Quanto custa salvar o soberano

Não é fácil perceber o funcionamento de um banco central. Em particular, operações exóticas como empréstimos de longo prazo e criação de dinheiro são frequentemente mal interpretadas até por economistas treinados. Em Fiscal implications of the ECB bond-buying programme, Paul de Grauwe explica os rudimentos e implicações de um destes inovadores métodos de intervenção: a compra de títulos por parte do Banco Central Europeu. Imperdível, no Vox.

One often hears in the creditor countries that these would be the losers if one of the governments whose bonds are on the balance sheet of the ECB were to default. This is an erroneous conclusion.

Returning to our example of an ECB purchase of €1 billion of Spanish government bonds, consider a Spanish defaults on these bonds. The Spanish government would stop paying €40 million to the ECB. The ECB would stop transferring this interest revenue back to the member central banks pro rata. The German taxpayer, for example, would no longer receive the yearly windfall of€10.8 million.

In no way can one conclude that German taxpayers, or any EZ taxpayer, would pay the bill of the Spanish default – except in the narrow sense that they would no longer be able to count on the yearly interest revenues.

There is of course the possibility of an inflation tax. We have noted before that at the moment of the bond buying programme interest bearing debt is transformed into monetary liabilities of the ECB (money base). This by itself could lead to inflation, and thus to an inflation tax that would be borne by all holders of euros. This leads to the issue of how large the ECB bond-buying programme can be without generating additional inflation. During the crisis period the limits to the amount of money base that can be created without triggering inflationary pressures is much higher because of the existence of a liquidity trap.

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