Les véritables héros de l’économie mondiale

PRINCETON – De nos jours, les décideurs économiques qui cherchent à imiter des modèles à succès ont apparemment une abondance de choix potentiels. Emmenés par la Chine, des dizaines de pays émergents et en développement ont enregistré des taux de croissance records au cours des dernières décennies, établissant ainsi des précédents à suivre pour les autres. Bien que les économies avancées aient obtenu de bien moins bonnes performances en moyenne, il y a des exceptions notables, comme l'Allemagne et la Suède. « Faites comme nous », disent souvent les dirigeants de ces pays, « et vous prospérerez vous aussi. »

Pourtant, si on y regarde de plus près, on découvre que les modèles de croissance tant vantés de ces pays ne peuvent en aucun cas être reproduits partout, car ils reposent sur des excédents extérieurs importants pour stimuler le secteur des biens échangeables et le reste de l'économie. L’excédent du compte courant de la Suède a excédé le montant énorme de 7% du PIB en moyenne au cours de la dernière décennie ; celui de l'Allemagne a été en moyenne de près de 6% durant la même période.

Le large excédent extérieur de la Chine – plus de 10% du PIB en 2007 – a diminué de façon significative au cours des dernières années, le déséquilibre commercial tombant à environ 2,5% du PIB. Le taux de croissance de l'économie a suivi la diminution de l'excédent – en fait, pratiquement point à point. Bien sûr, la croissance annuelle de la Chine reste relativement élevée, au-dessus de 7%. Mais la croissance à ce niveau reflète une hausse de l'investissement intérieur à un niveau sans précédent – et insoutenable – à près de 50% du PIB. Lorsque l'investissement reviendra à des niveaux normaux, la croissance économique ralentira davantage.

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