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债务危机持续蔓延,意大利应如何自救

Cyrus Sanati 2011年09月22日

标准普尔突然下调了意大利主权债信评级,凸显了该国当前政策的致命缺陷:在经济疲软不振的国家推行严厉的紧缩措施,负面效应不容忽视。

    意大利政府债务负担极为沉重,相当于其国内生产总值的120%,许多人认为,在这样一个国家推行紧缩政策是件好事。可是,紧缩政策分很多种。在意大利的一揽子紧缩计划中,该国政府并未触及棘手的经济结构改革,只是简单地提高了税收并削减政府工作岗位。

    事实上,根据瑞银集团(UBS)的分析,550亿美元的紧缩计划中约三分之二都来自税率提高。此举将会严重压抑经济增长,其负面作用比降低政府开支更突出。此外,已批准的减支方案将使数以千计的政府雇员失业,失业率恐将继续攀升,进一步拖累经济增长。

    仅仅靠削减支出和提高税,就想使一个国家走出经济困境,几乎是不可能实现的目标,走出困境的动力必须是经济增长,而对意大利和其他欧元区边缘国家来说,增长看起来越发遥不可及。难道还需要新的例子来证明这一点吗?看看过去18个月来希腊发生了什么事吧:欧洲央行和国际货币基金组织推行严厉的紧缩措施,迫使该国政府裁掉数以千计的政府雇员,并提高税收,给国民经济造成了灾难性后果。2010年希腊国内生产总值萎缩了6%,今年第二季度又萎缩了7.3%——形势之恶劣远超任何人的想象。

    欧洲央行和国际货币基金组织正就给希腊的新一轮援助进行辩论,为了获得这笔款项,希腊必须裁掉更多政府雇员,并推出一项特别财产税,尝试达成上述机构设定的财政目标。这将进一步降低希腊的经济增长率,使其政府收入无法达到目标,被迫寻求新的援助。这种恶性循环非常可怕,正因为此,市场走势表明投资者认为希腊几乎肯定会在近期发生债务违约。

    尽管意大利的情况还不像希腊那么糟,它很可能重蹈其地中海邻国的覆辙。要避免这一后果,意大利必须进行真正的结构性经济改革。意大利可以从劳动法的改革着手,该国现行法律使招聘和解雇员工都非常困难。

    意大利还可以降低政府在本国最大的几家公司中的持股比例,以此吸引外国直接投资,从而促进增长。该国还应当明智地远离制造业,将服务业作为国民经济的支柱——美国三十年前痛苦地实现了这一结构性变革。为此,意大利必须在科技和其他二十一世纪经济增长引擎上增加投入。

    标普向意大利发出的信号很明确:增长速度是关乎经济生死存亡的关键。对于其他国家来说,无论是否属于欧元区,若不想在不久的将来遭到降级厄运,领会这一信号无疑也是明智之举。

    译者:小宇

    One would think that austerity would be a good thing for a nation with a crushing debt load that's 120% of its GDP like it is in Italy. But not all austerity is the same. Instead of making tough structural changes to the Italian economy in its austerity package, the Italian state decided to simply raise taxes and cut jobs.

    In fact, around two-thirds of the 55 billion euro austerity plan will come from higher taxes, according to UBS. That will have a more depressive effect on growth than lower expenditures. Furthermore, the cuts in spending that were approved could cost thousands of workers their jobs, further slowing growth as unemployment grows.

    It is almost impossible for a country to work itself out of an economic hole by slashing spending and raising taxes alone. It needs to grow its way out of the hole, something that looks increasingly difficult for Italy and other members of the eurozone periphery. To see an example of this, one needs to just look at what has occurred in Greece over the last 18 months. Harsh austerity measures pushed on the country by the ECB and IMF forced the country to lay off thousands of workers and raise taxes. This has had a devastating effect on the Greek economy. Its GDP shrank 6% in 2010 and 7.3% in the second quarter of this year -- far worse than anyone imagined.

    To get its next round of bailout money, which is currently being debated, the country has had to slash even more jobs and institute a special tax on property to try and meet fiscal targets from the ECB and IMF. This will further lower growth rates in the country, causing it to miss revenue targets and potentially force it to seek further bailouts. This downward spiral is why the market is pricing in an almost certain Greek default sometime in the near future.

    While Italy isn't as bad as Greece, it could very well fall into the same trap that has ensnared its Mediterranean neighbor. To avoid this outcome, Italy needs to make real structural changes to its economy, starting with reformation of its labor laws, which makes it very difficult to hire and fire workers.

    The country could also boost growth by reducing public ownership in some of its largest corporations to encourage foreign direct investment. Italy would also be wise to steer its economy away from manufacturing and toward services. This structural shift, which the U.S. undertook painfully 30 years ago, should include higher spending on technology and other 21st century economic growth engines.

    S&P has sent a clear message to Italy that growth is key to its economic survival. It is a message that other nations, both inside and outside the eurozone, would be wise to listen to if they want to avoid a downgrade in the near future.

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