dimanche 11 avril 2010

La dette des Etats : perspectives et implications

Des chercheurs de la BRI, « la banque centrale des banques centrales”, viennent de publier une étude très importante :
"The future of public debt: prospects and implications"
Stephen G Cecchetti, M S Mohanty and Fabrizio Zampolli
Bank for International Settlements, March 2010
BIS Working Papers

Leur constat et conclusions sont assez édifiants, et devraient alimenter le débat sur à la fois les déficits publics et les retraites. En voici l’essentiel :

-« First, fiscal problems confronting industrial economies are bigger than suggested by official debt. As frightening as it is to consider public debt increasing to more than 100% of GDP, an even greater danger arises from a rapidly ageing population. The related unfunded liabilities are large and growing, and should be a central part of today’s long-term fiscal planning.
-Second, large public debts have significant financial and real consequences. The recent sharp rise in risk premia on long-term bonds issued by several industrial countries suggests that markets no longer consider sovereign debt low-risk. The limited evidence we have suggests default risk premia move up with debt levels and down with the revenue share of GDP as well as the availability of private saving. Countries with a relatively weak fiscal system and a high degree of dependence on foreign investors to finance their deficits generally face larger spreads on their debts. This market differentiation is a positive feature of the financial system, but it could force governments with weak fiscal systems to return to fiscal rectitude sooner than they might like or hope.
-Third, we note the risk that persistently high levels of public debt will drive down capital accumulation, productivity growth and long-term potential growth. Although we do not provide direct evidence of this, a recent study suggests that there may be non-linear effects of public debt on growth, with adverse output effects tending to rise as the debt/GDP ratio approaches the 100% limit (Reinhart and Rogoff (2009b)).

-Finally, looming long-term fiscal imbalances pose significant risk to the prospects for future monetary stability. We describe two channels through which unstable debt dynamics could lead to higher inflation: direct debt monetisation, and the temptation to reduce the real value of government debt through higher inflation. Given the current institutional setting of monetary policy, both risks are clearly limited, at least for now. “

“How to tackle these fiscal dangers without seriously jeopardising the incipient recovery is the key challenge facing policymakers today. Although we do not offer advice on how to go about this, we believe that any fiscal consolidation plan should include credible measures to reduce future unfunded liabilities. Announcements of changes in these programmes would allow authorities to wait until the recovery from the crisis is assured before reducing discretionary spending and improving the short-term fiscal position. An important aspect of measures to tackle future liabilities is that any potential adverse impact on today’s saving behaviour be minimised. From this point of view, a decision to raise the retirement age appears a better measure than a future cut in benefits or an increase in taxes. “

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