Kako in zakaj je Bruselj klonil pod pritiski članic

Danes je tudi uradno, kar se je v Bruslju vedelo že nekaj časa: “Evropska komisija v roku, ki se izteče jutri, ne bo zavrnila proračunskih načrtov nobene od članic območja evra. Komisar za denarne in finančne zadeve Jyrki Katainen je pojasnil, da niso odkrili nobenega primera »posebno resnih kršitev« proračunskih pravil EU.” (Delo) Zgodba ima sicer daljši rep. Še prejšnji teden (22.10.) je taisti komisar Katainen italijanskemu finančnemu ministru Pieru Carlu Padoanu poslal ostro pismo, da hoče pojasnila “on the reasons why Italy plans non-compliance with the SGP in 2015“. No, italijanski premier Matteo Renzi je to “strictly confidential” pismo javno objavil in nato po prihodu v Bruselj izjavil, da bo v duhu transparentnosti nadaljeval z objavami tovrstnih pisem komisije, hkrati pa tudi “all the financial data on how much is spent in these buildings. It’ll be a lot of fun.

Italijansko javno nasprotovanje pritisku iz Bruslja je seveda le vrh ledene gore. Bruselj se je pod pritiskom Francije in Italije, ki sta odkrito povedali, da ne nameravata spoštovati določil Pakta o stabilnosti in rasti (SGP), raje umaknil, da ne bi izgubil kredibilnosti.

Toda zame kot ekonomista so bolj kot ta izsiljen odklon od spoštovanja določil SGP zanimivi ekonomski argumenti, s katerimi je denimo Italija zavrnila vsiljevane varčevalne proračune.

Pred dvema tednoma (15.10) je italijanska vlada v Bruselj poslala Osnutek proračunskega plana (DBP), kjer je na straneh 31 in 32 objavljena kritika modelskega pristopa Evropske komisije glede izračuna potencialnega BDP in “proizvodne vrzeli” ter s tem glede prave ocene cikličnega in strukturnega proračunskega primanjkljaja. Če skrajšam, italijansko finančno ministrstvo je Bruslju razložilo, da je metodologija Bruslja napačna in da oblikovanje ekonomske politike na tej osnovi vodi v povsem napačno smer, zato je ne namerava spoštovati.

Spodaj v celoti navajam italijanske argumente glede “napačnosti” metodologije Bruslja. Preprosto rečeno, gre za to, da daljše trajanje krize povzroča strukturne težave, ker manj podjetij želi investirati in veliko delovne sile pa postaja trajno brezposelne, zaradi česar se tudi potencialni BDP zmanjšuje (t.i. učinek histereze). Rast italijanskega potencialnega BDP v 15 letih pred krizo je znašala 1.5% letno, v obdobju 2008-2013 pa se je zmanjšala na -0.2%. V italijanskem finančnem ministrstvu pravijo, da je ta ocenjen padec rasti potencialnega BDP pretiran in da je posledica uporabe statističnih metod filtriranja podatkov, ki podcenjujejo ciklično komponento rasti BDP in tekočo dinamiko identificirajo kot strukturno. To se kaže denimo v tem, da je modelsko ocenjeni delež strukturne brezposelnosti v večini kriznih držav nenormalno poskočil (ponekod celo prek dejanske brezposelnosti).

Iz tega pa sledita dva logična sklepa:

Prvič, če je padec rasti potencialnega BDP precenjen (in bi moral dejansko biti višji), potem je tudi “proizvodna vrzel” (razlika med potencialnim in dejanskim BDP) večja. S tem pa bi morala biti priznana tudi večja ciklična komponenta zaradi prenizkega agregatnega povpraševanja in posledično bi morali državam dovoliti, da imajo v času krize večje tekoče proračunske deficite, s katerimi bi lahko zagnali gospodarsko rast.

Drugič, če je ocena padca potencialnega BDP pravilna, pa to samo pomeni, da je imela kriza izjemno velik učinek histereze in da dlje kot kriza traja, bolj uničuje produktivne potenciale države.

Italijani na tej osnovi pravijo, da so priporočila Bruslja članicam v obeh primerih povsem napačna. V prvem primeru bi članicam morali dovoliti večje tekoče primanjkljaje (v skladu z večjo proizvodno vrzeljo), v drugem primeru pa države s siljenjem v varčevanje prisiljujejo v uničevanje domačih proizvodnih potencialov.

Argumenti italijanske vlade so povsem na mestu. Povsem enake argumente je ob istem času lani obelodanila kopica ekonomistov (glejte za pregled teh kritik tukaj). Ne smete pa spregledati dejstva, da je italijanskemu finančnemu ministru ime Pier Carlo Padoan, sicer profesor ekonomije, ki je bil pred tem drugi človek OECD in tudi glavni ekonomist OECD, ko je OECD razvijal metodologijo ocenjevanja proizvodne vrzeli, zato je lahko svojim sodelavcem iz prve roke povedal za njene šibke točke.

