IMF债务重组提案:弊大于利?

2015-05-14 12:59837

编者语:当大规模贷款发生时,各债权国应该如何分担成本?从目前IMF内部的提案来看,其方案存在着一些问题,很可能会让国际金融体系和全球资本市场结构遭受负面冲击。【全球智库观察】专栏文章选自彼得森国际经济研究所,将分析当前IMF债务重组提案的利弊,敬请阅读。文/AngelUbide(彼得森国际经济研究所

 

编者语:

当大规模贷款发生时,各债权国应该如何分担成本?从目前IMF内部的提案来看,其方案存在着一些问题,很可能会让国际金融体系和全球资本市场结构遭受负面冲击。【全球智库观察】专栏文章选自彼得森国际经济研究所,将分析当前IMF债务重组提案的利弊,敬请阅读。

 

文/Angel Ubide(彼得森国际经济研究所研究员)

 

当大规模贷款发生时,各债权国应该如何分担成本?就此,国际货币金组织执行董事会将很快做出决定。从目前IMF内部的提案来看,最终方案很可能会让国际金融体系和全球资本市场结构遭受负面冲击。

2014年版的IMF内部提案包含了两个重要动议。其一,将所谓的“系统性特例”条款取消。通过这一条款,IMF可以以“系统性”为依据来为一国提供非常规贷款(非常规贷款是指,为借款国提供超出其在国际货币金组织内部获准的可贷额度多倍的贷款数量);忽略该笔贷款是否能够维持高营利性。第二项动议则将各国划入三个组别:贷款可维持长期高回报;贷款可维持一定回报;贷款不可持续。对于被划入第二和第三组别的国家,IMF非常规贷款选项将会建立在有条件的合约之上(坚持双方自愿原则),允许债权国重组贷款。这一条款又称为Private Sector Involvement(PSI)。对于被划入第二组别的国家,延长还款期限一般会被包含在双方商定的贷款计划当中。在第三个组别内,贷款计划一般会要求写入更为广泛的债务重组计划,例如大量削减债务水平。

这份提案当中存在的问题很多。“系统性特例”对于IMF稳定全球金融体系而言不可或缺。尽管2008年的金融危机让人们对出手救市存有不满情绪,避免系统性风险仍然是重中之重。毕竟,没有人能够预测系统性风险将会从何而起。废除“系统性特例”是不负责任的。IMF的目标之一是,当危机发生时,从整个金融系统的角度减低GDP下降但来的风险;而不是对自己手中的资源锱铢必较,或者一味追求私有部门贡献的最大化。尽管此前的救市举措让外界颇有微词,“系统性特例”或其他在实质上与“系统性特例”相似的工具都应该得到保留,防患于未然。

根据各国的偿债能力来分门别类的方式更为欠妥。考虑到IMF的贷款额度随着全球资本市场的规模变化而逐渐缩水,绝大多数与缓解资本市场危机相关的贷款计划都需要“特例”支持,因此受制于偿债分组。

考虑到债务可持续性,这些动议很有可能会最终得以通过并付诸实施。但是,到底什么是债务可持续性?至今并没有一个为人们所普遍接受的定义。对于单一货币国家而言,只要打开印钞机,还债都不成问题。因此,是否偿还债务并不取决于能否还得起,而取决于是否有偿还的意愿。因此,将主权债务额度占GDP比例作为债务持续性定义的基础就显得有些随意。在近期IMF的项目中,希腊的债务持续性水平被设定在债务占GDP的120%;塞浦路斯水平为110%;乌克兰为70%。定位不够准确只会增加更多的不确定性。

此外,根据债务水平划分的三个组别当中,有两个涉及到会引发违约的债务重组运作,这可能会引发锚定效应。这样划分组别的结果就是,在市场参与者看来,一旦一国对IMF协助的需求增加,债务重组的可能性也势必相应增加。市场对于违约率的估值将不再依据一国的经济基本面,而是根据该国到底被划分到了那个组别当中。在这个过程中,IMF将会漏掉很多宝贵的信息以及核查机遇。不仅如此,一旦推行分组,一方面,贷款意向国可能会因此延迟自己的贷款计划;另一方面,贷款的成本会不断攀升。在没有任何准确依据的情况下,投资人已经闻风而逃。

