lunedì 14 novembre 2011

Modeste proposte per l'Italia ma anche per la BCE

Il New York Times ha dedicato qualche giorno fa un editoriale alla crisi italiana: punta il dito sulla necessità di riforme che rilancino la nostra economia (secondo l'Economist negli ultimi 10 anni gli unici paesi al mondo che sono cresciuti meno dell'Italia sono Haiti e lo Zimbabwe !) ma anche sulla necessità che la BCE svolga il ruolo di prestatore di ultima istanza:
 Italy, the euro-zone’s third biggest economy, after Germany and France, is too big to be rescued by the European bailout fund and too big to fail without, most likely, taking down the euro itself. Italy’s essential problem is not high deficits, or even high debt, but years of dismally slow growth, which makes the debt harder to pay off and investors more skeptical about its continued ability to repay. That’s why interest rates are rising, compounding the repayment problem.
The only European institution still potentially capable of halting this cascading crisis is the European Central Bank. Only the central bank can print euros in unlimited quantities and use them to buy enough Italian bonds to bring the interest rates down from more than 7 percent to more sustainable levels. Essentially, the bank must become the lender of last resort, printing as much money and buying enough Italian debt to stabilize the situation to allow time for longer-term remedies. While such a move cannot guarantee an end to the panic selling of Italian bonds, it is perhaps the only option left.
Until now, the bank has hesitated to play this role because it has no clear authority under European Union rules, but there are no clear prohibitions against action. Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy, having failed so miserably to prevent this crisis, should be publicly urging the central bank’s new president, Mario Draghi, to take these necessary steps. Yet they are still making electoral calculations that will be beside the point should Italy succumb to the debt crisis and the European Union slide into deep recession. Their refusal to think and act responsibly is having a damaging effect on world markets.
Secondo Krugman l'eccessiva forza dell'euro e  l'impossibilità di finanziare il debito italiano e spagnolo in una moneta debole sono all'origine della crisi:

First, if you look around the world you see that the big determining factor for interest rates isn’t the level of government debt but whether a government borrows in its own currency. Japan is much more deeply in debt than Italy, but the interest rate on long-term Japanese bonds is only about 1 percent to Italy’s 7 percent. Britain’s fiscal prospects look worse than Spain’s, but Britain can borrow at just a bit over 2 percent, while Spain is paying almost 6 percent. 

What has happened, it turns out, is that by going on the euro, Spain and Italy in effect reduced themselves to the status of third-world countries that have to borrow in someone else’s currency, with all the loss of flexibility that implies. In particular, since euro-area countries can’t print money even in an emergency, they’re subject to funding disruptions in a way that nations that kept their own currencies aren’t — and the result is what you see right now. America, which borrows in dollars, doesn’t have that problem.
The other thing you need to know is that in the face of the current crisis, austerity has been a failure everywhere it has been tried: no country with significant debts has managed to slash its way back into the good graces of the financial markets. For example, Ireland is the good boy of Europe, having responded to its debt problems with savage austerity that has driven its unemployment rate to 14 percent. Yet the interest rate on Irish bonds is still above 8 percent — worse than Italy.
The moral of the story, then, is to beware of ideologues who are trying to hijack the European crisis on behalf of their agendas. If we listen to those ideologues, all we’ll end up doing is making our own problems — which are different from Europe’s, but arguably just as severe — even worse.
Brad De Long insiste poi sulla necessità che la Fed acquisti le obbligazioni dei PIIGS mantenute in portafoglio
dalle banche statunitensi per costruire un firewall e impedire che il contagio produca un credit crunch nell'anemica economia U.S.A.

Se pensate che queste siano esagerazioni di economisti troppo liberal allora potete leggere questo post di Roubini sul suo blog sul sito del Financial Times, significativamente intitolato Why Italy’s days in the eurozone may be numbered. Le conclusioni sono praticamente le stesse: 
... Italy may, like other periphery countries, need to exit the monetary union and go back to a national currency, thus triggering an effective break-up of the eurozone.
Until recently the argument was being made that Italy and Spain, unlike the clearly insolvent Greece, were illiquid but solvent given austerity and reforms. But once a country that is illiquid loses its market credibility, it takes time – usually a year or so – to restore such credibility with appropriate policy actions. Therefore unless there is a lender of last resort that can buy the sovereign debt while credibility is not yet restored, an illiquid but solvent sovereign may turn out insolvent. In this scenario sceptical investors will push the sovereign spreads to a level where it either loses access to the markets or where the debt dynamic becomes unsustainable.
So Italy and other illiquid, but solvent, sovereigns need a “big bazooka” to prevent the self-fulfilling bad equilibrium of a run on the public debt. The trouble is, however, that there is no credible lender of last resort in the eurozone.

