Zakaj Abenomiki ne uspe dvigniti inflacije?

Hmmm, to je itak vprašanje za nekaj bilijonov dolarjev ali evrov. Toda zadeva je zame zanimiva iz povsem akademskega vidika. Če ste prejšnji teden prebrali zapis Vojna med neoklasiki in keynesianci za interpretacijo glede uspešnosti Volckerjeve politike zniževanja inflacije, kjer prikazujem, kako se akademski makroekonomisti še danes prepirajo glede interpretacije tega, s kakšno žrtvijo je uspelo Volckerju znižati ameriško inflacijo v obdobju 1979-1983, ste naleteli na pojem “pričakovanja”. Glede tega pa je v makroekonomiji cela “štala”. Gre za predpostavko, okrog katere se je prelomila nekdanja standardna makroekonomija, ko jo je torpediral Robert Lucas s teorijo racionalnih pričakovanj.

V konkretnem primeru to pomeni, da če bi imeli “agenti” (zaposleni, delodajalci) racionalna (forward-looking) pričakovanja, bi bila žrtev majhna: z dramatičnim dvigom obrestnih mer bi Fed signaliziral, da zelo resno namerava znižati inflacijo in “agenti” bi se hitro prilagodili in takoj znižali plače, brezposelnost pa se ne bi dramatično (in trajneje) povečala. Če pa bi imeli “agenti” adaptivna (backward-looking) pričakovanja, bi bila žrtev velika, kajti delavci bi v pričakovanju prejšnje (visoke) ravni inflacije zahtevali višji dvig nominalnih plač, kar bi imelo za posledico več odpuščanja in višjo brezposelnost. Zgodovinski test (ostra recesija z visoko in trajno brezposelnostjo kot posledica dviga obrestnih mer) je pokazal, da so imeli prav starokeynesianci z adaptivnimi pričakovanji, medtem ko so monetaristi / neoklasiki udarili mimo z racionalnimi pričakovanji.

No,  danes se dogaja podobna zgodba, vendar v nasprotni smeri. Centralne banke razvitih držav (Fed, BoJ, BoE, ECB) se na smrt trudijo z neortodoksnimi monetarnimi politikami kvantitativnega sproščanja napumpati likvidnost v gospodarstvo, da bi dvignile inflacijo. In pri tem, eksplicitno ali implicitno, stavijo na racionalna pričakovanja agentov. V konkretnem primeru so agenti finančni trgi ter podjetja in s pumpanjem denarja ter ničelno obrestno mero jim centralne banke signalizirajo, da bodo obresti dolgo ostale zelo nizke, zaradi česar naj bi finančni trgi več investirali v realni sektor / podjetja naj bi se bolj zadolževala za investicije in tako prek spodbuditve gospodarske rasti tudi pomagali dvigniti raven inflacije na ciljno raven. Toda zdi se, da tudi tokrat racionalna pričakovanja (ki naj bi sicer, če že kje, bila uporabna prav pri delovanju finančnih trgov) ne delujejo. Inflacija se noče in noče dvigniti. Kot da trgi ne verjamejo v trajno nizke obrestne mere. Zakaj?

Za razliko od spodaj nevedenega zapisa Brada DeLonga po mojem skromnem mnenju ni toliko problem v finančnih trgih (ki na veliko investirajo v delnice podjetij in nepremičnine  ter so ustvarili kapitalski in nepremičninski balon na ravni tistih izpred krize v 2008), pač pa tiči problem pri podjetjih. Podjetja nočejo ali pa ne morejo investirati. Nekatera ne morejo zato, ker so preveč zadolžena in ne pridejo do bančnih kreditov ali ugodnih plasmajev obveznic. Večinoma pa podjetja nočejo investirati zaradi depresivnega povpraševanja. Potrošniki so še vedno dokaj zadržani glede nakupa trajnih dobrin, zato ne domače ne tuje zasebno trošenje ne narašča dovolj, da bi upravičilo velike naložbe. Brez rastočega povpraševanja na eni (ki dviguje cene dobrin) in rastočih investicij in zaposlovanja podjetij (ki dviguje raven plač) se tudi inflacija ne more bistveno odlepiti z dna. Še vedno smo v standardni keynesianski IS-LM likvidnostni pasti z deflacijo in depresijo, v kateri je monetarna politika impotentna. V tej situaciji, kot sem že ničkolikokrat zapisal, lahko le ekspanzivna fiskalna politika z večjim javnim trošenjem nadomesti izpad zasebnega povpraševanja (potrošnikov in podjetij) in tako z javnimi investicijami spodbudi tudi zasebne investicije, gospodarsko rast in zaposlovanje – s tem pa seveda tako zaželjen porast cen na ciljno raven.

