Der Ex-Chef-Ökonom des IWF erklärt, was kommen muss: „Monetarisierung“

Monetisation: Do not panic“ lautet der Titel eines Beitrages von Oliver Blanchard, ehemaliger Chefvolkswirt des IWF mit seinem Landsmann Jean Pisani-Ferry. Recht hat er. Wäre halt nur schön, wenn das auch die Ökonomen hierzulande und vor allem die Politiker, endlich anerkennen und entsprechend handeln würden!

  • Governments everywhere are channelling funds to companies and households to protect them from the fallout of the economic contraction. In a way, they are practicing what the proponents of helicopter money asked for – but in a much more targeted way than anything central banks could ever do. (…) The question is no longer whether monetary institutions will embark on direct transfers, as supporters of helicopter money had asked for, but whether we are seeing in effect the equivalent – namely, large-scale monetisation of the deficits – and if so, what the future implications will be. bto: Das muss immer im konkreten Umfeld gesehen werden. Zunächst ist klar, dass Corona deflationär wirkt und damit die Monetarisierung erst mal keine Inflation erzeugt, die Frage ist, ob es mittelfristig genauso sein wird.
  • Monetisation is an ambiguous concept.  Evidently, not all central bank purchases of government bonds qualify as such. (…) Sustained, large-scale government bonds purchases have become part of the toolbox of central banks, irrespective of the fiscal policy stance.  So, worries cannot be about the principle of central banks buying government bonds. They must be about them buying too many of them and for the wrong reasons – what one might call excess monetisation, motivated by public finance sustainability objectives rather than price or macroeconomic stability objectives.“ – bto: Auch das ist wahr. Wenn es einfach zu viel angewendet wird, droht die Entwertung, die dann schwerer zu stoppen ist.  
  • „(…) when interest rates are equal to zero, the purchase of bonds by the central bank in exchange for money – that is, the degree to which public debt is monetised – does not affect public debt dynamics.  The reason is simple: it just replaces a zero interest rate asset, called debt, by another one, called money. This is true whether none of the deficit, some of the deficit, or all the deficit is financed by issuing money.
  • „(…) the eventual impact of central bank purchases of government bonds depends on what will happen in the future when economic activity and inflation are such that the central bank will want to increase interest rates. Monetisation today may affect expectations of what will happen then.“ – bto: weil man davon ausgehen muss, dass die Verknappung des Geldes wie bei einem Drogenabhängigen Entzugserscheinungen mit sich bringt – und das kann übel enden, wie das Schicksal des japanischen Finanzministers in den 1930er-Jahren unterstreicht.
  • “(…)  when there is one central bank, many national treasuries, and different rates for different sovereign bonds (as in the case of the euro area), monetisation does affect the distribution of risk across countries.“ – bto: präziser – die Verteilung von Vermögen zwischen Ländern.
  • “(…) when markets becoming dysfunctional, or become potentially subject to multiple equilibria, monetisation – or even the threat of monetisation – can improve market functioning and avoid the convergence of expectations on ‘bad equilibria’.“ – bto: klar, weil dann entsprechend gekauft wird vom Privatsektor.
  • “(…) what about the point in the future when economic activity warrants an increase in the monetary policy rate?1 The central bank then has two options.  The first option is to pay interest on money (…) The second option is to keep the interest rate at zero. If, however, the economic situation warrants a positive interest rate, keeping it at zero will lead to overheating, and eventually to higher inflation. One of the implications of higher inflation will be a decrease in the real value of nominal debt, alleviating the debt burden.“ – bto: Hier wird bereits die nächste Phase vorbereitet – die bewusste Inflation zur Entwertung der Schulden. Genau das werden wir in den kommenden Jahren erleben.
  • It is true that the larger the portfolio of government bonds held by the central bank, the stronger the effect of its policy on debt sustainability. Large purchases do increase the risk of fiscal dominance.  None of the central banks has hinted, however, at such future behaviour,2 and past experience is reassuring. The Fed and the Bank of England, among others, paid interest on reserves when they increased their policy rates in 2017-2018. The ECB did not, but because of the persistently low level of inflation expectations, not because of its government bond holdings.” – bto: Wenn man in die wirklich relevante Zeit blickt, die Nachkriegszeit, sieht man sehr deutlich eine finanzielle Repression. Die bekommen wir wieder.
  • “(…) having the ability to decrease the real value of the debt if things are exceptionally bad is clearly a useful option to have. If the virus crisis lasts for long and imposes such a debt burden on governments that they cannot repay their debt, they will be bound to choose between inflation, debt restructuring, financial repression and wealth expropriation, and there is no a priori reason to pretend that they must rule out inflation.“ – bto: Die Franzosen haben eine andere Tradition, damit umzugehen.
  • What about monetisation by the ECB, in a common currency zone where interest rates on sovereign bonds differ?  Assume that the euro area consists of just two countries: a low-debt country that issues safe debt, and a high-debt country whose bonds carry a positive premium, reflecting the perception by investors of a (small) probability of default. Assume also that the safe rate, the rate on the low debt is equal to zero, and the rate on the high debt is higher, and therefore positive. Now suppose that both governments run deficits and issue bonds, and that the ECB buys the bonds in exchange for euros, thus increasing central bank money. From the point of view of the consolidated government of the euro area (that is, putting together all the treasuries and the ECB), this is just an internal transfer of risk from the holders of securities issued by the high debt country to the shareholders of the ECB – ultimately national governments (…) Thus, monetisation in this case has an effect: it leads to some risk sharing across euro members.3″bto: Was die EZB schon seit Jahren macht, ist das Verschieben von Risiken auf deutsche Steuerzahler. Ich finde es erfrischend, dass das so offen gesagt wird.  
  • “(When) investors get worried, ask for a higher premium, increase debt service, and in so doing make their worries self-fulfilling and make debt unsustainable (…) the central bank can play a crucial role: by committing to buy if the investors sell, it can eliminate the bad equilibrium. (…) Standing ready to purchase bonds in this context is not an attempt to monetise the debt. Indeed, if the strategy is successful, it actually deters investors from selling, and may achieve its purpose with little or no intervention, little or no monetization, and little or no cost to the other governments.5 In this case, the insurance that it provides to the high-debt country has no cost to the low-debt country.  It may even benefit it by preventing a debt crisis and its cross-border spillovers.” – bto: also eine perfekte Welt. Die Notenbank beschützt Länder mit unsolider Finanzpolitik und es kostet nichts. Was natürlich nicht stimmt, ermuntert es doch weiterhin zu unsolider Finanzpolitik.
  • “(…) the ECB’s bond-buying purchase programme can evidently serve as a channel for mutualising the cost of the crisis. This is in part by default: we see good reasons why part of the burden of fighting the pandemic should be mutualised among EU members, but it would be more appropriate to do so in a more transparent way through explicit budgetary and financial channels. (…) there are obviously some reasons to worry, but we see no reason to panic. The central banks are doing the right thing. Their actions are sustainable. And they have not tied their hands to the inflation mast.“ – bto: Das glaubt niemand ernsthaft, weil die Schulden viel zu hoch sind. 

→ “Monetisation: Do not panic”, 10. April 2020