Ne glede na to, kaj si mislimo o siceršnji italijanski proračunski disciplini, pa so njihovi tokratni argumenti na mestu. Evropska komisija uporablja zelo sporno metodologijo, na podlagi katere daje v vsakem primeru napačne ekonomske nasvete posameznim članicam. Zato je ta odklon Bruslja od zahtev po spoštovanju določil SGP povsem na mestu. Nova komisija bo glede tega imela najbrž bolj trezno glavo in bo s spremembo ciljev ekonomske politike imela bolj prijazna stališča do gospodarske rasti.

Mene žalosti le to, da takšne argumentirane kritike niso sposobni sestaviti v našem finančnem ministrstvu in da namesto tega silijo v premalo premišljeno rezanje javnih izdatkov, samo da bi zadovoljili zahteve Bruslja.

Preberite spodaj italijansko kritiko metodologije izračuna potencialnega BDP in implikacij za fiskalno politiko:

The estimate of potential GDP and its implications for fiscal policy

Italian GDP grew yearly on average by 1.5 percent during the fifteen years before the current crisis, i.e. 1992-2007. In the same period, according to the model agreed at the EU level, average potential GDP growth rate was 1.4. Both effective and potential GDP growth rates are significantly weak if compared to the other European or OECD countries, due to the relevant structural problems that have been characterizing the Italian economy well ahead of the crisis.

The same model forecasts a decrease of potential GDP growth by 0.2 percent between 2008 and 2015, which implies a cumulated drop of around 2 percent; in the same period effective GDP is supposed to decrease by 1 percent. In other words, the crisis would have reduced not only potential GDP growth rates but also the country’s productive capacity. To which extent is the estimate of potential output reliable? Identifying the cyclical and structural components of the output, a complex task even in normal conditions, becomes particularly puzzling in years characterized by a persistent lack of aggregate demand. It is a crucial issue because the estimate of the potential GDP impacts on structural budget balance, an indicator that plays a fundamental role in shaping the fiscal policy of the Eurozone countries.

On paper, the decrease of potential output can be due to an overestimate in pre-financial crisis years or to its consequences – thus implying a true structural break. Explaining the drop in GDP potential after the crisis by its overestimate in pre-crisis years looks unlikely in Italy, given the lack of assets bubbles and the high and persistent primary surplus (above 3 percent of GDP on average) before the crisis as well as considering that regulation of goods and labour markets had an evolution in line with other European countries.

The other possible explanation is linked to the crisis and seems more realistic: strong shocks in aggregate demand, if not properly counterbalanced, can produce persistent damages to the economy through the so-called hysteresis effects. After a negative shock firms can choose to postpone their investment plans, e.g. in research and innovation, lower the turnover and – possibly – shut down factories and productive sites. Moreover, a prolonged recession frequently implies an increase of long-term unemployed who tend to lose their skills and/or detach from the labour market, deteriorating the match between demand and supply and increasing segmentation. At the aggregate level, these effects can have long lasting impacts on the future productive capacities of an economy hit by a deep and long crisis.

The economic literature agrees on the existence of strong hysteresis effects but the estimates on its impact on GDP growth rates vary in their magnitude. In the model used at the EU level low or negative effective GDP growth rate impacts on potential GDP trough statistical filters; these increase the strength of that link as the crisis continues, because the methodology underestimate the amplitude of the cycle and identify as structural the recent developments. As a consequence, the model produces pro-cyclical estimates of potential GDP which implicitly assume strong hysteresis effects. This methodology showed less downsides in the decades before the crisis – when the correlation between effective and potential GDP was strong – as cyclical fluctuations were shallow; in the current economic environment with a persistent lack of aggregate demand, the model tends to underestimate the potential output.

This issue is confirmed if one considers the pro-cyclicality of the estimates of the structural unemployment rate (Non Accelerating Wage Rate of Unemployment – NAWRU), especially relevant for the methodologies based on the production function, such as the one used at the EU level12. Empirical analyses show that in Italy the NAWRU estimated by the model tends to follow the changes in cyclical unemployment. In the current scenario characterized by a prolonged increase of the unemployment rate, the estimate of the NAWRU is therefore higher than that obtained by properly taking into account the impact of cyclical factors; in countries that have experienced a particularly strong cumulative decline of GDP the model offers unlikely results – e.g. in Spain, the equilibrium non-inflationary unemployment rate would be close to 21 percent. The bigger the value of the NAWRU, the lower the potential; as far as fiscal policy is concerned, during prolonged and intense recessions there is the concrete risk that the model overestimates structural deficits.

