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欧洲央行必须为欧元区19国的赤字融资

2020-3-19 15:09

 

冠状病毒大流行引发了前所未有的负面供需冲击。两者都对商品和服务的生产产生了重大影响,而且由于每个人的收入最终都来自生产,家庭收入正在迅速下降。在许多经济体已经陷入下行螺旋并走向衰退的情况下,危险在于,这种低迷将成为一种自我延续、不断加深的溃败。


供应和需求的双重冲击可能会引发许多“多米诺骨牌效应”。“固定成本高的公司如果收入突然下降,很快就会面临财务困难,甚至破产。当这种情况发生时,向这些公司放贷的银行和其他实体也将陷入困境。这就是为什么大规模的经济冲击常常会导致银行业危机。


但倒下的多米诺骨牌并没有就此停止。政府在介入缓解危机时,也会面临财政风险。就目前的大流行而言,各国政府将需要通过提供财政支持和补贴来拯救企业免于破产,通过资助临时失业计划来帮助工人,甚至可能需要拯救大型银行。更糟糕的是,所有这些都必须在税收收入下降的时候完成,这意味着政府赤字和公共债务水平将飙升。


在2007-2008年金融危机期间,我们看到了这些多米诺骨牌效应是如何发挥作用的。现在的不同之处在于,最初的冲击并非始于金融市场,然后蔓延至实体经济。相反,今天的冲击来自实体经济,并已颠覆了金融市场。但与过去一样,这场危机需要采取紧急措施,在倒下的多米诺骨牌之间留出更多空间。把它看作宏观经济的“社会距离”。


这在实践中会是什么样子呢?首先,各国政府必须进行大规模干预,为陷入困境、收入面临风险的企业和家庭提供财政支持。大多数欧洲政府似乎已经愿意这样做了。问题在于,欧元区成员国的大规模财政扩张可能会很棘手。因此,欧洲央行(ecb)出手阻止最后一块多米诺骨牌——成员国政府——倒下,是至关重要的。


由于它们别无选择,只能支持濒临破产的公司、流动性差的银行和陷入困境的家庭,因此各国政府可能正在进入危险的境地。它们的债务增长得越多,它们的债券持有人恐慌的风险就越大,正如我们在2010-2012年主权债务危机期间所看到的那样。由于“日冕危机”而导致债务增加最多的国家——意大利、西班牙和法国——位于欧元区四大经济体之列。


为了避免债券市场恐慌的风险,欧洲央行应该准备购买陷入困境的政府债券。在2012年金融危机期间,美联储通过直接货币交易(outright monetary transactions,简称omt)计划为此类应对措施奠定了基础。但本月早些时候,欧洲央行行长克里斯蒂娜•拉加德(Christine Lagarde)似乎暗示,欧洲央行不会出手救助负债累累的成员国,但几天后又收回了自己的言论。即便如此,鉴于默克尔最初的声明得到了德国央行(Bundesbank)行长延斯•魏德曼(Jens Weidmann)的赞许,人们仍严重怀疑欧洲央行是否会向各国政府提供直接支持。


可以肯定的是,欧洲央行已经承诺充当欧洲银行的最后贷款人,并重新启动了其定量宽松计划,通过该计划,它将在二级市场上购买更多的政府债券。然而,尽管量化宽松会让各国政府松一口气,但还不够。欧洲央行必须更进一步,准备在一级市场购买政府债券,在危机期间有效地发行货币,为成员国的预算赤字融资。


如果欧洲央行为成员国的预算赤字提供货币融资,世界上许多其他央行可能也会加入进来。这种方法的优点是,它使各国政府不必发行新债。因为所有的新债务都将被货币化,危机不会增加政府债务与gdp的比率。对于那些遭受流感大流行最严重影响的国家来说,债券持有者恐慌的威胁将不再存在。


是的,有人可能会对这个提议提出许多反对意见。作为一个法律问题,《欧盟运转条约》(Treaty on the function of the European Union)禁止欧洲央行为国家预算赤字提供货币融资。但欧洲央行的律师们,凭借他们无限的创造力,肯定能找到绕过这一限制的方法。毕竟,欧元区的未来取决于它。

 

人们可能还会反对,理由是货币融资会导致通胀。然而,在目前的情况下,根本不可能出现这种情况。如果说有什么不同的话,那就是欧洲目前正面临通缩螺旋;货币融资将不利于这种趋势。一旦通缩动力停止,欧洲央行就可以停止其货币融资。