Il bazooka della BCE viene invocato anche da Richard Barley sul Wall Street Journal

The clamor from the markets is deafening: They believe only the European Central Bank can end the euro crisis and want it to unveil a crisis bazooka. The ECB's current bond-purchase program is backfiring and encouraging private investors to dump paper. To stop the rot, one popular idea is that the ECB should commit to target a specific yield level for Italian bonds, if necessary by making unlimited purchases, in the same way the Swiss National Bank has vowed unlimited intervention to prevent Swiss franc appreciation. (...)  If the ECB committed to cap Italian yields at, say, 5% at the 10-year maturity, it might run into some initial selling, as some investors took the chance to exit from positions and others sought to test the ECB's commitment. But if the cap were found to be credible, investors could be tempted to buy Italian bonds given the higher level of yields than available elsewhere.

Intanto da ieri sera il professor Monti ha il mandato di formare un nuovo governo. Sul Sole 24 Ore ieri Luigi Zingales ha scritto un possibile programma per il nuovo esecutivo: 

Da bravo curatore, Monti non deve fare grandi programmi, ma il minimo delle misure urgenti per rimettere il Paese in grado di funzionare. Proprio perché tecnico il governo potrebbe permettersi di fare quelle riforme che i politici sanno necessarie, ma non vogliono fare per paura di perdere le elezioni. Cominciamo dall'eliminazione delle Province e l'accorpamento dei Comuni più piccoli. Proseguiamo poi con il taglio delle pensioni di anzianità e l'introduzione della pensione a 67 anni da subito, per uomini e donne. Per liberare il Paese dai famosi lacci e lacciuoli, il governo Monti dovrebbe liberalizzare le professioni ed abolire il contratto unico. Per liberare l'economia dalla corruzione della politica, Monti dovrebbe privatizzare le municipalizzate, le grandi imprese statali, ed espropriare le fondazioni bancarie, la moderna manomorta ecclesiastica che infetta di politica il mercato del credito e sperpera i nostri soldi. Con queste operazioni dovrebbe essere in grado di riportare il rapporto debito su Pil intorno al 100%, una cifra più gestibile. Per impedire poi che i governi futuri sperperino i sacrifici effettuati, come i governi dopo Ciampi sperperarono quelli del governo Ciampi, Monti dovrebbe inserire una legge che rende obbligatorio il pareggio di bilancio, come ha fatto la Spagna.

Aggiungete pure se volete altre misure di austerità, patrimoniali e quant'altro. Probabilmente non sarebbero sufficienti. Scrive ancora Roubini (le sottolineature sono mie): 

Even a change in Italian government to a coalition headed by a respected technocrat will not change the fundamental problem – that spreads have reached a tipping point, that output is free-falling and that, given a debt to GDP ratio of 120 per cent, Italy needs a primary surplus of over 5 per cent of GDP just to prevent its debt from blowing up.
Output now is in a vicious free fall. More austerity and reforms – that are necessary for medium-term sustainability – will make this recession worse. Raising taxes, cutting spending and getting rid of inefficient labour and capital during structural reforms have a negative effect on disposable income, jobs, aggregate demand and supply. The recessionary deflation that Germany and the ECB are imposing on Italy and the other periphery countries will make the debt more unsustainable.
Even a restructuring of the debt – that will cause significant damage and losses to creditors in Italy and abroad – will not restore growth and competitiveness . That requires a real depreciation that cannot occur via a weaker euro given German and ECB policies. It cannot occur either through depressionary deflation or structural reforms that take too long to reduce labour costs.
So if you cannot devalue, or grow, or deflate to a real depreciation, the only option left will end up being to give up on the euro and to go back to the lira and other national currencies. Of course that will trigger a forced conversion of euro debts into new national currency debts.
The eurozone can survive with the debt restructuring and exit of a small country such as Greece or Portugal. But if Italy and/or Spain were to restructure and exit this would effectively be a break-up of the currency union. Unfortunately this slow-motion train wreck is now increasingly likely.
Only if the ECB became an unlimited lender of last resort and cut policy rates to zero, combined with a fall in the value of the euro to parity with the dollar, plus a fiscal stimulus in Germany and the eurozone core while the periphery implements austerity, could we perhaps stop the upcoming disaster.

1 commento:

Antonio ha detto...

Diciamo che una banca con un Italiano ed un Greco alla cassa, un Tedesco alla tesoreria e uno al controllo rischi non è che la vedo molto agile e coerente nelle decisioni ...