deflation dawmatt/Flickr

¿Podrá China ganarle a la deflación?

BEIJING – En tiempos de desaceleración económica y endeudamiento corporativo a gran escala, una espiral deflacionaria es lo peor que puede pasarle a China. Y el riesgo está en alza. El índice de precios al productor (IPP) lleva 39 meses consecutivos (desde febrero de 2012) en territorio negativo. El aumento del índice de precios al consumidor (IPC) todavía es positivo, pero viene cayendo en forma sostenida, desde 6,5% en julio de 2011 a 1,2% en mayo. Hasta donde es posible juzgar por experiencias pasadas, el IPC se negativizará muy pronto.

El último período prolongado de deflación en China fue entre 1998 y 2002, como resultado de un ajuste monetario y fiscal que comenzó en 1993, combinado con la falta de mecanismos de liquidación de empresas. Tras llegar a un máximo del 24% en 1994, la inflación empezó a ceder al año siguiente; pero en poco tiempo el PIB se desaceleró. En un intento de revitalizar el crecimiento en un entorno global complicado y proteger las exportaciones del impacto de la crisis financiera asiática, en noviembre de 1997 el gobierno chino comenzó a flexibilizar su política fiscal y monetaria.

Pero fue tarde y poco. En 1998, cuando la inflación del IPC empezó a bajar, los precios al productor ya llevaban ocho meses de caída, y se mantuvieron negativos durante 51 meses, mientras que el crecimiento del IPC tardó 39 meses en recuperarse.

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