Le problème comptable du Japon

TOKYO – Dans quelques années, il deviendra évident que la Banque centrale du Japon (BCJ) a converti en espèces sonnantes plusieurs billions de dollars d’obligations souveraines. Les craintes de l’orthodoxie monétariste voulant que la presse à billets pour financer des déficits actuels et passés mène inévitablement à une inflation dangereusement élevée. Le résultat au Japon sera fort probablement une légère hausse de l’inflation et de la croissance. Et la réaction des marchés financiers risque fort de ressembler à un simple bâillement.

La dette publique du Japon se situe maintenant au-dessus de 230 % du PIB, et à environ 140 % même après avoir défalqué les actifs détenus par les différentes entités contrôlées par l’État, comme le fonds de sécurité sociale. Cette montagne de dettes est le résultat inévitable des déficits budgétaires élevés que le Japon a enregistrés depuis 1990. Mais c’est le genre de dette qui ne sera jamais « remboursée » au sens usuel du terme.

Les statistiques publiées par le Fonds monétaire international aident à comprendre pourquoi. Pour que le Japon parvienne à rembourser sa dette nette à un raisonnable 80 % du PIB d’ici 2030, il faudrait faire passer le déficit primaire du budget de 6 % du PIB (avant les paiements d’intérêt sur la dette courante) de 2014 à un surplus de 5,6 % du PIB d’ici 2020 et maintenir le surplus jusque dans les années 2020.

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