In tako smo spet nazaj pri stari dilemi, zakaj politika kvantitativnega sproščanja ne more biti učinkovita. Pa naj bo še tako kredibilna s svojim signaliziranjem. In akademski ekonomisti širom sveta si še naprej razbijajo glave s tem, ali (in zakaj ne) racionalna pričakovanja ne delujejo, ali ni monetarna politika dovolj kredibilna, zakaj tudi očiščene bilance bank in podjetij ne delujejo itd. In pri tem jim odgovor leži takorekoč na konici nosu: ker vlade preveč stiskajo pas, namesto da bi povečale javne izdatke in po rekordno nizkih obrestnih merah izgradile vso potrebno infrastrukturo (in tako zaposlila zasebna podjetja, spodbudila njihove investicije in zaposlovanje itd.), izboljšale javno šolstvo in zdravstvo itd.

Spraševanje Brada DeLonga in Adama Posna:

As I said, my reading of the Great Depression era–FDR’s New Deal, Neville Chamberlain’s announcement that it was the policy of HMG to reverse the deflation that had occurred since 1929, Takahashi Korekiyo’s policies in Japan before his very untimely murder by militarist-fascist captains and majors–had convinced me that expectational effects were a thing. Thus I anticipated that Abenomics was likely to be a substantial huge success. 1979-1984 had taught us the limits of the expectations channel: that at the worker- and the manager-level expectations of inflation and deflation were likely to be adaptive and backward-looking. But Roosevelt, Chamberlain, and Takahashi in the 1930s gave me confidence in the expectations channel as far as money demand and investment were concerned. Thus I believed that the announcement effect of Abenomics stood a very good chance of working very well indeed.

I expected it to (1) reverse Japan’s deflation, (2) raise asset prices substantially, (3) bring price inflation and inflation expectations into line with its targets, and (4) spur a strong recovery. Why? Because I believed expectations relevant for financial markets were forward-looking, and reasonable forecasts that could be affected by credible policy announcements. (1) and (2) have happened. (3) and (4) have not.

Slides from Adam Posen’s Discussion of Hausman and Wieland’s Abenomics update:

Does Abenomics Support or Discredit Standard [New-Keynesian] Macro?

    • The forward-looking expectations/crediblity centered view of monetary policy comes off poorly
      • Ball and others had warned us that you really need real growth and wage rises to get inflation up
      • Combo of exchange rate movement and the BOJ program should have been “credible” by any standard
      • May be a little unfair, in that the combination of labor market changes and global forces can account for a rather large share of the ‘shortfall’ in inflation (i.e., core targeting was more successful)
      • Hidden surprise is that unlike 1990s/early 2000s, clean banks and balance sheets, still no effect
      • Remains the issue of response to shocks (which I agree is the proper definition of anchoring)
  • Fiscal policy comes closer to being as expected, at least in the short-run
    • Multipliers on fiscal policy not unexpectedly large, but persistence of shock was as surprise
    • The authors’ showing the uniformity of consumption impact across ages/credit status may just illustrate the (sole) relative importance of liquidity constraints which are largely absent in Japan today
    • Much more troubling with respect to fiscal theories of price level, debt-sustainability, and distinctions of permanent/temporary tax impacts
  • Three surprises/challenges for me with respect to overall policy assessment
    • Hidden surprise is that unlike 1990s/early 2000s, clean banks and balance sheets, still limited effect
    • Should we stop talking about credbility?–if forward-looking matters, shouldn’t there be Ricardian effects of fiscal policy and/or a stock market response to VAT hike?
    • If labor flexibility and shareholder rights-enhancing reforms don’t work when tried, does this mean that structural reform is overrated?

What Are the Puzzles Abenomics Presents to Macro?

  • Remember, the message of Japan 1990-2003 is that policy worked as expected [by simple IS-LM]
    • Has something changed?
    • Japan is more open and more market-oriented now than in 2003 which goes other way
  • Underscores the misleading emphasis on (simple? or just flexible?) forward-looking expectations–even amongst well-informed businesses and investors
  • Challenges us to further examine the global forces (still tbd) behind inflation levels and consumption/savings trends–especially since not simple RBC looking either
  • Highlights the puzzles in trade balance and exchange rate pass-through:
    • How can depreciation have large effects on exports volumes but not imports?
    • How can depreciation affect a huge chunk of the economy and not (first-round) affect general inflation?
  • Why is low inflation so inertial not just sticky?
  • Are we having to take more literally falling in and out of two states of the world–between recession-land and boom-world?

Those are Adam Posen’s take-aways from the Abenomics experience so far. Are they right?

I will have to think about this for quite a while…

Vir: Brad DeLong

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