4. Deflation – Yesterday’s Problem; Inflation – a Problem of Tomorrow

Over the past several years we have witnessed how hard it is for the European Central Bank to fight against the deflation, since fragile countries were unable to focus the borrowed funds to stimulate growth. However, particular governments are still having a bet on inflation. In 2017, if inflation proceeds, so there will be even more unemployed, and purchasing power, which is now much reduced by stagnation and taxation, will further be lowered.

Since the financial debacle of 2008, caused by the monetary policy of these same central bankers, a real war against savers has begun to lower interest rates and consequently the recompense of savings, followed by the lower refinancing rate almost on zero level and Quantitative Easing programs.

There are many common disparagements with QE programs that need to be analyzed since they remain significant in the European structure, which will require some additional comments given the particular European economy. First of all, the increase in liquidity caused by Q.E does not wash out the real economy but is largely directed towards the financial sectors. The EU benefits less from the wealth effect of an increase in stock market assets than in the United States, where pension funds or inducements make income more responsive to market conditions. This is something that could be expected since this is something to be pleased about by all those subjects who have recently seen inflation as a benefit, which is contradictory in many ways. In fact, the accumulation of public debts has reached such a level that monetary policies will have to transform, and inflation will make its return with its instruct of dislocations, unemployment, and various types of injustices.

All these measures combined with tighter regulations and heavier taxation have led to an end of private investment and a deflationary spiral. Some might say that this could represent the beginning of the end of the EU, or the end of the Eurozone, which is not untrue. Inflation is a lasting turn down in the value of money, leading to an extensive and persistent boost in the general level of prices, which is reflected in the expectations of economic representatives. Currency is not only an expression of the value of commodities like the indicator for the distance or the kilogram for the weight but serves as a connection between the present and the future.

Price stability, which describes the situation where price fluctuations are very low or do not exist, does not concern the decisions of economic subjects as they are standardized across all economic areas. On the other hand, the behavior of economic subjects, responsive to inflation or deflation, influences the development of inflation. Individuals try to preserve their real cash balances because they are not fooled by the monetary illusion created by inflation and they require the maintenance of their purchasing power in real terms.

In economics, monetary illusion consists in considering the nominal value of money rather than its real value. This illusion has the effect of confounding money and its purchasing power, or confusing money and wealth; It is also believed that money has intrinsic value whereas its real value derives only from its ability to be exchanged for goods (purchasing power) or to be able to pay taxes. The extreme manifestation of this illusion, which has become pathological, leads states to inflation or hyperinflation through the abuse of the “printing press”. By extension, moneymaking subsequently designates any creation of fiduciary money at the discretion of a central agency, such as the central bank, without necessarily using the paper medium, because the mechanism is entirely virtual and computerized. Periphrases are used to hide the arbitrary and inflationary nature of the process.

Central banks are expected to contain inflation by raising interest rates and avoiding deflation by reducing them. This is called a counter-cyclical policy. We try to offset the economic cycle to make it more stable. The economic circumstances have been horrific for several years, especially in Eurozone. The character of inflation is that it eases the weight of debts and fixed costs so that it can even decide households to spend more and to restart guidelines. In contrast, price stability would have a depressive consequence, since it would go along with the policies of severity carried out by governments passionate about the balance of public finances.

A measure is not sustainable over time with no risk of a bank run, or at least the outflow of deposits, which would expose the stability of the financial system. To avoid that governments must therefore first make the conversion to a totally electronic currency, consequently eliminating the possibility of disposing of money in the form of banknotes held outer the banking system. Also, public expenditure is funded by borrowing or tax. A possible assumption is that the establishment creates money directly or indirectly to finance public debt, while this solution is not possible if the money is tied to a standard, to a measure such as gold. In this case, the currency is autonomous of government policy. In the past, the gold standard restricted the power of the monetary authorities.

