Je bil Grexit neizogiben?

David Beckworth pravi, da ne. Kljub temu, da evrsko območje ni niti blizu optimalnemu denarnemu področju, pa po njegovem to ni bil odločilni problem za začetek razpadanja evrskega območja. Pač pa naj bi problem nastal zaradi napačnih politik ECB. In sicer naj bi ECB naredila dve veliki napaki glede monetarne politike. Leta 2008 naj bi po nepotrebnem še dvignila obrestno mero in tako sprožila recesijo. Podobno pa je leta 2011 ob šibkem okrevanju s prehitrim in nepotrebnim dvigom obrestne mere, namesto da bi po ameriškem vzoru začela s kvantitativnim sproščanjem, evrsko gospodarstvo ponovno pognala v recesijo. Dolžniške krize evrskih držav naj ne bi bilo, če bi ECB pravilno in dobro opravljala svoje delo.

V dobršni meri ima Beckworth glede napak ECB prav. Razen, da pozablja dve stvari. Prvič, trgovinska neravnotežja bi se še vedno kopičila, medtem ko mehanizma za reševanje posledic kapitalskih balonov ni bilo in še vedno ni na voljo (bančna unija ter predvsem transferna in fiskalna unija). In drugič, za evrsko območje je bila to povsem nova izkušnja in sproti je bilo treba premikati meje (predvsem v glavah) in vedno znova prekoračiti nove ideološke in institucionalne “Rubikone”. Kar je normalno danes, denimo program OMT (odkupovanje obveznic držav v likvidnostnih težavah) ali program QE (odkupovanje korporativnih in državnih obveznic z namenom spodbuditve inflacije), je bilo v času jastreba Tricheta na čelu ECB nepredstavljiva herezija.

Pa tudi kakšno novo spoznanje je v tem času nastalo (tako v glavah ameriških kot evropskih ekonomistov): denimo to, da v času likvidnostne pasti (ničelnih obrestnih mer) še tako velika količina denarja, ki jo centralna banka pošilja na trge, ne more sprožiti inflacije.

So it appears the Eurozone crisis has finally crossed the rubicon. Greece is going to default on Monday and this likely will put in motion its departure from the currency union. The Eurozone as we know it may soon cease to exist.

Was this breakup inevitable? Many observers would say yes. The Eurozone, after all, is not an optimal currency area and therefore likely to create problems. Martin Feldstein, for example, in 1997 wrote this in Foreign Affairs:

Monnet was mistaken… If EMU does come into existence, as now seems increasingly likely, it will change the political character of Europe in ways that could lead to conflicts in Europe…What are the reasons for such conflicts? In the beginning there would be important disagreements among the EMU member countries about the goals and methods of monetary policy. These would be exacerbated whenever the business cycle raised unemployment in a particular country or group of countries. These economic disagreements could contribute to a more general distrust among the European nations.

This does seem prescient now as the tension between core and periphery countries in general and the Troika and Greece in particular have shown the inherent tension in the currency union. So maybe this path was preordained. Maybe ‘Grexit’ was inevitable. 

Or maybe not. Maybe the Eurozone crisis happened when it did because of colossal policy errors rather than being a necessary outcome of a flawed currency union. I make this argument in a new working paper and contend the policy errors were the ECB’s two tightening cycles in 2008 and 2010-2011. These tightening cycles were a huge mistake and arguably what set in motion the Eurozone crisis. They helped precipitate the sovereign debt crisis and gave teeth to the austerity imposed on the periphery.

As I show in the paper, these tightening cycles and preceded the financial panic of late 2008 and sovereign debt problems and appear to have given teeth the austerity programs. How different would the Eurozone look today had the ECB had instead cut rates in 2008 and started its QE program back then? I think the Eurozone would be a lot different. And no, Grexit would not be an inevitable outcome. There would still be problems for the currency union, but they would problems that could be sorted out in an economy not beset by a depression.

The ECB, in other words, bears a lot of the responsibility for the impending breakup of the Eurozone. Keep that in mind this week as the Grexit comes to fruition.

Vir: David Beckworth

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