Tirer les leçons de l’austérité pour la croissance

MILAN – Au cours d’une série d'études récentes, Carmen Reinhart et Kenneth Rogoff ont utilisé une vaste gamme de données historiques pour montrer que l'accumulation de niveaux élevés de dette publique (et privée) par rapport au PIB a un effet négatif persistant sur la croissance. La taille de l'effet identifié a incité un débat à propos d’erreurs présentes dans leurs calculs. Peu de personnes, cependant, doutent de la validité de la tendance en question.

Cela ne devrait pas être surprenant. Accumuler une dette excessive implique généralement l’anticipation d’une partie de la demande intérieure globale, de sorte que la sortie de cette dette exige une augmentation de l’épargne et une diminution de la demande. Ce choc négatif affecte négativement le secteur des biens non échangeables, qui est important (environ les deux tiers d'une économie avancée) et dépend entièrement de la demande intérieure. En conséquence, les taux de croissance et d'emploi chutent pendant la période de désendettement.

Dans une économie ouverte, le désendettement ne touche pas nécessairement le secteur des biens échangeables de la même manière. Mais, même dans une telle économie, les années de demande intérieure alimentée par la dette peuvent produire une perte de compétitivité ainsi que des distorsions structurelles. En outre, les crises qui marquent souvent la transition entre les phases d’endettement et de désendettement sont sources de dégâts supplémentaires dans les bilans et prolongent le processus de guérison.

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