Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Krugman sobre os possíveis desfechos na "zona euro"

Este artigo já tem alguns meses, mas continua actual:

As I see it, there are four ways the European crisis could play out (and it may play out differently in different countries). Call them toughing it out; debt restructuring; full Argentina; and revived Europeanism.

Toughing it out: Troubled European economies could, conceivably, reassure creditors by showing sufficient willingness to endure pain and thereby avoid either default or devaluation. The role models here are the Baltic nations: Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. These countries are small and poor by European standards; they want very badly to gain the long-term advantages they believe will accrue from joining the euro and becoming part of a greater Europe. And so they have been willing to endure very harsh fiscal austerity while wages gradually come down in the hope of restoring competitiveness — a process known in Eurospeak as “internal devaluation.”  (...)

Debt restructuring: At the time of writing, Irish 10-year bonds were yielding about 9 percent, while Greek 10-years were yielding 12½ percent. At the same time, German 10-years — which, like Irish and Greek bonds, are denominated in euros — were yielding less than 3 percent. The message from the markets was clear: investors don’t expect Greece and Ireland to pay their debts in full. They are, in other words, expecting some kind of debt restructuring, like the restructuring that reduced Argentina’s debt by two-thirds.

Such a debt restructuring would by no means end a troubled economy’s pain. Take Greece: even if the government were to repudiate all its debt, it would still have to slash spending and raise taxes to balance its budget, and it would still have to suffer the pain of deflation. But a debt restructuring could bring the vicious circle of falling confidence and rising interest costs to an end, potentially making internal devaluation a workable if brutal strategy.

Frankly, I find it hard to see how Greece can avoid a debt restructuring, and Ireland isn’t much better. The real question is whether such restructurings will spread to Spain and — the truly frightening prospect — to Belgium and Italy, which are heavily indebted but have so far managed to avoid a serious crisis of confidence.

Full Argentina: Argentina didn’t simply default on its foreign debt; it also abandoned its link to the dollar, allowing the peso’s value to fall by more than two-thirds. And this devaluation worked: from 2003 onward, Argentina experienced a rapid export-led economic rebound.

The European country that has come closest to doing an Argentina is Iceland, whose bankers had run up foreign debts that were many times its national income. Unlike Ireland, which tried to salvage its banks by guaranteeing their debts, the Icelandic government forced its banks’ foreign creditors to take losses, thereby limiting its debt burden. And by letting its banks default, the country took a lot of foreign debt off its national books.

At the same time, Iceland took advantage of the fact that it had not joined the euro and still had its own currency. It soon became more competitive by letting its currency drop sharply against other currencies, including the euro. Iceland’s wages and prices quickly fell about 40 percent relative to those of its trading partners, sparking a rise in exports and fall in imports that helped offset the blow from the banking collapse.

The combination of default and devaluation has helped Iceland limit the damage from its banking disaster. In fact, in terms of employment and output, Iceland has done somewhat better than Ireland and much better than the Baltic nations.

So will one or more troubled European nations go down the same path? To do so, they would have to overcome a big obstacle: the fact that, unlike Iceland, they no longer have their own currencies. As Barry Eichengreen of Berkeley pointed out in an influential 2007 analysis, any euro-zone country that even hinted at leaving the currency would trigger a devastating run on its banks, as depositors rushed to move their funds to safer locales. And Eichengreen concluded that this “procedural” obstacle to exit made the euro irreversible.

But Argentina’s peg to the dollar was also supposed to be irreversible, and for much the same reason. What made devaluation possible, in the end, was the fact that there was a run on the banks despite the government’s insistence that one peso would always be worth one dollar. This run forced the Argentine government to limit withdrawals, and once these limits were in place, it was possible to change the peso’s value without setting off a second run. Nothing like that has happened in Europe — yet. But it’s certainly within the realm of possibility, especially as the pain of austerity and internal devaluation drags on.

Revived Europeanism: The preceding three scenarios were grim. Is there any hope of an outcome less grim? To the extent that there is, it would have to involve taking further major steps toward that “European federation” Robert Schuman wanted 60 years ago.

In early December, Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, and Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s finance minister, created a storm with a proposal to create “E-bonds,” which would be issued by a European debt agency at the behest of individual European countries. Since these bonds would be guaranteed by the European Union as a whole, they would offer a way for troubled economies to avoid vicious circles of falling confidence and rising borrowing costs. On the other hand, they would potentially put governments on the hook for one another’s debts — a point that furious German officials were quick to make. The Germans are adamant that Europe must not become a “transfer union,” in which stronger governments and nations routinely provide aid to weaker.

Yet as the earlier Ireland-Nevada comparison shows, the United States works as a currency union in large part precisely because it is also a transfer union, in which states that haven’t gone bust support those that have. And it’s hard to see how the euro can work unless Europe finds a way to accomplish something similar.

Nobody is yet proposing that Europe move to anything resembling U.S. fiscal integration; the Juncker-Tremonti plan would be at best a small step in that direction. But Europe doesn’t seem ready to take even that modest step.
A minha opinião sobre quais os desfechos mais prováveis - "Debt Restructuring" e "Full Argentina" (o "revived europeanism" seria provavelmente a melhor solução, mas é completamente inviável em termos políticos neste momento).

Já agora, ver também o meu post no Vias de Facto sobre os possíveis desfechos da crise grega .

1 comment:

João Vasco said...

Muito interessante