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作者: 来源: 日期:2017-01-05 9:06:50

The risks that threaten global growth





What is going to happen to the world economy this year? Much the most plausible answer is that it is going to grow. As I argued in a column published at this time last year, the most astonishing fact about the world economy is that it has grown in every year since the early 1950s. In 2017 it is virtually certain to grow again, possibly faster than in 2016, as Gavyn Davies has argued persuasively. So what might go wrong?

世界经济今年将发生什么?可能性最大的答案是,它将继续增长。正如我在去年此时发表的一篇专栏中所说的,世界经济最令人惊叹的事实是,自上世纪50年代初以来,它每年都保持增长。2017年,世界经济几乎肯定会继续增长,增速可能比2016年更快——正如加文•戴维斯(Gavyn Davies)很有说服力地论证的那样。既然如此,可能出问题的地方有哪些呢?广州经济翻译公司。


The presumption of economic growth is arguably the most important feature of the modern world. But consistent growth is a relatively recent phenomenon. Global output shrank in a fifth of all years between 1900 and 1947. One of the policy achievements since the second world war has been to make growth more stable.



This is partly because the world has avoided blunders on the scale of the two world wars and the Great Depression. It is also, as the American economist Hyman Minsky argued, because of active management of the monetary system, greater willingness to run fiscal deficits during recessions and the increased size of government spending relative to economic output.

这部分是因为世界避免了两次世界大战和大萧条(Great Depression)那样的大错。还因为——正如美国经济学家海曼•明斯基(Hyman Minsky)所言——有了对货币体系的主动式管理、在衰退期间维持财政赤字的更大意愿以及政府支出规模相对经济产出的扩大。


Behind the tendency towards economic growth lie two powerful forces: innovation at the frontier of the world economy, particularly in the US, and catch-up by laggard economies. The two are linked: the more the frontier economies innovate, the greater the room for catch-up. Take the most potent example of the past 40 years, China. On the (possibly exaggerated) official numbers, gross domestic product per head rose 23-fold between 1978 and 2015. Yet so poor had China been at the beginning of this colossal expansion that its average GDP per head was only a quarter of US levels in 2015. Indeed, it was only half that of Portugal. Catch-up growth remains possible for China. India has still greater room: its GDP per head was about a 10th of US levels in 2015.



The overwhelming probability is that the world economy will grow. Moreover, it is highly likely that it will grow by more than 3 per cent (measured at purchasing power parity). It has grown by less than that very rarely since the early 1950s. Indeed, it has grown by less than 2 per cent in only four years since then — 1975, 1981, 1982 and 2009. The first three were the result of oil price shocks, triggered by wars in the Middle East, and Federal Reserve disinflation. The last was the Great Recession after 2008’s financial crisis.

目前最大的可能性是,世界经济将继续增长。而且,增速超过3%(按购买力平价计算)的可能性极大。自上世纪50年代初以来,世界经济增速很少有低于3%的时候。实际上,自那以来,只有1975年、1981年、1982年和2009年这4个年份的增速低于2%。前3次是中东战事引发的石油价格冲击以及美联储(Fed)反通胀政策的结果。最后一次是2008年的金融危机后的大衰退(Great Recession)


This is also consistent with the pattern since 1900. Three sorts of shocks seem to destabilise the world economy: significant wars; inflation shocks; and financial crises. When asking what might create large downside risks for global economic growth, one has to assess tail risks of this nature. Many fall into the category of known unknowns.



For some years, analysts have convinced themselves that quantitative easing is sure to end up in hyperinflation. They are wrong. But a huge fiscal boost in the US, combined with pressure on the Fed not to tighten monetary policy, might generate inflation in the medium term and a disinflationary shock later still. But such a result of Trumponomics will not occur in 2017.



If we consider the possibility of globally significant financial crises, two possibilities stand out: the break-up of the eurozone and a crisis in China. Neither is inconceivable. Yet neither seems likely. The will to sustain the eurozone remains substantial. The Chinese government possesses the levers it needs to prevent a true financial meltdown. The risks in the eurozone and China are unquestionably real, but also small.



A third set of risks is geopolitical. Last year I referred to the possibility of Brexit and “election of a bellicose ignoramus” to the US presidency. Both have come to pass. The implications of the latter remain unknown. It is all too easy to list further geopolitical risks: severe political stresses on the EU, perhaps including the election of Marine Le Pen to the French presidency and renewed inflows of refugees; Russian president Vladimir Putin’s revanchism; the coming friction between Mr Trump’s aggrieved US and Xi Jinping’s ascendant China; friction between Iran and Saudi Arabia; possible overthrow of the Saudi royal family; and the threat of jihadi warfare. Not to be forgotten is the risk of nuclear war: just look at North Korea’s sabre-rattling, the unresolved conflict between India and Pakistan and threats by Mr Putin.

第三类属于地缘政治风险。去年,我提到了英国退欧和“好斗的无知者在美国大选中胜出”的可能性。这两种情形都发生了。后者将带来何种影响尚不得而知。很容易列举出更多地缘政治风险:欧盟面临的严重政治压力,可能包括马琳•勒庞(Marine Le Pen)当选法国总统以及难民再次大批涌入;俄罗斯总统弗拉基米尔•普京(Vladimir Putin)的复仇主义;特朗普治下愤愤不平的美国与习近平领导下崛起的中国之间即将出现的摩擦;伊朗与沙特阿拉伯之间的摩擦;沙特皇室可能被推翻;圣战威胁。不要忘记还有核战争风险:只需看看朝鲜的武力炫耀、印度与巴基斯坦之间悬而未决的冲突和普京造成的威胁。广州经济翻译公司。


In 2016, political risk did not have much effect on economic outcomes. This year, political actions might do so. An obvious danger is a trade war between the US and China, though the short-term economic effects may be smaller than many might suppose: the risk is longer term, instead. The implications of the fact that the most powerful political figure in the world will have little interest in whether what he says is true are unknowable. All we do know is that we will all be living dangerously.



An important longer-run possibility is that the underlying economic engine is running out of steam. Catch-up still has great potential. But economic dynamism has declined in the core. One indicator is falling productivity growth. Another is ultra-low real interest rates. Mr Trump promises a resurgence of US trend growth. This is unlikely, particularly if he follows a protectionist course. Nevertheless, the concern should be less over what happens this year and more over whether the advance of the frontier of innovation has durably slowed, as Robert Gordon argues.

从长远看,一种重要的可能是,基础经济引擎正失去动力。奋起直追的经济体仍有巨大潜力。但核心国家的经济活力已经下降。一个指标是生产率增长不断放缓。另一个指标是极低的实际利率。特朗普承诺让美国的增长率恢复趋势值。这不大可能,尤其是如果他走贸易保护主义路线的话。但正如罗伯特•戈登(Robert Gordon)所言,不应过于关注今年会发生什么,而应更多地关注前沿国家的创新步伐是否已经永久性放缓。


A good guess then is that the world economy will grow at between 3 and 4 per cent this year (at PPP). It is an even better guess that emerging economies, led yet again by Asia, will continue to grow faster than the advanced economies. There are substantial tail risks to such outcomes. There is also a good chance that the rate of innovation in the most advanced economies has slowed durably. Happy New Year.