Barry Eichengreen

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El presidente estadounidense Donald Trump nos dice que una vez que se contenga la COVID-19 y sea seguro volver a trabajar la economía «volverá a ser grandiosa». ¿Está en lo cierto?

Hay al menos un motivo para pensar que sí. Después de todo, a diferencia de un huracán o un terremoto, la pandemia no causó daños al stock físico de capital. Por lo tanto, sostienen Trump y sus asesores, podemos retomar donde nos detuvimos. La economía se tomó una pausa, pero ahora la producción regresará rápidamente a los niveles previos a la crisis y el crecimiento seguirá como antes.

Nos dicen incluso que la economía será más fuerte que nunca.…  Seguir leyendo »

Le débat sur le Brexit est une source inépuisable de joie pour quiconque possède un certain sens de l’humour. Ma citation préférée est celle de Michael Gove, l’actuel ministre britannique de l’environnement. Juste avant le référendum de juin 2016, M. Gove, alors ministre de la justice du gouvernement de David Cameron, avait rejeté l’avis quasi unanime des économistes selon lequel une décision de quitter l’Union européenne (UE) allait profondément mettre à mal l’économie britannique.

« Les citoyens de ce pays en ont assez des experts », avait-il expliqué d’un ton irrité, faisant référence aux spécialistes des « organisations porteuses d’acronymes, qui disent savoir ce qui est préférable pour leur pays et qui font toujours fausse route ».…  Seguir leyendo »

Greece's debt is unsustainable. The International Monetary Fund has said so, and it's hard to find anyone who disagrees. The Greek government sees structural reform without debt reduction as politically and economically toxic. The main governing party, Syriza, has made debt reduction a central plank of its electoral platform and will find it hard to hold on to power -- much less implement painful structural measures -- absent this achievement.

Moreover, tax increases and spending cuts by themselves will only deepen the Greek slump. Other measures are needed to attract the investment required to jump-start growth. Reducing the debt and its implicit claim on future incomes is an obvious first step.…  Seguir leyendo »

The European Central Bank is moving, hesitantly but ineluctably, toward quantitative easing. The threat of deflation — and the ineffectiveness of its previous measures — leaves it no choice. The question is whether the ECB will be able to move quickly enough.

The ECB has already attempted to ease credit conditions by purchasing high-quality asset-backed securities. It has bought securities backed by cash flows from private-sector mortgages, so-called covered bonds, and it has floated the idea of buying corporate bonds and multilateral securities issued by the European Investment Bank. But it is clear that this will not be enough.

Supplies of private-sector securities are limited, reflecting the dominance of bank lending in Europe and depressed sentiment in securitization markets.…  Seguir leyendo »

A visit to Greece leaves many vivid impressions. There are, of course, the country’s rich history, abundance of archeological sites, azure skies and crystalline seas. But there is also the intense pressure under which Greek society is now functioning — and the extraordinary courage with which ordinary citizens are coping with economic disaster.

Inevitably, a visit also leaves questions. In particular, what should policymakers have done differently in confronting the country’s financial crisis?

The critical policy mistakes were those committed at the outset of the crisis. It was already clear in the first half of 2010, when Greece lost access to financial markets, that the public debt was unsustainable.…  Seguir leyendo »

¿Es posible que 2013 sea mejor que 2012 para la economía mundial? La respuesta, en principio, es sí. En la práctica, sin embargo, la respuesta puede ser más deprimente.

En Estados Unidos, la situación está dada para un crecimiento más sólido. El mercado de la vivienda finalmente se está recuperando. La Fed ha señalado que está preparada para implementar más medidas en favor del crecimiento y para reducir el desempleo. Todo lo que los demás responsables de políticas en EE. UU. tienen que hacer para garantizar que 2013 sea mejor que 2012 es evitar un gol en contra.

En especial, para eliminar la incertidumbre que continúa deprimiendo los gastos de consumo y capital, deben evitar los «precipicios fiscales» (ahora y en el futuro), los peligrosos mecanismos de secuestro, y las tonterías relacionadas con las autorizaciones periódicas para modificar los límites del endeudamiento.…  Seguir leyendo »

At last, European leaders have revealed their top-secret plan for solving the euro’s crisis. And it is – drum roll – a version of the “Tobin tax,” a levy on financial transactions first suggested in 1972 by the Nobel laureate economist James Tobin.

Now, 40 years later, the European Commission has proposed – and French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have endorsed – a turnover tax on all financial transactions, varying from 0.1% on stocks to 0.01% on financial derivatives like futures and credit-default swaps. If the tax can’t be imposed globally or even Europe-wide, France and Germany will go it alone.…  Seguir leyendo »

The euro crisis shows no signs of letting up. While 2011 was supposed to be the year when European leaders finally got a grip on events, the eurozone’s problems went from bad to worse. What had been a Greek crisis became a southern European crisis and then a pan-European crisis. Indeed, by the end of the year, banks and governments had begun making contingency plans for the collapse of the monetary union.

None of this was inevitable. Rather, it reflected European leaders’ failure to stop a pair of vicious spirals.

The first spiral ran from public debt to the banks and back to public debt.…  Seguir leyendo »

It may be hard to imagine that Europe’s crisis could worsen, but it just has. European Union leaders failed at their summit two weeks ago to produce anything of substance. China and Brazil are clearly reluctant to come to the rescue by providing a large injection of foreign cash. And the recent G-20 summit in Cannes produced no agreement on steps that might have helped to resolve the crisis.

