Stack of coins.

Comment gérer la dette ?

GENÈVE – L'instabilité des marchés financiers a beaucoup attiré l'attention au cours de ces derniers mois. Mais aussi effrayant que puissent paraître les aléas du cours des actions, il ne s'agit que d'un peu d'écume sur la crête des vagues, comparé à la véritable menace qui pèse sur l'économie mondiale : le tsunami énorme de la dette qui va déferler sur les ménages, les entreprises, les banques et les gouvernements. Si la Réserve fédérale américaine donne suite à l'augmentation des taux d'intérêt à la fin de cette année, comme on a pu le suggérer, l'économie mondiale (et en particulier les marchés émergents), pourraient avoir de sérieux ennuis.

La dette mondiale a augmenté d'environ 57 mille milliards de dollars depuis l'effondrement de Lehman Brothers en 2008, pour atteindre le niveau éreintant de 199 mille milliards de dollars en 2014, soit plus de 2,5 fois le PIB mondial, selon les chiffres du McKinsey Global Institute. Le remboursement de ces dettes va certainement devenir de plus en plus difficile dans les années à venir, surtout si la croissance continue de stagner, si les taux d'intérêt commencent à augmenter, si les possibilités d'exportation restent modérées et si l'effondrement des prix persiste.

Les préoccupations relatives à la dette proviennent en particulier du potentiel de défaut de paiement dans la zone euro. Mais les entreprises très endettées sur les marchés émergents courent peut-être un danger encore plus grand. On estime la dette des sociétés dans le monde en développement à plus de 18 mille milliards de dollars, dont 2 mille milliards de dollars en devises. Le risque est que, comme en Amérique latine dans les années 1980 et en Asie dans les années 1990, les défauts de paiement du secteur privé viennent infecter les bilans publics.

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