FlyTitle: Free exchange

Economies can recover quickly from massive slumps in GDP—but not always

经济体能从GDP暴跌中迅速复苏——但并非总能如此【新冠报道】

IT WILL BE some time—years most likely—before the full extent of the economic blow from covid-19 can be estimated with any confidence. As ever more of the global economy enters a prolonged shutdown, it seems increasingly clear that the world is facing a drop in output unprecedented in its breadth and intensity. Some analysts see in the growing economic disruptions and market panic the first stirrings of an economic collapse more serious than the global financial crisis of 2007-09. Joachim Fels, an economist at PIMCO, an investment fund, recently warned that in the absence of sufficiently aggressive action from governments the world could face a market meltdown and ensuing depression. All downturns create discomfort, but the pain of a slump—even a very steep one—depends greatly on how long it lasts. History suggests that rapid rebounds from enormous output losses are possible, but not by any means guaranteed.

要能比较确信地估算新冠肺炎冲击经济的程度,还需要些时间——很可能是几年。随着全球经济越来越多的部分陷入长期停摆,看起来渐趋明显的一点是,世界正面临一次广度和强度都前所未有的产出下跌。一些分析人士从不断扩大的经济混乱和市场恐慌中看到苗头,认为一场比2007至2009年全球金融危机更严重的经济崩溃正在发生。太平洋投资管理公司(PIMCO)的经济学家约阿希姆·费尔斯(Joachim Fels)最近警告称,如果各国政府不采取足够积极的行动,全球可能面临市场崩溃,进而陷入萧条。每次经济衰退都会带来不适,但经济下滑(即使是断崖式下滑)引发的痛苦很大程度上取决于它持续的时间。历史表明,经济从巨大的产出损失中迅速反弹是可能的,但绝非必然。

Some economies, perhaps those of Singapore or even South Korea, could find a footing by the second half of the year, sufficient to offset some of the production lost during the first half. But the probability that others could experience extreme declines in GDP in 2020—perhaps as large as 10%—grows by the day. Falls of that magnitude are not especially unusual in developing economies, where growth is highly volatile. (To take just one example, there have been ten years since 1980 in which real GDP in Libya has fallen by at least 10%, between which plunges the economy has experienced annual growth spurts of as much as 125%.) In industrialised countries swings of that scale are exceedingly rare. An analysis of data gathered by the World Bank reveals that since 1960, across rich countries, there have been only 13 instances in which an economy experienced an annual decline in GDP of at least 5%, only three cases in which output fell by at least 7% in one year (Finland in 2009, and Greece in 2011 and 2012), and none in which output dropped by more than 10%. In the rich world, clusters of large decreases in GDP appear on the heels of the 1973 oil crisis, during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, and as part of the global financial crisis and its aftermath.

有些经济体——可能是新加坡,甚至韩国——可能会在今年下半年稳下来,弥补上半年一部分的产出损失。而其他经济体在2020年出现GDP急剧下跌(可能高达10%)的可能性与日俱增。这种跌幅在经济增长非常不稳定的发展中国家并不是多么罕见。这里仅举一个例子,自1980年以来,利比亚的实际GDP共有十年发生了至少10%的下跌,而在这些急跌之间又有一些爆发式增长的年份,最高年增速达到125%。而工业化国家极少有这样的大起大落。分析世界银行收集的数据可以看出,自1960年以来,在富裕国家中,GDP年跌幅至少5%的仅发生过13例;年跌幅至少7%的仅3例,分别是2009年的芬兰,以及2011年和2012年的希腊;年跌幅超过10%的一次都没发生过。富裕国家几次集中的GDP大幅下滑分别发生在1973年石油危机之后、1997至1998年亚洲金融危机期间,以及全球金融危机期间及之后。

A longer perspective reinforces the rarity of such events. Economic historians at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, maintain a cross-country set of GDP data stretching far into the past. Since 1870, across 18 industrialised economies, there have been only 47 instances in which a country experienced an annual decline in output of more than 10%. Most are associated with world wars and the Depression; of the 47 large output declines, 42 occurred between 1914 and 1945 (see chart).

再往前追溯进一步证实了这类情形的罕见。荷兰格罗宁根大学(University of Groningen)的经济历史学家维护的一组跨国GDP数据可以上溯到很久以前。自1870年以来,在18个工业化经济体中,年产出下降超过10%的只有47例,且它们大多与两次世界大战和大萧条有关——47例中有42例发生在1914至1945年间(见图表)。

经济学人双语版-谷底反弹 From V to victory

How do countries fare after suffering such economic blows? Recoveries are occasionally quite rapid. At the end of the world wars, a few economies experienced near-immediate bursts of growth—partly, but not always, because of rebuilding. The beleaguered Italian economy grew by about 35% in 1946. By 1949 it had already recovered all the ground it lost during the war and then some. The German economy shrank by a staggering 66% from 1944 to 1946, then grew at an annual average rate of 12% over the subsequent decade. In other cases rebounds are less robust. In 1924 real output in both Germany and Austria remained below the levels before 1914. Across the period from 1870, it took an average of five years for output in countries that experienced declines in GDP of more than 10% to regain their peak (see chart).