There are several Eurozone countries, including Germany, Spain, and Belgium, where inflation rates were raising for more than eight months, while in Italy, Portugal, and Greece they are still below the inflation mark.It appears that the QE in the EU was just another step in the current policy. The ECB has previously gone a long way in manipulating interest rates without any visible effect. In many of these situations, the answer of national central banks is to hope inflation rates between countries will level off, and consequently, by setting a rate for the whole of Europe, they do their job well. The main European central bankers consider that differentiated inflation rates within Europe are basically not their problem and for them, the Eurozone is complete.

ECB has played only on the conservative methods so far, which was acceptable by its statutes, so it is clear that the enthusiasm displayed by many national central banks contrasts with the European economic slowness. However, each country individually has a very dangerous state of inaction. Some of them, such as it is the case with Spain, stuck in incredibly low interest rates and high inflation. The result of the ECB’s policy is exactly worsening the inflation in countries where inflation is high and strangles those where inflation is low and Spanish authorities are very aware that if they miss this opportunity to react, there will be a fake speculative bubble financed by the debt that will burst subsequently, as it was the case at the beginning of this century.

On the other hand, it seems that the method of spread of monetary policy is not working, or is at least detained. The spread means that the effects of changes in the key rate have a collision on the economy as a whole, down to the rate of inflation. This can be explained by the caution of banks to lend to the private sector as a result of recent stress tests and the rules set during 2010. The negative position for European growth prompts banks to transfer to the private sector, so all that has been discussed is not even done in the situation of a policy of quantitative easing by the ECB and yet some are pressing the ECB to take action as if what has been done in recent years was of no advantage.

Unnecessary risk-taking must not be unobserved, and the risks of extending such policies must be taken into account, as the US example shows. The risks of deformation of price mechanisms and of return to hazardous situations must rise as an internment specter to avoid the drifts of the past. Besides that, the ECB could move up interest rates to fight inflation in Germany, Spain, and Belgium, but Greece could not be in the group of countries that see any benefits of action as such. This would strangle economic growth, and not to mention the government’s budget, which cannot have enough money for other interest charges, which represents an essential distinction. The truth is that the ECB has no way out, but we know that central bankers favor inflation to become out of control rather than deflation, and that is the narration of all currencies that ever existed so that the euro is not an exception. Also, this situation offers outstanding investment opportunities, since the countries, including Germany, are experiencing the real estate boom they had missed a decade and a half ago, when interest rates were high, while the situation has changed so far. Many other governments of euro users cannot afford an increase in interest rates, since having too much debt. They are quite satisfied to see inflation biting this debt while the ECB keeps interest rates low.

If we take a closer look at government bond yields we see that the interest rate that the government has to pay to borrow more money and in this situation if the inflation has the actual rate, they are extraordinary. However, those who buy government bonds lose money, while governments make money on their borrowings accustomed to inflation. As long as this trend maintains, governments will be satisfied to have high inflation and low interest rates, while the bubble enlarges as less than two decades ago. When inflation happens to be out of control in Europe’s flourishing countries, or an increase in interest rates will pose problems for ailing economies, countries will have need of restoring control of their own monetary policy, though it would be such a hard kick that the EU could not stand. It is therefore essential to keep an eye on the next inflation statistics and on the other the interest rates of the ECB. EU countries are heading straight to destroying whatever pathway it takes.

In a more explicitly EU situation, many raise the inappropriateness of such an arrangement with the economic and financial destruction of all the countries of the Eurozone. As decades of deficit have collected, the QE program would be in opposition to any true or fictive efforts to decrease deficits. The idea of an EQ program is a sovereign debt buy-back by the ECB, which gives the ECB more power to lend to the economy. It is also a means of reducing the pressure on some governments currently in difficulty, giving them a bigger boundary for the tactic. In this situation, the emerging countries blame their central banks for scams, since they are experiencing the biggest losses in this situation.

