¿Falló la austeridad en Europa?

BRUSELAS – Si bien muchos gobiernos europeos han anunciado recortes en el gasto y aumentos impositivos, sus indicadores de deuda respecto del PBI continúan empeorando. Si el propósito de la austeridad era reducir los niveles de deuda, sus críticos están en lo cierto: el ajuste del cinturón fiscal ha fallado. Pero la meta de la austeridad no era solo estabilizar las ratios de deuda.

De hecho, en algunos casos la austeridad ha funcionado según lo anunciado. El déficit fiscal alemán aumentó temporalmente cerca de 2,5 puntos porcentuales del PBI durante la recesión mundial de 2009; la rápida reducción del déficit ulterior no tuvo impacto negativo significativo sobre el crecimiento. Entonces, es posible reducir los déficits y mantener controlada la relación entre deuda y PBI –siempre que la economía no comience con grandes desequilibrios y el sistema financiero funcione adecuadamente. Obviamente, los países en la periferia de la zona del euro no cumplen esas condiciones.

Los países cuyos gobiernos han perdido acceso al financiamiento normal en los mercados (como Grecia, Irlanda y Portugal) o enfrentan primas de riesgo muy elevadas (como Italia y España en 2011-2012) sencillamente no tienen opción: deben reducir su gasto u obtener financiamiento de algún organismo oficial como el Fondo Monetario Internacional o el Mecanismo Europeo de Estabilidad (MEDE). Pero el financiamiento oficial extranjero siempre estará sujeto a las condiciones de los prestamistas –quienes no tienen motivos para financiar la continuidad de niveles de gasto que previamente derivaron en problemas para el prestatario.

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