Ko mora centralni bančnik povedati, da so strukturne reforme “brez veze” in da morajo vlade več trošiti

Vítor Constâncio, podpredsednik ECB, je marca v blogu na spletni strani ECB obelodanil svoje globoko razočaranje nad mlahavostjo držav glede spodbujanja rasti. V zapisu je izrazil razočaranje nad tem, da razvite države niso pripravljene aktivirati fiskalne politike za spodbuditev rasti, pri čemer je navedel politične (ideološke) razloge v ZDA in institucionalne ovire v EU (“države, ki imajo fiskalni prostor, nočejo, tiste, ki hočejo, pa ne smejo“). Povedal je tudi, da so v sedanji situaciji strukturne reforme brez veze – bodisi imajo šele dolgoročni učinek bodisi imajo na kratek rok negativne učinke (reforme trga dela). In povedal je, da nujno potrebujemo gospodarsko rast, če hočemo, da se inflacija normalizira. Za ta cilj bi morali aktivirati vse politike, ki pa jih ni od nikoder.

Zanimivo je, da morajo centralni bankirji (t.j. varuhi konzervativnega odnosa do trošenja denarja) vlade opozarjati, naj končno začnejo več (javno) trošiti. To pomeni, da je situacija resnično huda.

The notion that monetary policy alone cannot raise trend growth is mostly true but trivial, especially if the challenges of secular stagnation highlighted by Robert Gordon in his brilliant new book are considered.

The G20 has appealed for the use of other policies, notably fiscal and structural reforms. While other policies would certainly be welcome, one can have justified doubts about their implementation. For a start, active stabilising fiscal policy is restricted by law in the EU and by politics in the US. More generally, countries that could use fiscal space, won’t; and many that would use it, shouldn’t.

That leaves us with structural reforms. Some, like upgrading education and judicial efficiency, are important but take a long time to implement and to produce results. The structural reforms economists often have in mind (i.e. liberalization and deregulation of markets) lead to lower wages and prices in the short-term, which does not help inflation normalisation. And concerning unemployment, higher productivity often initially implies labour saving. Structural reforms are essential for long-term potential growth, but it is difficult to see how they could spur growth significantly in the next two years, especially when the current problem is lack of global demand.

And as regards their delivery by governments, we should recall the embarrassing results of the G20 plan agreed in Brisbane to generate an additional 2% in world growth via a long concrete list of reforms put forward by the IMF and the OECD. In fact, the world economy now risks not even attaining what was then considered the baseline scenario.

So if these other policies either can’t or won’t contribute to a significant degree, then not only is it wrong to start talking down monetary policy – it’s actually dangerous. The second criticism of monetary policy is mostly based on a crude comparison between where inflation (or growth) is now and where it was at the beginning of the policy. The conclusion: inflation didn’t change much, so the policy isn’t working. However, what is rational and essential is to examine what would have happened had the policy not been adopted in the first place. Using several models, ECB staff estimated that, without our policies, inflation would have been a third of a percent negative in 2015 and would have stayed significantly negative throughout 2016, which would mean that we would have been in permanent deflation since last year. This is a significant result. Recall that the final outcome was affected by the unexpected decline in the price of oil by 30% from September to December.

We estimate that two thirds of one percent of the registered growth in the past two years was due to our monetary policy. However, what we achieved in fostering internal demand was undone by the subsequent decrease of net exports in a decelerating world economy. These developments did not make our policy less effective, only ex-post insufficient for the desired outcome.

To normalise inflation in the euro area we urgently need higher growth that can reduce negative output and unemployment gaps, using all really available policies. If not monetary policy, then what?

Vir: Vítor Constâncio, Vice-President of the ECB

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