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贝卢斯科尼下台救不了意大利

Cyrus Sanati 2011年11月10日

贝卢斯科尼宣布有条件辞职,市场反应积极。然而,意大利真正的问题并不在领导层。经济实力的下降已使得这个国家只能靠借入更多的钱才能维持以往的好日子。更换新的领导人并不能改变这一点。

    同样,贝卢斯科尼的下台也不能解决意大利的麻烦。虽然这位个人生活缤纷多彩的亿万富翁对于解决意大利财政危机的兴趣有时似乎还不如其即将发布的意大利情歌专辑,但意大利的问题在他任职前就已经存在了。如果意大利想继续获得欧盟救助基金以及欧洲央行(European Central Bank)的帮助,就需要批准更多严厉的紧缩措施。贝卢斯科尼推动通过的一些紧缩措施已让该国回到正轨,但这艘迷途的战舰仍需更多的指引,才能回到港口。

    意大利真正的问题并不在领导人——虽然二战以来意大利已换了60多届政府,而且问题不断,但一直运转正常。意大利人已习惯了领导人的频繁更迭,而且不管怎样意大利依然是欧洲的经济增长引擎。其“旧世界”经济已成功地让国民过上了几代人之前想都不敢想的好日子,当时有几百万绝望而贫穷的意大利移民离开了这个国家,到美国、阿根廷等地寻找更好的出路。

    多年来意大利之所以能过上“好日子”,一个很大的原因就是不断地卖债券——而且是海量债券。意大利拥有全球第四大债券市场,未偿债券余额1.8万亿欧元。经济实力的下降意味着这个国家只能借更多的钱才能维持原来的好日子。意大利的负债/GDP比例已处于触目惊心的120%,在欧洲仅次于希腊的140%。

    这么高的负债/GDP比率过去从来都没有出过问题,直到最近。就像一个拥有多张低利率信用卡、挥霍惯了的消费者,意大利习惯了一缺钱就要求提高信贷额度。但当信贷危机终结了宽松货币时代,发债就不那么容易了。意大利的高主权债务评级使其仍能吸引资本投入其流动性尚好的债券市场,只是要给投资者更高的收益率。

    这是意大利当前问题的根源。6月份以来,大型养老基金和买方机构开始回避意大利债券投资,使得意大利只能提供更高的债券利率。意大利的经济模式陷入了困境,因为该国的经济增长前景的基础一直是政府永远能以低利率发债和用低利率新债换旧债的假设。如果它必须支付高利率,破产将不可避免。

欧洲央行出手相助

    Nor will the ousting of Berlusconi be the answer to Italy's troubles. While it seems that the colorful billionaire is at times more interested in promoting his forthcoming album of Italian love songs than solving his nation's fiscal woes, Italy's problems predate his rule. Tough austerity measures will still need to pass if the country is to receive further assistance from the EU bailout fund and the European Central Bank. Berlusconi has already passed some tough measures that have put the country on the right course, but it still falls short of steering the errant battleship back to port.

    The real trouble with Italy isn't its leadership – after all, the country has functioned as a going concern despite having more than 60 different governments in the post-war era. Italians are used to constant turnover in their leadership and somehow the country has remained an economic engine for Europe. Its "old world" economy has managed to elevate its citizenry into a lifestyle that no one could have imagined just a few generations ago when millions of desperately poor Italian immigrants left the country in search of a better life in places like the United States and Argentina.

    A big reason Italy has been able to live "La Dolce Vita" for as long as it has over the years has been its ability to sell debt – lots of it. Italy is home to the fourth-largest debt market in the world with $1.8 trillion euros outstanding. The nation's shrinking economic power has meant that it has had to borrow more and more money to keep its sweet life going. Italy's debt compared to its GDP currently stands at an alarming 120%, the second-highest in Europe after Greece at 140%.

    This high debt to GDP ratio was never really a problem until recently. Like a profligate spending consumer with several low-interest credit cards, Italy just kept requesting larger and larger credit line increases when it needed quick cash. But when the era of easy money ended with the credit crunch, things started to get pretty hairy. Italy was a highly-rated sovereign so it was still able to attract capital to its liquid debt markets; it just had to offer investors a higher yield.

    This is the root of Italy's current problems. Since June, large pension funds and buy-side shops have shunned Italian debt, forcing Italy to offer even higher interest on its debt. This was a problem for an economic model that was predicated on the belief the country could borrow and roll over its debt at low interest rates ad infinitum. If it had to pay high interest, it would eventually go broke.

Central bankers to the rescue

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