Besides that, declining rates are apparently an essential condition for the search for this solution. For example, if one repays a loan at 7% by borrowing at 4% then if they pay off the loan at 4% with another contracted at 1,5%, they can make an illusion, since each time one borrows again, they get just another balloon of hope. In the opposite case, when interest rates increase, everyone should understand that the rise crashes fast enough into the wall. Therefore, central bank actions have only one intention and that is to avoid rates from growing to make the growth last. In this situation, European countries must reorganize their public finances when years of incentive spending have revealed enormous imbalances in their finances. Austerity budgetary policies, that are essential to correct this situation, would definitely run counteracts to the EQ and in that way cancel its supposed stimulus outcome.

Besides that, another practical concern is that the debts of the Eurozone are spotted among all its countries, and consequently there is a greater complication when the problem arises as to which securities of which countries may be subject to acquisition. This question arises from the political pledges within the Eurozone, especially between those countries whose situation differs drastically. However, even the simple announcement of an EQ could have negative effects, since it is difficult to see how the situation can recover, where this is only an effort to delay the reality.

It is true that many EU countries are facing several problems today and one among the biggest is that its monetary condition remains critical as the money supply growth remains virtually non-existent, despite already very accommodating ECB policy, for example when the rates are close to zero. This means that the spread mechanism of monetary policy is not working, since, during the innovative regulations and stress tests, banks have become cautious when it comes to lending to the private economy. Very slow growth with negative outlooks does not support them to lend more, while they are consequently encouraged to refill their margins in the markets and to provide risk-free to others.

Central banks of emerging countries are required to switch the work of their beneficiary citizens and the goods of those countries against debt denominated in a certain currency (US dollar or euro), while this is acceptable if this debt offers them something, such as upright interest, but this is not even the theoretical case since the rates are extremely low. A more forceful monetary situation could be provided by more opportunities for additional solutions in terms of both monetary and lending practices. In this situation, it seems that a new monetary model must emerge less central bank policies and more innovative market solutions to stimulate economic growth.

This is the reason why, after several years when deflation has been the main problem, this will be the year when we will see the big return of inflation and all of its negativities, such as the increase of unemployment rate and the reduction of purchasing power, which will lead to the stagnation and tax collection and budget losses. This year will show a serious need to return to monetary strictness and the cutback of the public debt without repeating QE procedures, as well as without borrowing to pay off what has been borrowed in the past.

This article is part of the academic publication Dividing by Zero by Ana Nives Radovic, Global Knowledge 2018

Zašto se u EU pribojavaju slabog inflatornog rasta?

Tokom posljednjih nekoliko mjeseci u zemljama članicama Evropske unije sve intenzivnije se razmatraju moguća rješenja za problem deflacije.

deflacijaKoliko je zastrašenost ovom pojavom u kojoj, umjesto da dobija, sve gubi na vrijednosti uticala na Evropljane govori i to da su stavovi o deflaciji toliko oprečni da protivnike doslovno svrstavaju u grupe koje vjeruju, odnosno ne vjeruju da deflacija u EU zaista postoji.

Prema ocjeni predsjednika Evropske centralne banke Marija Dragija eurozona ipak nije zašla u deflaciju. Ovaj podatak bio je povod za uvjeravanja brojnih evropskih lidera da je pred evropskom ekonomijom faza oporavka.

Ipak, veliki broj ekonomista saglasan je da ekonomska politika članica eurozone treba da bude kontraciklična, kako bi se lakše prilagodila nižoj stopi rasta.

Jedan od mehanizama kojim bi se upravljalo monetarnom politikom u eurozoni je istovremeno i onaj koji se koristi za kontrolu inflacije.

Međutim, ovim se često potcjenjuje rizik od deflacije koji se nerijetko javlja nakon recesije.

Cijene robe široke potrošnje

Od svog osnivanja Evropska centralna banka projektuje ciljanu inflaciju robe široke potrošnje kroz harmonizovani indeks potrošačkih cijena, u cilju obezbjeđivanja njenog postojanja, ali tako da stopa bude stabilizovana na oko dva odsto.

Evropski zavod za statistiku Eurostat objavio je da je u februaru ove godine stopa inflacije u eurozoni iznosila 0,8 odsto, odnosno da je ona bila manja od jedan odsto već pet mjeseci zaredom.

