Adair Turner, avtor knjige “Between Debt and the Devil“, ki sem jo tukaj večkrat navajal, se sprašuje dvoje. Prvič, je obdobje nizkih (ničelnih) obrestnih mer in nizke gospodarske rasti “nova normalnost”? In drugič, lahko z monetarnim financiranjem fiskalnega stimuliranja gospodarske rasti (ki ga lahko imenujemo tudi helikopterski denar, vendar v obliki, da centralne banke odkupujejo obveznice, ki jih vlade izdajajo z namenom fiskalnega spodbujanja rasti) spodbudimo rast?
Njegov odgovor je, da je monetarno financiranje fiskalnega stimuliranja gospodarske rasti lahko zelo učinovit (in najbrž v tej situaciji edini delujoč) ukrep cikličnega menedžiranja rasti. Pod pogojem, ki ga je postavil Ben Bernanke (da imajo kontrolo nad obsegom odkupov državnih obveznic neodvisne centralne banke), tovrstno monetarno financiranje rasti ne prinaša s seboj velikih tveganj glede inflacije. Vendar se je treba zavedati, da to ne more biti normalni ukrep, ki bi moral postati del “normalne normalnosti”, pač pa ukrep, ki se uporablja v izjemnih razmerah, ko drugi standardni ukrepi ekonomskih politik odpovedo. To je ukrep, ki lahko spodbudi gospodarsko rast v času močno depresivnega agregatnega povpraševanja, nato pa morajo povpraševanje gnati običajne komponente agregatnega povpraševanja – predvsem zasebno trošenje in investicije, običajne javne investicije in zunanje povpraševanje.
Problem, ki se tukaj zastavlja in na katerega najbrž nihče nima zadovoljivega odgovora, pa je, kako se izviti iz te “nove normalnosti”. Kdaj bomo spet prišli nazaj v “staro normalnost”, ko se je gospodarska rast v razvitih državah gibala na ravni med 2 in 3% obrestne mere pa med 3 in 5%? Japonski se izteka tretje desetletje življenja v “novi normalnosti” in nič ne kaže, da bi se znala iz nje izviti v naslednjem desetletju.
Ključno vprašanje je: Kaj je v razvitih državah strukturno narobe?
By 2016, it seemed that governments and central banks were “out of ammunition,” monetary or fiscal, and economists debated whether any policies could avoid secular stagnation when interest rates were already zero and public debt levels were already high. Some, including me, broke the ultimate policy taboo and suggested that we might need to consider monetary finance of increased fiscal deficits.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke argued that as long as the quantity of such finance was determined by independent central banks, useful stimulus could be achieved without excessive inflation. Just two years after the gloomy 2016 nadir, however, the skies seemed dramatically clearer. By 2018, forecasts of global growth and inflation had risen significantly, and central banks and markets were again focused on the long anticipated “exit” from unorthodox policies. It is vital to understand what drove this sudden improvement.
The answer is simple: massive fiscal expansion, which in two major economies was partly or wholly financed by central bank money. The US fiscal deficit rose from 3.9% of GDP in 2015 to 4.7% in 2018 and a projected 5.0% in 2019: China’s grew from below 1% in 2014 to over 4%, and Japan’s remained around 4%, abandoning previous plans for a reduction to zero by 2020. And while the US fiscal expansion was financed by bond sales to the private sector, in China the central bank indirectly financed large bond purchases by commercial banks, while in Japan, the entire net increase in public debt is financed by central bank purchases of government bonds. The global economy recovered because the world’s three largest economies rejected the idea that high public debt burdens made further fiscal expansion impossible.
But the impact of that stimulus has faded. US growth is slowing as the one-off impact of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts wears off; China is struggling to curb excessive leverage and manage the impact of Trump’s tariff increases on exports and confidence; and, in October, Japan will implement a long-planned sales tax increase which threatens to slow consumption growth. Eurozone growth, too, is slowing in the face of declining external demand.
So we are back to facing the same question as in 2016: What to do if stagnation threatens when interest rates are already close to zero? Among the proposed answers are variants of monetary finance. Proponents of “modern monetary theory” argue that money-financed fiscal expenditure should be the normal mechanism for managing nominal demand, and the “Green New Deal” presents monetary finance as one option for financing socially and environmentally desirable investment.The valid insight behind these propositions – that governments and central banks together can always create nominal demand – was explained by Milton Friedman in an important 1948 essay. But it is vital also to understand that excessive monetary finance is hugely harmful, and it is dangerous to view it as a costless route to solving long-term challenges, rather than a demand-management tool for use in exceptional circumstances.
Faced with slow growth, political discontent, and large inherited debt burdens, monetary finance cannot be a taboo option. In Japan, permanent monetary finance is already occurring, even though the central bank denies it. The challenge is to ensure that it is used only within disciplines such as Bernanke proposed, rather than assuming that pre-crisis normality will return any time soon.
Vir: Adair Turner, Project Syndicate