Meses de triunfo esparvoado, de imprecações dirigidas a quem com sisudez os preveniu — e agora, enfim, o silêncio. Pois seja. Precisamos dele para ler Wolfgang Munchau:
Take Portugal, which is about to exit its support programme from the European Stability Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund. Its private sector debt reached a peak of 226.7 per cent of gross domestic product in 2009. It was still 220.4 per cent at the end of 2013. S&P has run a simulation under which Portugal’s private debt could fall to 178 per cent of GDP by 2020.
That is still a big number. But it may be too optimistic. Portugal and other peripheral eurozone countries will need to deleverage and simultaneously deflate their prices to become more competitive. What makes it even harder is that inflation in the eurozone has been falling. Low inflation raises the real value of future debt, and reduces the ability to cut prices.
Is it feasible? Today’s market consensus says yes: the eurozone crisis is over. Yes, there was some upheaval at last month’s European parliament elections, but we will muddle through politically. Surveys tell us that European businesses are becoming optimistic. Investors are exuberant. I am often hearing how great the mood in Spain seems to be. All’s well that ends well.
The implication of House of Debt and the S&P study is that the conventional market view of the post-crisis environment is dead wrong. The most likely trajectory is a long period of slow growth, low inflation, and a constant threat of insolvency and political insurrection. If the private sector were to reduce debt in such an environment, certainly on the scale as suggested by S&P, it would be a lot harder and possibly bloodier than any of the adjustment we have seen so far.
When the Japanese private sector began to deleverage in the early 1990s, the government increased its debt to absorb the shock. The Europeans did the same to some extent during the crisis as well. Spain, for example, was able to maintain large deficits. But from 2016, the strictures of the eurozone’s fiscal compact will kick in and force an acceleration in fiscal consolidation. The new fiscal rules will amplify the effects of private sector deleveraging. The bottom line is that the total post-crisis adjustment will be much more brutal than it was in Japan 20 years ago.
In such an environment I would expect the political backlash to get more serious. More people in more countries will question the benefits of the EU and the euro in particular. Even if deleveraging could work economically – which is not clear – it may not work politically. (…)
Não vale a pena esperar grandes consequências da análise.