欧洲央行迟早必须承认,支持赤字支出的货币融资不仅是缓解欧元区危机的必要手段,也是避免可能导致欧元区解体的通缩下行周期的必要手段。是时候跳出思维定势了。

 

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a combined negative supply and demand shock of unprecedented intensity. Both are having a significant impact on the production of goods and services, and because everyone’s income ultimately derives from production, household incomes are quickly falling. With many economies already in a downward spiral and heading toward recession, the danger is that the downturn will become a self-perpetuating and ever-deepening rout.

The twin supply and demand shocks are likely to trigger many “domino effects.” Companies with large fixed costs that suffer a sudden fall in income will quickly face financial difficulties, or even bankruptcy. When that happens, the banks and other entities that have lent money to these companies will also be in trouble. That is why massive economic shocks often can lead to banking crises.

But the falling dominoes don’t stop there. Governments, too, can face fiscal dangers when they step in to mitigate the crisis. In the case of the current pandemic, national governments will need to save businesses from bankruptcy by granting financial support and subsidies, assist workers by funding temporary unemployment schemes, and possibly even come to the rescue of large banks. Worse, all of this must be done at a time of declining tax revenues, which means that government deficits and public-debt levels will skyrocket.

We saw how these domino effects work during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. The difference now is that the initial shock did not start in financial markets and then spill over into the real economy. Rather, today’s shocks emerged from the real economy and have toppled financial markets. But, as in the past, this crisis demands urgent measures to put more space between the falling dominoes. Think of it as macroeconomic “social distancing.”

What would this look like in practice? First, national governments must intervene on a massive scale to provide financial support for distressed companies and households whose earnings are at risk. Most European governments already seem to be willing to do this. The problem is that large-scale fiscal expansions by eurozone member states could prove tricky. It is thus critical that the European Central Bank step in to prevent the last domino – member-state governments – from falling.

Because they have no choice but to support failing companies, illiquid banks, and struggling households, national governments could be entering dangerous territory. The more their debt increases, the greater the risk that their bondholders will panic, as we saw during the 2010-2012 sovereign debt crisis. And the countries experiencing the largest debt increase as a result of the “coronacrisis” – Italy, Spain, and France – are among the four largest eurozone economies.

To head off the risk of a bond-market panic, the ECB should be preparing to buy up distressed governments’ bonds. During the 2012 crisis, the central bank laid the groundwork for such a response with its outright monetary transactions program. But earlier this month, ECB President Christine Lagarde seemed to suggest that the bank would not come to the rescue of indebted member states, only to walk back her remarks days later. Even so, given that her initial statement was applauded by Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, there remain serious doubts about whether the ECB will offer direct support to national governments.

To be sure, the ECB has promised to serve as lender of last resort to European banks and has reactivated its quantitative-easing program, through which it will buy additional government bonds in the secondary markets. But while QE will provide some relief to national governments, it will not be sufficient. The ECB must go one step further, by preparing to buy government bonds in primary markets, effectively issuing money to finance member states’ budget deficits during the crisis.

If the ECB engages in monetary financing of member states’ budget deficits, it will likely be joined by many other central banks around the world. The virtue of such an approach is that it spares national governments from having to issue new debt. Because all new debt would be monetized, the crisis would not increase government debt-to-GDP ratios. For those countries suffering the worst of the pandemic, the threat of a bondholder panic will have been removed from the equation.

Yes, one could raise many objections to this proposal. As a legal matter, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union forbids the ECB from engaging in monetary financing of national budget deficits. But ECB lawyers, with their unbounded ingenuity, could surely find a way around this restriction. After all, the very future of the eurozone depends on it.

One also might object on the grounds that monetary financing would produce inflation. Yet under the current circumstances, there is simply no chance of this. If anything, Europe is now facing a deflationary spiral; monetary financing would militate against this trend. As soon as the deflationary dynamic had been stopped, the ECB could halt its monetary financing.

Sooner or later, the ECB must accept that monetary financing in support of deficit spending is a necessity not just for mitigating the COVID-19 crisis, but also for averting a downward deflationary cycle that could pull the eurozone apart. It is time to think outside the box.

 

原作者: Paul De Grauwe 来自: ejinsight