Het verkeerde medicijn

BERKELEY – De crisis van de staatsfinanciën die Europa overspoelt is niet veroorzaakt door een verkwistend begrotingsbeleid, en zal ook niet worden opgelost door straffe bezuinigingen. Integendeel, de crisis wordt alleen maar verergerd door de bezuinigingen, die de euro onderuit halen en de wereldeconomie in een nieuwe duikvlucht dreigen te storten.

In 2007 waren Spanje en Ierland schoolvoorbeelden van begrotingsdiscipline, met een verhoudingsgewijs veel lagere staatsschuld dan Duitsland. Beleggers maakten zich geen zorgen over het risico dat Spanje of Ierland hun schulden niet zouden kunnen afbetalen, of over de aanhoudend hoge staatsschuld van Italië. Italië beroemde zich zelfs op het relatief laagste begrotingstekort van de eurozone, en de Italiaanse regering kon haar schulden makkelijk herfinancieren tegen een aantrekkelijke rente. Zelfs Griekenland kon, ondanks de snel eroderende concurrentiekracht en het steeds onhoudbaarder wordende begrotingstekort, het kapitaal aantrekken dat het land nodig had.

Misleid door het naar elkaar toe groeien van de rentepercentages op staatsobligaties na de lancering van de euro hebben beleggers een tien jaar durende kredietbloei gevoed in de particuliere sector van de minder ontwikkelde landen in de Europese periferie, en de vastgoedzeepbellen in Spanje en Ierland niet tijdig onderkend, evenmin als het wegglijden van Griekenland. Toen de groei scherp vertraagde en de kredietstromen in het kielzog van de Grote Recessie opdroogden, zijn de belastinginkomsten gekelderd, hebben overheden zich gedwongen gezien de schulden van de particuliere sector te socialiseren, en zijn de begrotingstekorten en de staatsschulden de pan uitgerezen.

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