Za jedan dio Evropljana ovakvi podaci predstavljaju razlog za duboku zabrinutost, iako su mišljenja oko štetnosti deflacije u eurozoni podijeljena.

Prije svega, ovdje je neophodno razgraničiti da, uzevši u obzir ciljanu stopu ECB, stopa inflacije je samo znatno niža od projektovane, bez izgleda za povećanje u skorijem periodu, računajući na stanje tokom prethodnih nekoliko mjeseci.

Međutim, ovo ne znači da je, samo zato što inflacija nije na nivou od zadovoljavajućih dva odsto, zaista došlo do deflacije. Kao ključni problem uočava se niska stopa uz koju se teško ostvaruje ciljani rast bruto domaćeg proizvoda zemalja članica eurozone.

Ipak, ovakvo stanje ne destabilizuje ekonomiju zemlje i na neki način zapravo drži situaciju pod kontrolom, računajući na nedovoljno jaku kupovnu moć građana ovih zemalja.

Kada bi proizvodi uključeni u indeks potrošačkih cijena poskupljivali, a zarade Evropljana ostajale na postojećem nivou, situacija bi bila znatno alarmantnija u odnosu na sadašnju.

Ipak, kod niske stope inflacije zabrinjava vrijeme njenog trajanja.

Period od pet uzastopnih mjeseci sa inflacijom nižom od željene onemogućava pravljenje konkretnih planova u sferi javnih finansija do faze u kojoj se mogu očekivati čak i budžetski deficiti.

Bezizlaznost iz postojećeg stanja

Problem u niskoj stopi inflacije je u njenoj bezizlaznosti – vlade zemalja eurozone će prije ili kasnije potražiti načine da nadoknade gubitke, zbog čega bi smanjivanje zarada za građane moglo predstavljati isti problem kao i visoka stopa inflacije.

Za ono što zarade moći će kupovati manje, a to je ono što niko ne želi, ali što se javlja kao posljedica mjera koje sprovode vlade nakon recesije.

Činjenica je da su strukturne reforme u većini evropskih zemalja direktno prouzrokovale recesione i deflatorne pritiske.

Tokom ovakvih aktivnosti one su pribjegavale istraživanju cjenovne konkurentnosti zbog nemogućnosti devalviranja – smanjivanju zarada zaposlenih u cilju izbjegavanja ili smanjenja budžetskog deficita, preduzimanju mjera za povećanjem investicionih aktivnosti i sličnim aktivnostima koje su dovele do kratkoročnih koristi i dugoročnih posljedica po budžete tih zemalja.

Deflatorni rizik

Danas se niska stopa inflacije javila rezultat ovakvih radnji. Da bi se razumjela veličina deflatornog rizika, potrebno je situaciju mjeriti još jednim sredstvom – deflatorom brutom domaćeg proizvoda.

On ne predstavlja ništa drugo do praćenja svih cijena koje uslovlajvaju BDP, a to su kada se cijenama robe široke potrošnje dodaju javna potrošnja, investicije, izvoz i uvoz.

Drugim riječima, ovim se u realnom vremenu mogu pratiti promjene u strukturi BDP-a.

Značaj ovakvog mjerenja promjena u ekonomiji jeste što se, za razliku od klasičnog mjerenja stope inflacije mogu uočiti i promjene cijena izvan onoga što spada pod potrošnju, čime se dobija realna slika stanja.

Interesantan je primjer Japana koji je u deflaciju ušao 1999. godine, odnosno, tada je inflacija potrošačkih cijena preuzela negativan trend.

Tek sada u toj zemlji došlo je do zajedničkog zaključka protivnika i zagovornika deflacije da je bilo neophodno u samom startu boriti se protiv ovakve pojave.

Posljedica antikriznih mjera

Razlika u odnosu na eurozonu je što je, međutim, BDP deflator u Japanu poslao zabrinjavajuće signale još u ranim devedesetim godinama prošlog vijeka, prije nego što se stanje počelo odražavati na same potrošačke cijene, zahvaljujući čemu je ipak omogućeno da ekonomija te zemlje ostane stabilna.