法国总统萨科齐和德国总理默克尔提出,私有投资人的潜在损失需要成为财政援助某一国的制约条件。由此导致的欧洲债务乱局已经充分说明这种思路是多么的不负责任。这一声明或许是为了强调原则的重要性,但实际上却导致了欧盟内边缘国家的债务出逃现象,担心债务计划重组显然是主要原因。人们可能会认为,债务各方一定会尽一切努力来避免债务重组和申请IMF援助之间产生关联。但是,眼下欧盟内边缘国之所以陷入经济衰退难以自拔,正是由于这种论调是错误的。不仅如此,欧洲稳定机制(ESM)同样需要以IMF的项目为前提,这就意味着,这种恶性循环很有可能会在系统内生根。考虑到现有债务等级之高,以及欧元区各国体积之庞大,以IMF的分类标准,欧洲稳定机制也难以逃脱被划入第二或第三组别的命运。新一轮对债务违约的担忧恐将由此发端。

死板的规则往往会有反噬的风险。如果这些新近的提案在2010年就开始推行,将会迫使爱尔兰和葡萄牙在计划开始之初就要重组自身债务。回过头来看,那将是一个严重的错误。现实中,爱尔兰和葡萄牙最终成功地调整了各自经济,在尊重债务合约的的前提下回归到市场。无论如何,债务重组都必须是万不得已时才使用的工具。

乌克兰的案例同样能够说明问题。一项国际货币基金组织的方案已经实施了一年多。尽管乌克兰局势并不明朗,但是该项援助方案起初仍是有私有部门参与的。方案的目标是全面支持乌克兰回复经济并且避免妨害到乌克兰的生存。现在,根据今年三月的一份协议,IMF正在考虑一个全面的债务重组。这份协议认为,削减债务可以帮助建立经济增长的信心。如果照此做法,IMF事实上忽略了一个问题——新提案中,当风险增高时,对重新评估的要求,即延长还贷期限。我们能够从中学到的就是,要具体问题具体分析,灵活性是十分必要的。

IMF的政策提案主要是为了回应围绕希腊债务危机而产生的一些问题。但是,政策和规则的修改都不应该仅仅建立在一个案例的分析之上。在通过之前,规则制定者必须扪心自问,某项规则是否能够达到“不作恶”的标准。IMF的新提案显然达不到。

附英文原文:

The 2014 version of the IMF staff proposal includes two major initiatives. The first would eliminate the so-called systemic exception—whereby the IMF can create an exception on systemic grounds and provide an exceptional access loan (that is, a loan that is a bigger multiple of the country’s quota than standard IMF procedures allow) to a country even if it is not able to determine that its debt will be sustainable with high probability . The second initiative would assign countries to three groups: those whose debt is sustainable with high probability, those whose debt is sustainable but not with high probability, and those whose debt is unsustainable. For countries in the second and third grouping, an exceptional access IMF program would be conditional on (voluntary) agreement by creditors to restructure their loans, commonly known as private sector involvement (PSI). In the second grouping an extension of maturities (i.e., reprofiling) would be expected as part of the program. In the third grouping, a more extensive restructuring would be called for as part of the program, including principal reductions.

Several problems make this proposal ill-advised. The systemic exception is an important element of the IMF’s mandate to ensure the stability of the global financial system. Despite the popular backlash against bailouts of the most recent crisis, the system should still come first. Because it is impossible to forecast what may become systemic in the future, depriving the IMF of a systemic exception is irresponsible. The IMF’s objective should be to minimize the GDP cost of a crisis for the system as a whole, not to minimize the use of its resources or maximize the contribution of the private sector. Regardless of moral hazard concerns over the precedent set by bailouts, the systemic exception or its de facto equivalent is an option with positive value and should be maintained as a necessary tool in a crisis.

Grouping countries on the basis of a debt sustainability assessment is even more problematic. Because IMF quotas have shrunk with respect to the scale of global capital markets, most IMF programs associated with capital market crises will likely require exceptional access and thus be subject to the grouping.

The proposal will inevitably be perceived and likely implemented as a rigid rule based on the probability of debt sustainability. But there is no commonly accepted definition of debt sustainability. Countries that issue in their own currency can always print enough money to pay their debts. Accordingly, debt sustainability for them is a function of willingness to pay, not capacity to pay. Any definition based on a ratio of sovereign debt to GDP is thus arbitrary. In recent IMF programs, the target for debt sustainability has been set at 120 percent of GDP for Greece, 110 percent for Cyprus, and 70 percent for Ukraine. Defining that threshold imprecisely only creates additional uncertainty. It would be akin to a central bank targeting a measure of inflation that cannot be computed.

