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Capital bonanzas

Does Wall Street’s meltdown show financial globalisation itself is part of the problem?

“THANK God,” said one Latin American finance minister earlier this year. “At least this time it isn’t our fault.”


The meltdown of America’s financial system may look very different from the emerging-market crises that overwhelmed Thailand in 1997 or Russia in 1998. This time there has been no currency collapse, no government default. Then, there were no collateralised-debt obligations or credit-default swaps.


Yet the minister was justified in seeing parallels between America’s crisis and the emerging-market episodes. In all of them vast current-account deficits were financed by huge capital inflows. The afflicted countries saw housing speculation, asset bubbles and cheap loans followed by a credit crunch and the seizing up of the financial system. And Wall Street’s meltdown raises the same questions as the crises of a decade ago: what will the direct effects on emerging markets be? If the world’s richest economies are vulnerable to global financial turmoil, should developing countries not seek to insulate themselves from it?


Two recent papers* cast light on these questions. They conclude that, although financial globalisation has big costs, these can be minimised and potential gains increased by better policy. Financial globalisation itself, they imply, ought to be seen not so much as a bad thing, but as too much of a good one.


Beware markets bearing gifts

Most emerging markets see their ability to attract foreign money as proof of good management. From this point of view, it should be a blessing that private capital flows to developing countries rose, according to the World Bank, to $1 trillion in 2007, the highest ever. Yet if the study by Carmen and Vincent Reinhart is anything to go by, this should be little cause for celebration.

绝大多数新兴市场将他们吸引外资的能力看作其良好管理的证明。基于这样的观点,根据世界银行数据,2007年流入发展中国家的资金达到有史以来最高的1万亿美元,这应该看作一件非常幸运的事了。然而如果依据Carmen和Vincent Reinhart的研究结论的话,这没什么值得庆贺的。

Taking the experience of 181 countries since 1980, the authors reckon that middle- and low-income countries had a roughly 20% chance of suffering a banking crisis and a 30% chance of a currency crisis, external-debt default or inflation spike (to more than 20% a year) if they experienced what the authors call a “capital-flow bonanza” in the three years beforehand. (They define such a bonanza as an unusual shift of the current account into the red, using that as a proxy for capital inflows since the capital and current accounts mirror each other.) These seem unenviable odds.


The authors point out that countries might have suffered disasters anyway, without being showered with money. That turns out to be true-but their chances were quite a bit lower: between 14% and 24% for countries that did not attract so many dollars. In other words, a foreign inflow, as well as financing good things such as public infrastructure and corporate investment, is also associated with debt defaults, inflation and currency crises.


The authors focus on the level of capital flows, rather than their composition. Presumably, countries that attract more foreign direct investment suffer less than those that have a greater amount of footloose portfolio investment or short-term bank lending. But overall, most countries that suck in foreign money show the classic signs of an economic bubble. Using a subset of 66 countries for which there are more detailed figures, the authors show that share prices rose by more than 10% in real terms in the two years before what they call a bonanza, then fell relentlessly for four years, ending below where they started. House prices went up by more than that-15% in real terms over four years during a bonanza-before falling back.


So why would countries seek out foreign money at all, if its impact is so malign? The answer is that it is not so much the amount of investment that is the trouble; it is its volatility, and especially its tendency to dry up. That makes today’s climate worrying. Mansoor Dailami, the World Bank’s manager of international finance, says private inflows to emerging markets may fall from $1 trillion to only $800 billion-850 billion this year. That may be particularly troublesome because of another difference between this crisis and the Asian one: in 1997-98, more debt was sovereign. Now, much of it is corporate, taken out by Indian, Chinese and other emerging-market companies. That implies a global credit tightening could have as big an impact on emerging markets as slowing import demand in the rich world.

那么即使这么有害,为何这些国家还想积极获取外资呢?因为并不是大量投资是麻烦,而是其波动性,特别是其即将耗尽的趋势。这造成了今天忧虑的气氛。世界银行国际金融经理Mansoor Dailami说,私人资本涌入新兴市场会从1万亿美元下降到今年的8千亿到8千5百亿美元。这是非常糟糕的。因为这场金融危机与上次亚洲金融危机另一个不同之处在于,在1997到98年,更多的债务是政府所有的。而现在,这些大部分是公司所有的,会被印度,中国和其它新兴市场的公司获得。这意味着,全球信贷紧缩对新兴市场的影响与发达国家和地区进口需求放缓对新兴市场的影响一样大。

Critics of financial globalisation argue that these problems are so great that emerging markets ought to be insulating themselves through capital controls. Many have been doing so. Yet even setting aside doubts about how far this is desirable (it is hard to believe growth in India or Brazil would have reached today’s levels without foreign capital), the studies raise questions about whether capital controls are really the right response.


The second study points out that “sudden stops” of capital inflows tend to be an inverted U-shape: the poorest countries are the least vulnerable to global financial shocks; middle-income countries are the most; but, as you get richer and more integrated into global finance, your vulnerability tends to fall again-and that remains true despite the crisis in America. So it might still make sense for countries like India and Brazil to carry on liberalising. Moreover, as the Reinharts show, a big part of the problem is that capital flows are endemically boom-bust: money floods in and out. They argue that fiscal policy should be used to smooth out such cycles: governments should reduce deficits or run surpluses during bonanzas-the opposite of what they usually do. This implies something of a paradox. Capital flows are supposed to be a reward for good economic behaviour. But as Dani Rodrik, a Harvard professor, says, “these policy conclusions turn capital inflows into an imperative for even deeper reform.”

第二篇论文指出外资流入”骤停”会对不同经济体产生”倒U”型的影响:最穷的国家最不可能遭受全球金融冲击;中等收入国家最可能遭受冲击;但是随着你更富有更进一步融入全球金融体系,那么遭受冲击的可能性又会再次下降–除了美国的金融危机外,这还是正确的。因此对于像印度和巴西这样的国家来说继续施行自由化政策还是很明智的。此外,如Reinharts所示,最大的问题在于资金流动的地方性兴衰起伏:资金大量涌入、涌出。他们认为金融政策应该缓和这样的起伏周期:政府应该在”财源滚滚”时减少赤字或者增加盈余–而这些政府的做法恰好与之相反。而这却是个悖论。资金流入应该是对一个良好运行经济体的褒奖、但是如同哈佛教授Dani Rodrik所说:”那些政策却将资金流入作为深化改革的必须。”

重点单词   查看全部解释    
fiscal ['fiskəl]


adj. 财政的,国库的

define [di'fain]


v. 定义,解释,限定,规定

current ['kʌrənt]


n. (水、气、电)流,趋势
adj. 流通的

vulnerable ['vʌlnərəbl]


adj. 易受伤害的,有弱点的

emerging [i'mə:dʒ]


vi. 浮现,(由某种状态)脱出,(事实)显现出来

turmoil ['tə:mɔil]


n. 骚动,混乱

experienced [iks'piəriənst]


adj. 有经验的

vast [vɑ:st]


adj. 巨大的,广阔的
n. 浩瀚的太

smooth [smu:ð]


adj. 平稳的,流畅的,安祥的,圆滑的,搅拌均匀的,可

inverted [in'və:tid]


adj. 倒转的,反向的 v. 使…反向;颠倒(inve