming very contra-productive. Under these new economic conditions, such “stoppers” growth and development as Social and Infrastructural expenses that prompted inflations and market instability, in the past, are becoming more like a balance to rising unemployment and lack of growth of the present. In addition, the “shady” business practices of the past that prompted rapid growth are becoming more like a burden of the present, which instead of helping SME are making them not lend-able, while SME (small and medium enterprises) are the main still in place employer. Same with the financial system of speculative banks, exchanges and financial institutions, that use to help the trickle-down capital to concentrate and such boost business, in the past, now these are becoming more like additional burden to the small and medium investors and the middle class. By taking away 401s and 501s and not providing them with so much needed ROI (return on investment) that could be one of the free economic vehicles for wealth distribution and redistribution of the present.

    The industrialization of the past that built-up the most aggressive economic growth and development with prosperous middle class of the very developed economies of North Americas, Japan and Western Europe may not be successful anymore to perform. The high technologies are limiting needed manpower in manufacturing, China is becoming increasingly industrial super power able to fill any demand for industrial goods, whereas industrial production is either outsourced or moved already elsewhere. However, under the currently used economics industrial production adds the most to any country’s GDP (general domestic product); thus when some highly industrialized economies as the US are losing their abilities to maintain industrial growth the rest of the world of underdeveloped or developing countries with very few exceptions are losing any probability to startup such industrial production, indeed.

    Environmental changes caused by industrial pollution and the exhausting Earth resources are becoming more of pressing issues with which all countries must promptly deal. These are becoming more of economic issues than even the rest, because it is obvious that these issues affect any economy and the global market place directly. E.g., the high technologies for renewable energies are quite expensive, changing old polluting autos is expensive too, i.e. the Earth pollution, the deforestation going on in any poverty rotten country of Eastern Europe, Africa, South America are affecting the global environment in a progressive harmful overall.

    Thus, if the changing market environment brings new issues and developments than the modern world must deal with appropriately. The economics should change too, to accommodate all of the above new developments. An economics of Marketism being able to abstract all the best from the Capitalism should be implemented promptly, because under the arising conditions only another alternative is a massive socialization and governmental take over, and such for sure would not bring prosperity to no one. Bureaucracy, diminishing liberties, dependence on social security could not balance properly market demand-to-supply, as the history has shown, but free entrepreneurships and personal freedoms must be saved then the appointed new arriving economics issues must be dealt promptly and properly with.

    New market economics is about low interest lending and subsidizing, because under the new conditions the recessions are not self-adjusting and short in time, therefore any high interest lending is not feasible instead financial instrument (law interest loans and subsidies) should prompt employment and SME activities for which as written above should be supported by higher “security” (by enhanced business laws, regulations, financial market regulations, risk management personal liability). Hence, financial instruments should prompt growth by using monetary and fiscal initiatives on a lower interest rate and subsidies the “old” system of national and global lending must be moderated to these new conditions. The World Bank, IMF, and WTO should promote growth on a global scale by using these new instruments and by changing their role of general lenders into general controllers. The main issue under these new conditions is for these institutions to use monetary and fiscal quantities to balance the global market demand-to-supply “as it comes: as it goes” approach of Quantum Factor. The market agents and tools are more as “parameters” in attempt of preventing economic turbulence, than setup of chaotic self-adjusting instruments to prompt productivity.

    The market economy of the 21st Century is a vivid fluctuating development dealt on a practical operational basis. Market economics is statistically formulated way for using economic agents and tools as parameters balancing market demand-to-supply and dispersing negative economic buildups.

    Hence, the Globalization affects Market Economy by establishing new conditions of demand-to-supply marketplace that require changing the ways economic instruments are used from the ideological approaches of the Capitalism to practical approaches of the Marketism.
    © Joshua Konov, 2010

  5. CommentedMukesh Adenwala

    Insufficiency of Monetary Policy in changing the perceptions of economic agents, enabling them to see a rosier picture is perhaps the cause of its failure. Perhaps direct measures at repairing major parts of balance sheets of financial institutions could go a long way in mending such insufficiency. The key could be as under:
    If economies decide to offer foreclosed assets for `winning' through lottery, rather than for `buying' - draw to be held only after enough amount has been collected through sale of lottery tickets so that financial institutions would cover book value of their assets - the size of market for such assets would increase manifold. If such assets change hands for cash, the banks would be free of toxic assets several times over because derivatives created on the basis of such assets would regain their value, and the insurance companies like AIG that had insured single asset many times over, would recover their losses. This would repair the balance sheets of major financial institutions to a large extent and restore the confidence in the markets and agents.
    Yes, there would be moral implications of such measures and also question of equity would need to be closely examined before such a scheme can be implemented.

  6. CommentedSean Slater

    Wasn't the Fed's injection of liquidity a reaction to the need for liquidity in the failing financial sector not to create an increase in consumption?

  7. Portrait of Michael Heller

    CommentedMichael Heller

    My memory may be short, but I don't remember having read a more important article at Project Syndicate. In a nutshell Stephen S. Roach captures the present predicament caused by monetary crankery and procrastination over structural reform.

  8. CommentedPaul Jefferson

    ECB quantitative easing? What about Europe's widely hated austerity programs? And what about the weak EU members being deprived of currency flexibility, as they are constrained by the common euro currency they have adopted? These factors make Europe an inappropriate example for comparison with Japan.

    As for the USA, QE seems to have at last jump-started the real estate market, which should make a huge difference for US banks, and the economy as a whole.

    Also, if QE has sustained the economy while US consumers de-leveraged, all the better. Anyway, American consumers need to spend less on Chinese imports.

    Sustained American QE should eventually force the Chinese to value the yuan more fairly against the US dollar, which should reduce Chinese imports, and support US domestic job growth. Hence, QE is good for the USA. So how would it be bad for Japan?

    Abe's QE will devalue the yen, and thus he will have won the biggest battle. The high yen has been the root of Japan's economic problems for years. A lower yen will make Japan's products competitive again, and will boost domestic employment. Clearly, Abe is on the right track.

  9. Portrait of Pingfan Hong

    CommentedPingfan Hong

    In fact, BOJ has never been more timid than its counterparts in Europe and the US: BOJ was the first to use quantitive easing among major central banks. Measured by the ratio of assets purchased by the central bank to GDP, BOJ is leading ECB and the Fed in the scale of the QE so far: 30%, 27%, and 20% respectively for these three central banks.

    The only thing BOJ could not match its counterparts is that both ECB and the Fed have recently made their open ended: undefined total amount and duration of the new round QE for ECB and the Fed. BOJ is expected to follow the suit soon.

    However, as the author of this article pointed out correctly, all these QEs cannot substitute for painstaking balance sheet adjustment and restructuring of the real economy, as attested by the decade-long experience of QE by BOJ.

    1. CommentedAndrew Purdy

      Abe is going to do something that the USA has not yet done - outright monetization of deficits. When the CB buys up government debt, the Treasury still has to pay interest. If the deficit is covered with pure seigniorage, no interest is ever paid.

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