In addition, with two of the three country groups requiring a debt restructuring operation that would trigger a credit event and default, there is high risk of creating a damaging and destabilizing anchoring effect. Market participants would permanently associate an increasing probability of requesting IMF assistance with an increasing probability of debt restructuring. A“monkey in the mirror” effect would ensue, with markets pricing default odds based on which grouping a country may be put into rather than on the sustainability of fundamentals. In the process, the IMF would lose a valuable source of information and cross-check. Furthermore, this new policy would delay the country’s request for a program while unduly escalating its funding costs for the country as investors flee first and ask questions later. Not surprisingly, Moody’s declared this policy credit negative.

The market turmoil and contagion in the euro area spurred by the Deauville Declaration,at which President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany vowed irresponsibly that financial assistance to countries would be made conditional on private sector loses, should have offered a cautionary tale. The Declaration was made to establish a perhaps laudable principle, but it led to a run on the debt of several periphery countries on the fear of program-led restructuring. One would think that creating an association between an IMF program request and likely debt restructuring should be avoided at all costs. The sudden stop and the skyrocketing interest rates that the Deauville Declaration engineered in periphery countries contributed to the deep recession that Europe is still struggling to overcome. Moreover, the fact that European Stability Mechanism (ESM) programs require an IMF program implies that this vicious circle could become entrenched. Given the high levels of debt and the large size of euro area countries, any future ESM program would fall, a priori, in the second or third group, risking another vicious cycle of default fears and contagion.

Rigid rules often backfire. Had the latest proposals been in place in 2010, Ireland and Portugal would have been forced to reprofile their debt at the start of their programs, dealing a blow to the global economy. In hindsight, it would have been a serious mistake. Ireland and Portugal have successfully adjusted their economies and returned to markets while respecting the integrity of their contracts. Debt restructurings should only happen as a last resort.

The current case of Ukraine is also telling. An IMF program has been in place there for more than a year. Despite the high uncertainty arising from Ukraine’s economic difficulties, not to mention a Russian military intervention, the program was first funded with no private sector participation. The objective was to show full support for Ukraine and avoid impeding its struggle to survive. Now the IMF, following a new agreement in March, envisages a full debt restructuring, under the argument that a decisive debt reduction will restore confidence. In doing so, the IMF is ignoring the proposed new policy of requiring a reprofiling—an extension of maturities only—when uncertainty is high. The lesson here is that each case and each situation is different, and flexibility is paramount. Like it or not, politics often dictate the target debt-to-GDP ratio. The associated amount of private sector involvement is typically just the residual after taking into account the pledged contributions of the official sector.

The IMF’s latest policy proposals are principally a reaction to the controversies surrounding the delays and dithering over debt relief in the Greek program. But, as a matter of principle, it is wrong to base a policy change on regrets over a single case. Any policy change must pass the “first do no harm” test. This policy proposal doesn’t pass it.(完)

 

【智库简介】

Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics(PIIE)

彼得森国际经济研究所由伯格斯坦(C. Fred Bergsten)成立于1981年,是非牟利、无党派的美国智库。2006年,为了纪念其共同创始人彼得middot;乔治middot;彼得森(Peter G. Peterson),更名为“彼得middot;乔治middot;彼得森国际经济研究所”。在《2014年全球智库报告》(The Global Go To Think Tanks 2014)中,PIIE在全球(含美国)150大智库中列第15名。美国顶级智库排名中列第13名,全球80大国内经济政策智库中列第4名,全球50大国际经济政策智库第4名。网址: http://www.iie.com/。

 

文章来源:瞭望智库 2015年5月4日(本文摘编自彼得森国际经济研究所网站报告“The IMF’s Harmful Debt Restructuring Proposal”,本文仅代表作者观点)

 

本篇编辑:郦博文

 

 

【全球智库观察】专栏往期回顾:

第39期:加图研究所:规制阻碍了美国经济增长吗?

第40期:CIGI:从韬光养晦到有所作为——中国的金融“小多边主义”

第41期:PIIE:回顾2014年中国汇率和资本项目改革

第42期:PIIE:内部纾困机制只是虚有其表

第43期:加图研究所:对房地产泡沫的几种解释

第44期:PIIE:美国2016财年预算的四个暗示

第45期:布鲁金斯学会:中美之间的对外投资缘何如此之少?

第46期:PIIE:中国应更多关注国内太阳能消费市场

第47期:布鲁金斯学会:美国债务规模再次触及上限

第48期:布鲁金斯学会:中国泰然面对经济放缓“新常态”

第49期:我们是如何“误会”了银行?

第50期:PIIE:欧洲央行量化宽松政策运行良好

第51期:PIIE:发展金融,助力亚洲经济

第52期:布鲁金斯学会:2015美联储将如何提高利率?

第53期:PIIE:中国的信贷增长——“良性”去杠杆化的开始?

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