A man walks past BNP Paribas bank Fred Dufour/Getty Images

La lección perdida de la crisis financiera

LONDRES – En agosto de hace diez años, el banco francés BNP Paribas decidió limitar el acceso de los inversores al dinero que habían depositado en tres fondos. Fue la primera señal clara del estrés financiero que, un año más tarde, enviaría a la economía global en picada. Sin embargo, las enormes distorsiones económicas y financieras que alcanzarían un punto crítico a fines de 2008 y se perpetuarían hasta comienzos de 2009 -y que llevaron al mundo al borde de una depresión devastadora que duró varios años- tomaron totalmente por sorpresa a los responsables de las políticas en las economías avanzadas. Claramente no habían prestado la suficiente atención a las lecciones de las crisis en el mundo emergente.

Cualquiera que haya experimentado o estudiado las crisis financieras de los países en desarrollo será penosamente consciente de las características que las definen. Por empezar, como sostuvo el difunto Rüdiger Dornbusch, las crisis financieras pueden tardar mucho tiempo en desarrollarse, pero una vez que estallan, tienden a propagarse de manera rápida, salvaje, violenta y (aparentemente) indiscriminada.

En este proceso de quiebras en cascada, las condiciones financieras generales rápidamente pasan del festín a la penuria. Las fábricas de crédito privadas que parecían indestructibles caen de rodillas, y los bancos centrales y los gobiernos se enfrentan a opciones de políticas difíciles e inherentemente inciertas. Es más, los responsables de las políticas también tienen que considerar el riesgo de un "freno repentino" de la actividad económica, que puede devastar el empleo, el comercio y la inversión.

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