U eurozoni to nije slučaj, jer se negativni signali očitavaju na nečemu što je posljedica, a ne uzrok, a sve ovo se nikako ne može dogoditi iznenada.

Drugim riječima, na primjeru nemogućnosti dostaizanja očekivane stope inflacije potvrđuje se sva pogrešnost i pogubnost antikriznih mjera koje su u eurozoni sprovođene od 2009. godine.

Nepovoljna situacija u perifernim zemljama postojala je još od sredine 2008. godine, a sredstva preduzeta za borbu protiv recesije samo su usložnjavala probleme.

Iako se smatra da je Grčka najteže podnijela udare krize, ključni problemi ove vrste javili su se u Portugalu i Španiji.

Već tada BDP deflator u ovim dvijema zemljama počeo je da se kreće ka nultoj stopi, da bi kroz četiri godine skliznuo na taj nivo.

Sadašnje stanje u ovim zemljama ukazuje na potpunu neodrživost, nalažući istovremeno nova zaduživanja.

Sve dalje od ciljanog

Na nivou eurozone BDP deflator je, međutim, rastao u prosjeku za 1,3 odsto na godišnjem nivou, što je i dalje manje od ciljanih 1,9 odsto i sve dok se ne nađe na toj stopi ne postoje nikakvi izgledi za trajni oporavak eurozone, niti mogućnosti za povećanjem stope inflacije.

Ovdje, dakle, nije problem u deflaciji, već u svim njenim uzrocima, iako se evropski zvaničnici trude da ovako postave stvari.

Deflacija se ne može smatrati povodom za nova zaduživanja ako je uslovljena stanjem postojeće prezaduženosti, niti razlogom za smanjenjem zarada ako je ta mjera prethodno rezultirala padom kupovne moći.

Ipak, jedino za što u ovakvim uslovima evropski zvaničnici nastoje je da se izbore jeste da se situacija za njihovog mandata ne pogorša do nivoa u kojem će im ponestati mjera, čak i onih najmanje popularnih, čija neutemeljenost je odavno potvrđena.

Zastrašivanje nepostojećim

Posmatrajući evropsku ekonomiju, naročito od vremena izbijanja globalne krize do danas, bilo da je riječ o centralnim institucijama, ili onim u pojedinačnim zemljama, bez obzira na nivo razvijenosti, finansijske subjekte prate dva načina prikazivanja problema.

perperzona deflacijaPrvi je u situacijama kada evropske vladajuće elite, da bi zadržale poziciju žele ubrati nove političke poene ili kada, u strahu od snižavanja kreditnog rejtinga, prikazuju stanje koje ne odgovra stvarnosti. Problemi se potiskuju u drugi plan, traže se svi načini da se vještački održava lažna dobra slika ekonomije, makar to zahtijevalo i kršenje najvažnijih evropskih ili državnih propisa, čije je prikrivanje prirodna pojava u društvu koje pokušava da obmane javnost i ne suoči je sa sopstvenom nemaštinom.

Drugi je kada se stanje prikazuje kao izrazito kritično, ističući da nadležne institucije, a ovakvu praksu najčešće ima Evropska centralna banka, čine sve kako bi spriječile pogubni scenario koji, u stvari, u takvim uslovima ne prijeti da se dogodi. Trend koji je prisutan tokom posljednja dva mjeseca, a pojačan u vremenu planiranja evropskih budžeta za 2014. godinu jeste zastrašivanje javnosti deflacijom, zbog čega se vodeći evropski mediji posebno fokusiraju na problem nedovoljnog rasta.

Međutim, zastrašivanje koje ECB plasira medijskim kanalima u većini slučajeva djeluje kao da bi se zemlje članice po prvi put mogle suočiti sa deflacijom od koje će ih evropska ekonomska politika sigurno odbraniti – negdje na granici između teatralnog i neuvjerljivog. Parafrazirana prva rečenica koja otvara Komunistički manifest Marksa i Engelsa „Jedan bauk kruži Evropom – bauk komunizma“ u današnjem vremenu završavala bi se sa „bauk deflacije“. Naslovi koji su proteklih sedmica obilježili naslovnice, naročito njemačke i francuske štampe sdržali su poruku da je pad inflacije prijetnja i da treba biti oprezan pred deflatornom zamkom.

