sabato 31 luglio 2010

Un viaggio in Oriente

Con l'introduzione di un salario minimo Hong Kong diventa il paradiso perduto di Milton (Friedman): vi raccomando questo articolo dell'Economist per capirne meglio la storia e per un'analisi delle prospettive future. La tendenza per una maggiore regolamentazione dell'attività economica è chiarissima:
The minimum-wage law follows other employment legislation, as well as government forays into business, expanded public services and industrial policy. Such things have long been normal in other countries, but were novelties in Hong Kong. (...)
Because changes have come incrementally, direct taxation remains low and Hong Kong has been spared the costs of armed forces, the shift is easy to overlook. But their collective impact reflects a dramatic turn in what Milton Friedman once described as the world’s greatest experiment in laissez-faire capitalism.
Impure freedom
Of course, Hong Kong was never entirely free of state interference. (...) Another exception to the free-market rule is the currency’s peg at around $7.80 to the American dollar. And the state has also had a habit of granting or tolerating monopolies, for example in gambling. Hong Kong’s way has by no means been synonymous with perfect competition.
Yet as state intervention grew elsewhere, especially after the second world war, Hong Kong remained free of controls on prices, wages and imports, of regulation of business and employment and, in Friedman’s words, of officials’ instinct “to spend other people’s money and meddle in other people’s affairs”. As The Economist put it in 1977: “A businessman setting up shop in Hong Kong finds low taxes, no foolish government interferences…a government leaning over to encourage him to make as much money as he can. He finds, blessed discovery, no politics.”
Often, this was the result of resistance to the British government. No fewer than three times, starting in 1947, instructions came from London to raise tax rates “as high as possible” to lay the foundation of a modern welfare state, says Michael Littlewood of the University of Auckland. But each time the peculiar men sent to govern Hong Kong balked, with the support of locals, notably Chinese businessmen who perhaps learned too much about socialism from the devastation unfolding on the mainland to encourage importing it.
Free-market faith reached its apogee in 1961-71, when Sir John Cowperthwaite was the colony’s financial secretary. Defending his first budget, Cowperthwaite rejected subsidies for start-ups (“an infant industry, if coddled, tends to remain an infant industry”); cheap land for strategic businesses (anything but an auction “leads to an inefficient use of our resources”) and most of all, industrial policy (“better…to rely on the…hidden hand than trust the clumsy bureaucratic fingers”).
His belief in Adam Smith withstood tests that would have shrivelled fainter souls. Two banks went bust in 1965, leading to calls for depositors to be made good by the government (which would then recover what it could from the liquidation of bank assets), for the introduction of deposit insurance and the creation of a government-backed industrial bank. Cowperthwaite dismissed all out of hand, saying the core of the financial system was sound. Depositors’ losses served as a lesson in moral hazard.

Da Hong Kong alla Cina il passo è davvero molto breve: la preoccupazione di molti analisti è che l'esplosione della bolla immobiliare cinese possa produrre danni confrontabili a quelli della bolla immobiliare U.S.A.. Secondo Jim Jubak ci sono ragioni per un moderato ottimismo:
Although a real-estate bust in China would knock the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets for a loop -- because both exchanges have heavy exposure to property development companies -- I don't see it creating the kind of multiyear, lingering economic downturn that the real-estate bust has created in the United States. The leverage of the financial system and consumers to the boom and bust isn't as great as it was in the United States, the bust won't send the entire construction sector into a near depression, and the government has unique tools that allow it to bury bad debt in the financial sector very efficiently.
A real-estate bust in China would be very bad news for China's stock markets, but the damage to China's economy -- and global economy -- would be far more limited than the effects of the U.S. housing bust have been.
Lo stesso analista ha scritto più volte sulla Cina nelle ultime settimane, per esempio qui analizza l'impatto della politica economica centralizzata del governo cinese giungendo alla conclusione che the Chinese economic system is generally bad at short-term economic decisions, because the Chinese economy doesn't provide either fast or accurate signals on pricing, supply or demand.

And it's often spectacularly bad at long-term economic decisions because, with no effective brake on government decisions and truly distorted feedback on the results of those decisions from the economy and the lower levels of government bureaucracy, wrongheaded policies can run for years and years, as initial evidence of disastrous long-term consequences simply never filters up to top-tier decision makers. But in a big swath of the middle term, China's economic system does a spectacular job at making sure that nothing goes terribly wrong. Over one, two or three years, China's unique combination of market and centralized command-style economics has the ability to make decisions far more quickly than most other economic/political systems. It also has the brute power to mobilize a high percentage of the country's resources behind the decisions. And that's exactly the time frame that includes current worries about China's economic growth.Right now, I've got big doubts about, say, short-term (a quarter or so) profits in China's auto industry. In the long term, I've got big doubts about China's ability to solve its terrible demographic problem over the next 20 years.

Le prospettive di crescita nel breve-medio periodo dell'economia cinese sono analizzate dall'Economist in questo articolo.

Per finire qui potete ascoltare l'opinione di Kenneth Rogoff sulle prospettive dell'economia cinese
mentre in questo video potete ascoltare sugli stessi temi Stephen Roach, chairman di Morgan Stanley

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