Guntram B. Wolff, direktor bruseljskega think-tanka Bruegel, ima zelo dober predlog, kako v sedanji institucionalni in politični pat poziciji zagnati in financirati potrebne infrastrukturne projekte i tako zagnali gospodarsko rast v Evropi. Ideja je, da bi v dveh letih za infrastrukturne projekte namenili 400 mlr. €, pri čemer bi vse nacionalne infrastrukturne projekte financirali prek izdaje obveznic Evropske investicijske banke (EIB). Prednosti tega pristopa so vsaj štiri. Prvič, cena zadolževanja EIB je zelo nizka. Drugič, posameznim državam se zaradi tega ne bi bilo treba zadolžiti in infrastrukturne investicije zato ne bi imele negativnega vpliva na proračune držav. Tretjič, zaradi tega ne bi bilo treba čakati na dolgotrajne in praktično nemogoče dogovore glede fiskalne unije. In četrtič, te obveznice EIB bi lahko na sekundarnem trgu odkupovala ECB in tako po eni strani vplivala na njihovo ceno, na drugi pa uresničila svoje cilje glede potrebnega obsega kvantitativnega sproščanja.
Seveda pa bi Evropska komisija morala odobriti vse nacionalne infrastrukturne projekte in nad njimi bedeti, da ne bi prišlo do zlorab.
A two-year €400 billion ($510 billion) public-investment program, financed with European Investment Bank bonds, would be the best way to overcome Europe’s current impasse. Borrowing by the EIB has no implications in terms of European fiscal rules. It is recorded neither as new debt nor as a deficit for any of the member states, which means that new government spending could be funded without affecting national fiscal performance.
Thus, some of the investment spending currently planned at the national level could be financed via European borrowing to relieve national budgets. Such an indirect way of dealing with strict rules would also be easier than starting long and wearying negotiations on changes to the fiscal framework.
The EIB is worried that such a scheme could come at the cost of its triple-A rating. Indeed, though it can currently borrow at 1.6% on a long maturity, it has used its recent capital-raising exercise to reduce leverage rather than substantially increase its loan portfolio, as would be warranted at a time of retrenchment in private lending. In any case, a rating change would hardly affect funding costs in the current low-yield environment, as lower-rated sovereigns have demonstrated.
In addition, the ECB could purchase EIB bonds on secondary markets, which would help to keep funding costs low – or even reduce them. More important, purchases of EIB bonds would enable the ECB to undertake quantitative easing without triggering the degree of controversy implied by intervening in 18 separate sovereign-bond markets, where concerns that ECB purchases would affect the relative pricing of sovereigns are very real.
Already, €200 billion of EIB bonds are available. Adding €400 billion would increase the pool substantially. Together with asset-backed securities, covered bonds, and corporate bonds, €1 trillion of assets – the threshold widely thought to make quantitative easing by the ECB credible – would be available for purchase.
In part, this means that existing infrastructure projects that are supposed to be financed from national budgets could be funded by the EIB. By removing some of the burden from national budgets, the current decline in public investment could be reversed.
Similar arrangements could be found for the other eurozone countries. To prevent the misuse of money, the European Commission should vet all national investment projects. More broadly, the program would be an important step toward establishing the eurozone’s missing fiscal union. That goal will be reached more quickly once the benefits of achieving it are apparent to all.
Vir: Guntram B. Wolff, Project Syndicate