U posljednjem izvještaju Organizacije za ekonomsku kooperaciju i razvoj – OECD, objavljenom prošlog mjeseca, inflacija u periodu od 12 mjeseci iznosila je 1,5 odsto u septembru, da bi u oktobru bila smanjena na 1,3 odsto. Dakle, samo je smanjena dinamika rasta ukupnih potrošačkih cijena, ali one nijesu niže. Razlog zbog kojeg je u oktobru u odnosu na septembar došlo do smanjenja stope inflacije na nivou OECD zemalja je prije svega u cijeni energenata.

Energenti su jedina kategorija proizvoda koji su pojeftinili na ovim tržištima, što je bilo uslovljeno padom cijena nafte na globalnom nivou i solidnim zalihama, kao i boljoj eksploataciji energije iz alternativnih izvora u odnosu na isti prošlogodišnji period. Cijena hrane je nastavila rast, ali su zbog pojeftinjenja energenata troškovi proizvodnje bili niži, što je zaustavilo njen rast sa 1,9 na 1,6 odsto. Slično je bilo i sa ostalim proizvodima kod kojih prerada i transport zahtijevaju trošenje struje ili goriva, a čiji rast cijena je sa 1,7 sveden na 1,5 odsto.

Nakon objavljivanja ovog izvještaja evropska javnost bombardovana je televizijskim prilozima i novinskim člancima u kojima se širi panika i iz kojih je nemoguće zaključiti da je za njih ovo u stvari dobra vijest. U vremenu kada čelnici zemalja eurozone zagovaraju štednju, kada se smanjuju zarade i kada kupovna moć građana slabi, niže cijene, naročito u kraćem vremenskom periodu su dobra vijest, uprkos tome što se želi nametnuti shvatanje da je prazan frižider bolji od onog punog hrane kupljene po niskim cijenama.

Osim građanima – potrošačima, zaustavljanje rasta stope inflacije pogoduje i privredi, posebno onih zemalja u kojima postoje ograničenja u vođenju monetarne politike, kao što je slučaj sa članicama eurozone, jer niže cijene tržišta čine globalno konkurentnijim. Povećanje inflacije u ovom slučaju ni za građane, ni za privredu ne bi predstavljalo olakšavajuću okolnost – povećanje zarada ili rast prihoda odvijali bi se u neznatnoj mjeri u odnosu na ukupan rast troškova, što bi stvorilo dodatno nepovoljan ambijent.

Međutim, fokus sa opasnosti od inflatornog haosa uporno se skreće na priču o mogućem povećanju nezaposlenosti i drugim pratećim pojavama deflacije koja se, zapravo, ne javlja u pravoj mjeri. Jasno je da postoje razlozi zbog kojih od deflacije strahuju banke i drugi finansijski igrači, kao i postojeće vladajuće elite u EU, ali za njene građane ona ne može biti suštinski problem sve dok ne bude dugoročno prisutna, za šta izgledi u ovako dinamičnom ekonomskom ambijentu gotovo da i ne postoje.

Deflacija je prisutna u zemljama na jugu Evrope, ali kao posljedica pada tražnje zbog slabljenja ukupne kupovne moći i ograničene javne potrošnje, uslovljene ogromnim deficitom i prezaduženošću. Da su te zemlje imale svoju valutu to bi dovelo do gubitka njene vrijednosti, međutim, uz korišćenje eura javio se ovakav rezultat, koji, dakle, po prirodi stvari nikako ne može biti uzrok lošeg stanja, već posljedica. Danas iste strukture koje su uvjeravale Evropu u prednosti jedinstvene valute govore o prednostima inflacije. Ostaje da pitamo šta je sljedeće.