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Wat is er verkeerd aan een negatieve rente?

NEW YORK – Begin januari schreef ik dat de economische omstandigheden dit jaar waarschijnlijk net zo zwak zouden blijken als in 2015, het slechtste jaar sinds het uitbreken van de mondiale financiële crisis in 2008. En zoals de afgelopen tien jaar herhaaldelijk is gebeurd, zijn een paar maanden later in het jaar de optimistischer voorspellingen van anderen neerwaarts bijgesteld.

Het onderliggende probleem – dat de mondiale economie sinds de crisis heeft geplaagd, maar enigszins is verergerd – is de tekortschietende vraag. In reactie hierop heeft de Europese Centrale Bank (ECB) haar stimuleringsmaatregelen opgevoerd, en heeft zij samen met de Bank of Japan en een paar andere centrale banken aangetoond dat de “zero lower bound” – de onmogelijkheid dat de rente negatief wordt – louter een grens is in de verbeelding van conventionele economen.

En toch is er in geen van de economieën die het onorthodoxe experiment van een negatieve rente hebben aangedurfd sprake geweest van een terugkeer naar groei en volledige werkgelegenheid. In sommige gevallen is de uitkomst zelfs heel anders geweest dan verwacht: sommige rentepercentages zijn feitelijk juist gestegen.

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