In order to estimate the NAWRU, the model exploits the relation between the wages and the rate of unemployment dynamics (the Phillips curve); but in an environment of historically low interest rates and weak prices this relation seems to have lost significance, probably reflecting a structural break.

Even assuming significant hysteresis effects, it seems that a reduction from 1.4 to -0.2 per cent in the growth rate of potential GDP – from the period before and after the crisis – is particularly large. For example, assuming as of 2008 a significant decrease in the growth rate of potential GDP, but not as marked as estimated by the model – for example, from 1.4 to 0.4 per cent, rather than -0.2 – the structural budget balance would have basically reached the medium term objective as early as 2012 (see graph 1).

The models used by other forecasters (for ex. the OECD) are not immune from these shortcomings, suffering from the distortions related to the dynamic of the observations at the end of the sample, including those resulting from a revision of the forecasts; on the other hand, it is not surprising that analytical tools designed to cope with “normal” economic circumstances are unable to adequately capture the impact of structural break to macroeconomic variables occurred in 2008.

In conclusion, the decline in potential GDP growth rate stemming from the model agreed under the EU is particularly marked in Italy (and other countries), largely because of the working of statistical filters that implicitly assume a very pronounced hysteresis. It is likely that there are significant persistent effects of the long recession; however, in the model estimates they appear excessive. The prediction of the potential output made by the model must therefore be considered with extreme caution.

In the light of the structural break occurred in 2008 and the relevance for the fiscal policy, it is appropriate that national and European policymakers use with extreme caution the potential GDP estimates, which are subject to such an uncertainty. A fortiori given the asymmetric risks that make the consequences of a potential underestimation of GDP – and therefore the design of a wrong economic policies mix – potentially far more serious than those related to an overestimation in terms of increased danger of stagnation and deflation. On the other hand it should be noted that, if the impact of low growth on potential would be as large as implicitly assumed by the model, it would be even more urgent to avoid restrictive macroeconomic policies so as not to damage the long-term prospects. Paradoxically, the model agreed at the European level provides strong arguments to those who embrace a more gradual fiscal consolidation.

Vir: Italy’s Draft Budgetary Plan 2015

5 responses

  1. Tudi mene žalosti ta “nesposobnost” našega finančnega ministrstva, verjetno v veliki meri pogojena tudi s politično poniglavostjo celotne naše politične scene, ki ali poskuša sedati na razne vlake ali pa plava “nekje vmes”. Ta strokovna samoprilagodljivost politični sceni je vsaj nespodobna, če ne kaj hujšega.

    Podobno je tudi glede prepoznavanja in ukrepanja glede naše finančne malomarnosti in našega finančnega primitivizma na osnovi veljavnih KPFN in etike poslovnega finančnika. Celo tisti, ki so k njunem spoštovanju neposredno zavezani, celo o njunem obstoju vztrajno molčijo. Ne morem se znebiti vtisa, da gre tudi v tem primeru najmanj za interesno pogojeno strokovno slepoto z literarnimi opisovalnimi nagnjenji, kjer se omembi pojava nikakor ne da ogniti – veselica, razuzdanost,napaka… Najbrž je preveč krivih.

    Lep pozdrav, Igor

  2. Vprašanje je tudi kako daleč v kršenju teh nesmiselnih pravil bi Slovenija lahko šla. Kdaj približno bi Komisija odtegnila kaka sredstva in “napisala” kako kazen? Kdo pa še verjame, da v tej Evropi obstajajo enaka pravila obravnavanja malih in velikih.

    Pa recimo, če bi prišli do 4% primanjkljaja za leto 2015, denar pa v glavnem namenili za IMF-ovska priporočila, kaj bi se zgodilo?

  3. Problem je med drugim tudi medijski odnos do zadolževanja. Predstavljajo ga, kot nekaj katastrofalnega in ljudje ne razumejo ozadja, zato tudi sami močno nasprotujejo zadolževanju. Z drugimi besedami: Če se ne motim je Krugman to povedal nekako takole. V krizo smo prišli zaradi pretiranega zadolževanja (zasebnega sektorja) iz krize pa lahko pridemo zgolj z še več zadolževanja (države)! Ljudje denimo hvalijo Bajuka, da je imel super proračun, ne zavedajo pa se paradoksa, da je izravnan proračun v času, ko se zasebni sektor zadolži za 20 milijard pravzaprav slab (strukturni primanjkljaj je bil torej velik). Prav tako pa je logično, da je proračun težko imeti izravnan, ko se zasebni sektor za tak znesek razdolži. Vedno znova beremo o nekih komentarjih kako se levaki zadolžujejo za potraten javni sektor itd. In krivdo gre za moje pojme pripisati medijem, ki ne razjasnijo “ozadja”. Težko pa je Bruselj v nekaj prepričati, če nimaš podpore domačih ljudi! Žal…

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