Now there is the collapse of the Greek government. The trigger may have been outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou’s ill-advised decision to call for a referendum on the EU’s rescue package (which implies further severe austerity measures); but the fundamental problem is that a brutal recession made the government’s demise all but inevitable.…  Seguir leyendo »

After a year and half of delay and denial, Greece is about to restructure its debts.

This, by itself, will not be enough to draw a line under the eurozone’s crisis. Greece will also have to downsize its public sector, reform tax administration, and take other steps to modernize its economy. Its European partners will have to build a firewall around Spain and Italy to prevent their debt markets and economies from being destabilized. Banks incurring balance-sheet damage will have to be recapitalized. The flaws in eurozone governance will have to be fixed.

The indispensible first step, however, is a deep write-down of Greek debt – to less than half its face value.…  Seguir leyendo »

For more than a half-century, the US dollar has been not only America’s currency, but the world’s as well. It has been the dominant unit used in cross-border transactions and the principal asset held as reserves by central banks and governments.

But, already before the recent debt-ceiling imbroglio, the dollar had begun to lose its luster. Its share in the identified foreign-exchange reserves of central banks, for example, had fallen to just over 60%, from 70% a decade ago.

The explanation is simple: the United States no longer dominates the world economy to the extent that it did in the past.…  Seguir leyendo »

It should now be clear to even the most blinkered observer that the Greek economy is in desperate need of help. Unemployment is 16% and rising. Even after a year of excruciating spending cuts, the budget deficit still exceeds 10% of GDP. Residents don’t pay taxes. The system of property registration is a mess. There is little confidence in the banks, and even less in the government and its policies.

Since the economy needs help, here’s a novel idea: provide some. Now is the time for the European Union to come forward with a Marshall Plan for Greece.

Rather than piling more loans onto the country’s already unsustainable debt burden, the EU should offer a multi-year program of foreign aid.…  Seguir leyendo »

Financial markets are increasingly certain that a Greek debt restructuring is coming, and European policymakers fear the worst. “In the worst case,” as Juergen Stark, a member of the European Central Bank board, has put it, “a debt restructuring of a eurozone member could put the consequences of Lehman’s bankruptcy in the shade.”

But there is also a best-case scenario, where Greek debt is restructured in a way that doesn’t threaten the banking system.

The simplest way to achieve this would be to require banks exposed to southern European debt to raise more capital. The second round of stress tests by the European Banking Authority is ostensibly designed with this end in mind.…  Seguir leyendo »

The dollar doesn’t have much clout these days. The greenback has lost 12 percent of its value against foreign currencies since the chaotic period after the failure of Lehman Brothers in 2008, and nearly 5 percent since the end of 2010.

Economists are debating the end of the era of the dollar, while news organizations paint it as a 98-pound weakling. Our so-called “fiat” currency, backed only by the full faith and credit of the government, no longer commands respect. So wouldn’t we be better off without it?

Imagine you woke up tomorrow and the dollar had vanished. The Federal Reserve was out of the business of supplying money.…  Seguir leyendo »

With the world’s rich countries still hung over from the financial crisis, the global economy has come to depend on emerging markets to drive growth. Increasingly, machinery exporters, energy suppliers, and raw-materials producers alike look to China and other fast-growing developing countries as the key source of incremental demand.

But Chinese officials warn that their economy is poised to slow. In late February, Premier Wen Jiabao announced that the target for annual GDP growth over the next five years is 7%. This represents a significant deceleration from the 11% rate averaged over the five years through 2010.

Should we take this 7% target seriously?…  Seguir leyendo »

A strictly economic interpretation of events in Tunisia and Egypt would be too simplistic – however tempting such an exercise is for an economist. That said, there is no question that the upheavals in both countries – and elsewhere in the Arab world – largely reflect their governments’ failure to share the wealth.

The problem is not an inability to deliver economic growth. In both Tunisia and Egypt, the authorities have strengthened macroeconomic policy and moved to open the economy. Their reforms have produced strong results. Annual growth since 1999 has averaged 5.1% in Egypt, and 4.6% in Tunisia – not Chinese-style growth rates, to be sure, but comparable nonetheless to emerging-market countries like Brazil and Indonesia, which are now widely viewed as economic successes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Las quejas de los efectos inflacionarios de la política monetaria no cesan de aumentar, pese a que apenas hay asomo de inflación en los Estados Unidos. Las economías que están reduciendo su retraso con un rápido crecimiento están esforzándose denodadamente para no verse arrastradas por un torrente de entradas de capitales. Ha habido destacados encargados de la formulación de políticas, que buscan urgentemente soluciones substitutivas del averiado sistema monetario de los Estados Unidos, que han llegado hasta el extremo de hablar del regreso al patrón-oro.

No estoy hablando de 2011, sino de 1964. No es la primera vez en que nos encontramos en esta situación.…  Seguir leyendo »

Gavyn Davies: Quit stalling on capital reform

Although banks often get carried away by a reckless search for short-term profits, they are not stupid enough to ignore the near-death experience of September 2008. The best hope for reform is that the large institutions see it as being in their own interest to rein in risk. However, in case memories are indeed short, governments need to agree on a system in which the capital requirements imposed on the banks are increased as lending and asset prices rise during the next boom. This is a much better way of preventing excessive risk-taking than political grandstanding on pay, (which is annoying but not the core of the problem) or the FSA idea of a Tobin tax on all financial market trading (which hits the wrong targets).…  Seguir leyendo »