V Evropi so nekoliko pozabili, zakaj je prišlo do dolžniške krize držav. Nekakšno splošno sprejeto dejstvo v javnosti je, da imamo krizo prevelikega javnega dolga, do katerega je prišlo zaradi prevelike javne porabe držav. Toda to je absolutno napačno in velja le za Grčijo. Za vse ostale države EU pa se je javni dolg nakopičil, ker so države reševale nasedle banke, ki so pa nasedle zaradi prevelikega dolga podjetij in gospodinjstev. In kot pravilno ugotavlja zadnji The Economist, bo skrbni pregled bank, ki ga bo ECB izvedla naslednje leto, izpod preproge potegnil prav to zamolčano dejstvo. To pa lahko povzroči še večje težave, saj bo z razkritjem slabih financ na mizo prišel tudi strošek razdolževanja podjetij in gospodinjstev.
Unfortunately, the euro zone has made less headway than other places in reducing this private-debt burden. Thanks to mortgage write-downs and faster growth, America’s households have unwound about two-thirds of the excess debt built up during the boom years. Most euro-zone countries have achieved far less private-sector “deleveraging”, for three reasons. First, the fiscal austerity imposed on Europe’s peripheral economies deepened their recessions, which made it harder to reduce private debts. Second, weak banks have been reluctant to recognise, and hence make provisions for, non-performing loans. And third, European bankruptcy law is less debtor-friendly than America’s, and so tends to be less conducive to restructuring debt. In America many mortgages are “non-recourse”, meaning a borrower can hand back the keys and walk away; Europeans typically remain liable for unpaid mortgage debt. Corporate-bankruptcy procedures are often slow and costly: in Italy the process takes an average of seven years.
The corporate-debt problem is worst in Portugal, Spain and Italy, where the IMF says that 50%, 40% and 30% of debt, respectively, is owed by firms which cannot cover their interest payments out of pre-tax earnings. These firms are unable to invest or grow. They are zombie companies, much like those wafting through Japan in the 1990s.
The household-debt burden is especially heavy in Ireland and, surprisingly, the Netherlands—exceeding 100% of GDP in both places. Paying the mortgage strains household finances and crimps consumer spending. Whereas in America the share of income that the average household spends on servicing debt is now the lowest in decades, in Spain it is higher than during the boom years.
Vir: The Economist