Saturday, September 20, 2014
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欧洲财政契约有用吗?

发自剑桥——在德国总理安吉拉·默克尔(Angela Merkel)敦促欧元区各国领导人达成协议的一年之后,2012年12月21日,“财政契约”得到了欧元区第12个国家芬兰的批准,由此从2013年起,欧元区“财政契约”开始生效。这份全称为《欧洲经济货币联盟稳定、协调与治理公约》的文件要求成员国制定法律限制政府结构性预算赤字不得高于GDP的0.5%(如果该国的债务对GDP比率“显著低于60%”,则为1%)。那么这一新措施能起到作用吗?

对“结构性赤字”的限制意味着成员国可以——也只可以——在收入与支出之间的差距是周期性的范围内最大程度地存在财政赤字,所谓周期性是指一国经济在暂时的负面冲击下在低于其潜能的水平上运行。换句话说,所设立目标是可以随周期性调整的。在2013年结束之前,每个成员国都必须将预算平衡内容添加到其法律体系中——最好是加入到本国宪法体系之中。

此举的目的是为了解决欧洲的长期财政问题,且该财政问题已在以下三个因素的作用下加速恶化:自欧元诞生后覆盖欧元区的《稳定与增长公约》已经无法有效实施赤字与债务限制;2010年在希腊和一些欧元区外围国家爆发的经济危机;以及随后的各种救助行动。毫无疑问,在年底之前各成员国都会跟进并颁布实施相关国家规定。而问题在于随后发生的事情:财政契约的失败风险其实和《稳定与增长公约》是同样大的。

自从欧元区建立以来,其成员国发布了一系列普遍偏向乐观的官方财政预测。当然其他国家也会如此,但如果说欧元区国家的预测有什么不同的话,那就是这种偏向实在是太离谱了。

在经济扩张期间,比如2002到2007年,各国政府都倾向于预测经济繁荣会无限期持续下去。税收收入和预算盈余的预测都相对乐观,因而掩盖了财政调整的必要。在衰退期间,比如2008到2012年,各国政府都倾向于预测本国经济和预算都会很快回升。由于预测会受到很多不确定性因素的影响,在做预测时也没人能够证明那些预测有失偏颇。

但由于预测有失偏颇,财政规定就不会对预算赤字进行限制。在任何一年,政府都会预测本国增长率、税收收入及预算平衡将在未来几年有所上升,而在接下来的一年又会为自己辩护说那些不符合预期的差额是意外因素导致的。

确实,在笔者与杰西·施雷格(Jesse Schreger)合作撰写的新报告中,我们提出欧元区成员国在官方预测上的偏向性整齐划一地表现为对《稳定与增长公约》中1999-2011年财政赤字低于GDP3%条款的回应:每当政府预算赤字超过限制,就会出台过度乐观的预测。换句话说,各国政府调整的是其预测,而非政策。

而周期性地调整财政限制制度尽管在其对宏观经济的影响方面非常有利,却无助于解决财政预测偏差的问题。事实上,这只会让问题变得更严重。对结构性预算赤字的预测被证明过度乐观的一年,政府依然可以声称其内部计算显示差额的出现是周期性而非结构性的。毕竟对潜在产出的估算——从而对财政状况进行周期性或是结构性的解读——是出了名的困难,即便是在事实之后计算也是如此。

也许在财政契约实施的情况下,它会有助于这些规则在国家层面上被采纳,而不像《稳定与增长公约》在超国家的层面上运作。纵观欧洲国家已经尝试过的各种规则和机制我们就会知道,有些能起作用,有些则不能。

创建一个能自行做出预算预测的独立财政机构是可行的,因为它减少了赤字预算的偏差。当预测违反了欧元区的过度赤字程序机制时,拥有独立预算预测机构的欧元区成员国的一年期平均偏差比没有这类机构的成员国要小,且小于的幅度达到GDP的2.7%。

如果各国政府能立法要求在其预算计划中必须使用这些独立预测的话则更好(这是从智利借鉴来的创新)。

但是,不管规则设计得多么巧妙,聪明而有决心的政治家都有办法绕过这些规则。其中一个窍门就是把政府企业私有化,这就减少了某年的预算赤字——当然只能使用一次,但如果这个企业是盈利的话这也许会增加政府的长期赤字。另一个窍门就是立法实施“暂时”的减税,这会使未来的收入看起来更多——尽管其意图是维持减税直到该法律失效为止。

在其他条件不变的情况下,好的机构可以在短期内遏制那些以周期性为幌子的财政政策——经济繁荣时期减税并增加支出,经济低迷时期实施财政紧缩——并在长期内有助于实现债务可持续性。这些机构包括独立的财政预测机构,并与由欧元区财政契约授权的周期调整预算目标相结合。虽然即使具备这样的机制也很可能出错;但正如《稳定与增长公约》的历史表明的那样,如果没有这样的机制,出错的风险将会更高。

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  1. Portrait of Pingfan Hong

    CommentedPingfan Hong

    The experience of the euro area fiscal policy in both before and after the crisis shows that it is difficult, or almost impossible, for governments to run a counter cyclical fiscal policy, not for technical reason, but for political reason. The idea of running counter cyclical fiscal policy is theoretically valid, but only in textbooks and econometric models, as no governments in reality would be willing to tighten their spending when the economy is booming, althought most of them are willing to expand their spending when the economy is in recession.

      Portrait of Jeffrey Frankel

      CommentedJeffrey Frankel

      To Pingfan Hong:
      It is by no means impossible to run a counter-cyclical fiscal policy, nor even all that difficullt. Most advanced countries since WWII have tended to raise spending and/or cut taxes in response to recessions, on average, even if they often are a little late on their timing, and the reverse during booms. Some continue to do so; Switzerland is an outstanding case. (It is a relatively new phenomenon for the same politicians who say deficits don't matter during booms to favor fiscal contraction during recessions.) It used to be only developing countries that followed strongly pro-cyclical (destabilizing) fiscal policies. But this has changed. Examples of Emerging Market countries that have achieved a counter-cyclical fiscal policy since 2000 include Chile, Korea, Malaysia, Botswana and Indonesia. (For documentation, see my “On Graduation from Fiscal Procyclicality,” with Carlos Végh & Guillermo Vuletin, forthcoming in Journal of Development Economics, 2013.)

  2. CommentedJoshua Ioji Konov

    Mr. Frankel, the deviation most of the EU governments is natural for the economic pressure causal of dysfunctional procyclical expectations for economic rebounds so much adapted by the EU and IMF economists, however, as we can see in the US, China and Japan the governments are using countercyclical to succeed even somewhere moderate economic growth. Moreover, the structural changes needed for the EU economy as a whole are not from monetary or only fiscal constrains and discipline but more from micro and macro economic aspects to partially change the priorities and the economic agents to carryon such economic growth from the currently used aggregation relying of big business and big investors to boost such economic growth to the more beneficial for the small and medium businesses and investors more fair market competition. Regarding the procyclical business theory, it became obvious from the 2007-9 Great Recession that with the rapid Globalization and rising Productivity, with the vastly improving technologies in Manufacturing that boosted outsourcing and moving of industrial production, with China's industrialization and the Internet it would be highly unlikely under these new conditions with increasing shortage of industrial employment and thus declining possibilities for high economic growth and acceptable levels of unemployment the self adjusting business cycles to adequately perform even where the market redundancies still have to be cut down. In a long term, I believe the procyclical economics may work on strictly regional basis however it should be more market driven adjustment of individual market sectors than a general adjustment as it has been used... the fragility of the overall economy/market breakup is not to be underestimated as it could be seen in the last recession and post-recession time.. Sincerely,

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