日期:2014-10-27 14:19


It has been joked that the letters IMF stand for “it’s mostly fiscal”. The International Monetary Fund has long been a stalwart advocate of austerity as the route out of financial crisis, and every year it chastises dozens of countries for their fiscal indiscipline. Fiscal consolidation – a euphemism for cuts to government spending – is a staple of the fund’s rescue programmes. A year ago the IMF was suggesting that the US had a fiscal gap of as much as 10 per cent of gross domestic product.
国际货币基金组织(IMF)曾被戏称为“以财政为主的组织(it's mostly fiscal)”。长期以来,该组织一直是紧缩政策的忠实拥趸,认为它是走出金融危机的必由之路。每年IMF都会因数十个国家财政上的放纵而谴责它们。“财政整固”(削减政府开支的委婉说法)是IMF众多救援计划的主要内容。一年前,该组织曾暗示美国财政缺口高达其国内生产总值(GDP)的10%。

All of this makes the IMF’s recently published World Economic Outlook a remarkable and important document. In its flagship publication, the IMF advocates substantially increased public infrastructure investment, and not just in the US but much of the world. It asserts that when unemployment is high, as it is in much of the industrialised world, the stimulative impact will be greater if investment is paid for by borrowing, rather than cutting other spending or raising taxes. Most notably, the IMF asserts that properly designed infrastructure investment will reduce rather than increase government debt burdens. Public infrastructure investments can pay for themselves.
所有这些都令IMF最近发布的《世界经济展望》(World Economic Outlook)成为一份非同寻常的重要文件。在这份IMF头号出版物中,该组织提议大幅增加公共基础设施投资,这一倡议的对象不仅包括美国,还包括世界许多国家。该报告称,在失业率高企之际——正如许多工业化国家目前的状况,以借债而不是削减其他开支或增税为投资筹措资金,对经济会有更大的刺激效果。最值得注意的是,IMF称经过精心规划的基建投资会减轻而不是加重政府的债务负担,因为公共基础设施投资本身就能带来回报。
Why does the IMF reach these conclusions? Consider a hypothetical investment in a new highway financed entirely with debt. Assume – counterfactually and conservatively – that the process of building the highway provides no stimulative benefit. Further assume that the investment earns only a 6 per cent real return, also a very conservative assumption given widely accepted estimates of the benefits of public investment. Then, annual tax collections adjusted for inflation would increase by 1.5 per cent of the amount invested, since the government claims about 25 cents out of every additional dollar of income. Real interest costs, that is interest costs less inflation, are below 1 per cent in the US and much of the industrialised world over horizons of up to 30 years. So infrastructure investment actually makes it possible to reduce burdens on future generations.
In fact, this calculation understates the positive budgetary impact of well-designed infrastructure investment, as the IMF recognised. It neglects the tax revenue that comes from the stimulative benefit of putting people to work constructing infrastructure, as well as the possible long-run benefits that come from combating recession. It neglects the reality that deferring infrastructure renewal places a burden on future generations just as surely as does government borrowing.
It ignores the fact that by increasing the economy’s capacity, infrastructure investment increases the ability to handle any given level of debt. Critically, it takes no account of the fact that in many cases government can catalyse a dollar of infrastructure investment at a cost of much less than a dollar by providing a tranche of equity financing, a tax subsidy or a loan guarantee.
When it takes these factors into account, the IMF finds that a dollar of investment increases output by nearly $3. The budgetary arithmetic associated with infrastructure investment is especially attractive at a time when there are enough unused resources that greater infrastructure investment need not come at the expense of other spending. If we are entering a period of secular stagnation, unemployed resources could be available in much of the industrial world for quite some time.
While the case for investment applies almost everywhere – possibly excepting China, where infrastructure investment has been used a stimulus tool for some time – the appropriate strategy for doing more differs around the world.
The US needs long-term budgeting for infrastructure that recognises benefits as well as costs. Projects should be approved with reasonable speed. The government can contribute by supporting private investments in areas such as telecommunications and energy.
Europe needs mechanisms for carrying out self-financing infrastructure projects outside existing budget caps. This may be possible through the expansion of the European Investment Bank or more use of capital budget concepts in implementing fiscal reviews.
欧洲则需要建立相关机制,在现存预算上限之外,开展自筹资金的基建项目。要实现这一点,可以扩大欧洲投资银行(European Investment Bank)的规模,或在财政审核的过程中更多运用资本预算的概念。
Emerging markets need to make sure that projects are chosen in a reasonable way based on economic benefit.
What is crucial everywhere is the recognition that in a time of economic shortfall and inadequate public investment, there is for once a free lunch – a way for governments to strengthen both the economy and their own financial positions. The IMF, a bastion of “tough love” austerity, has come to this important realisation. Countries with the wisdom to follow its lead will benefit.

  • shortfalln. 不足之量,差额
  • loann. 贷款,借出,债权人 v. 借,供应货款,借给
  • equityn. 权益,产权,(无固定利息的)股票,衡平法 n. 公
  • documentn. 文件,公文,文档 vt. 记载,(用文件等)证明
  • subsidyn. 补助金,津贴
  • appropriateadj. 适当的,相称的 vt. 拨出(款项); 占用
  • guaranteen. 保证,保证书,担保,担保人,抵押品 vt. 保证,
  • financingn. 融资,资金供应 动词finance的现在分词
  • expansionn. 扩大,膨胀,扩充
  • fiscaladj. 财政的,国库的