A emergência de desequilíbrios externos na Zona Euro é geralmente apresentada como um caso de países que aumentam a sua despesa interna e estimulam assim enormes défices comerciais. Mas há outra forma de formular a questão. Nesta narrativa, são os países do centro que contraem a sua procura interna e, ao fazê-lo, geram pressões deflacionistas que ‘obrigam’ o BCE a descer a taxa de juro para garantir uma inflação de 2%. Esta descida, por sua vez, alimenta bolhas na periferia, que assim se torna deficitária. Em Eurozone Morality Plays, Simon Wren-Lewis mostra que a segunda história até encaixa melhor nos factos do que a primeira. A ler.
So which story is right? We all know there was excess in some parts of R, either by governments (Greece) or banks (Ireland), but both countries are small. One way of discriminating between the two stories would be to look at real interest rates. If the ECB was having to react to excess demand in R, we would expect to see high real interest rates. If instead the ECB was having to offset deflation in G, we would see low real interest rates. Here is what actually happened.From 2000 to 2007 the ECB kept inflation pretty close to 2%. But it did not achieve this by raising real interest rates. Instead interest rates fell in 2003, so that real short rates were close to zero from 2003 to 2005. This seems much more consistent with the story where G tries to undercut R, and the ECB has to cut rates to keep average inflation at 2%, forcing inflation in R to 3%. Sure enough, 2003-5 were years when the output gap in Germany was significantly negative (OECD estimates -1.4% 2003, -1.7% 2004, -1.9% 2005).Both the ‘undercutting by G’ story and the more traditional ‘excess in R’ story still contain much too much pseudo morality for my taste. The German government did not deliberately engineer zero growth in domestic demand from 2003-5, any more than governments outside Germany (Greece excepted) tried to stoke up excess demand. In an ideal world both could have used fiscal policy more effectively, but the system hardly encouraged that. But this evidence does suggest that seeing the competitiveness imbalances in the Eurozone as simply the result of excess outside Germany is at best only half the story, and at worst not a very realistic story at all.