国家在经济遭受如此重创之后情况如何?有时也有很快复苏的例子。两次世界大战几乎刚一结束,少数国家的经济就出现了爆发式增长——这有一部分是因为重建,但也并非总是如此。饱受战争之苦的意大利经济在1946年增长了约35%。到1949年,它已经收复了战争期间的所有失地,甚至还有所扩张。德国经济在1944年到1946年间萎缩高达66%,在随后的十年里以年均12%的速度增长。而在其他例子里,反弹就没有这么强劲了。1924年,德国和奥地利的实际产出都仍低于1914年前的水平。1870年以来,GDP下降超过10%的国家平均需要五年时间才能恢复到之前的水平(见图表)。

Importantly, this reflects the fact that the main causes of economic contraction—world wars—persisted and disrupted activity for several years. French output fell by more than 10% per year in 1940, 1941, 1942 and 1944, for example. Yet focusing on more recent experience, and on smaller initial output declines of just 5%, does not dramatically change the picture. Among the rich economies which experienced annual drops in GDP of more than 5% since 1960, output took an average of four years to return to its previous level. Again, there are examples of immediate, robust recovery. By 1999, for instance, real GDP in South Korea had already risen well above the peak reached in early 1997, before the Asian financial crisis struck. Recoveries from the global financial crisis, in contrast, have been more sluggish. The Italian economy entered the covid-19 crisis having failed to regain the level of real output it achieved in 2008.

重要的是,这反映了作为经济萎缩主因的世界大战持续数年、破坏经济活动数年的事实。例如,法国的年产出在1940、1941、1942和1944年下降都超过10%。然而,若只关注较近的历史以及初始跌幅较小(仅为5%)的情况,结果也没有显著的差异。自1960年以来,GDP年跌幅超过5%的富裕经济体,其产出平均需要四年才能恢复到先前的水平。依然有一些迅速、强劲复苏的例子。例如,韩国的实际GDP到1999年就已经大大高于它在1997年初亚洲金融危机来袭前达到的峰值。相比之下,从全球金融危机中复苏就没那么快了。在遭遇新冠危机之前,意大利的实际产出仍然没能恢复到2008年的水平。

Catch the trade winds

抓住贸易风

Any lessons from these experiences should be applied to the world’s current situation with care. A dangerous pandemic working its way across a highly integrated global economy is an unprecedented event. Still, a few historical patterns are worth noting. First, and most obviously, the duration of the economic pain depends on how much goes wrong as a result of the initial shock. Germany and Austria fared worse than other first-world-war combatants because they lost the war and their empires, and suffered state collapse and hyperinflation. If countries today can survive massive output declines without sustaining much institutional damage, that bodes well for the pace of recovery.

把从所有这些经历中得出的任何教训应用到世界当前的局势上都要审慎。一场危险的大流行病在高度一体化的全球经济中蔓延,这是史无前例的事件。尽管如此,一些历史模式还是值得注意。首先,也是最显而易见的,经济疼痛持续的时间取决于最初的冲击造成的破坏有多大。德国和奥地利在一战后的情况比其他参战国更糟糕,因为它们输掉了战争,失去了帝国,遭受了政权垮台和恶性通胀。如果现在各国能够挺过产出大幅下降的难关而不遭受很多制度性破坏,对于经济复苏的速度会是个好兆头。

Second, large drops in output often accompany a fracturing of global trade networks. The success with which those trade ties are restored matters for the robustness of the economic rebound. Western Europe enjoyed explosive growth in the years after the second world war, thanks in part to efforts to knit trade back together—a very different outcome from that following the first. Similarly, the world must hope that trade recovers quickly when the pandemic ebbs.

其次,产出大幅下降往往伴随着全球贸易网的断裂。能否成功修复这些贸易关系对经济反弹的强健度有重大影响。二战后的数年里,西欧经济实现了爆炸式的增长,部分原因是各国努力重建了贸易网——这样的结果与一战后的大不相同。同样地,世界必须寄望于这场流行病减退时贸易能迅速恢复。

And third, it is important to get macroeconomic policy right. The global financial crisis, and the euro-area debt woes which followed, did not kill millions of people or destroy valuable infrastructure, but the sluggish recovery that followed left Europe both economically and politically vulnerable to new shocks.

第三,实施正确的宏观经济政策很重要。全球金融危机以及之后的欧元区债务危机并没有造成数百万人丧生或毁坏重大基础设施。但随后的复苏乏力使得欧洲在面对新的冲击时,在经济和政治上都很脆弱。

Even the mildest brush with the coronavirus could prove economically destructive if governments are reluctant to provide enough stimulus. The world should be able to bounce back to growth once covid-19 is brought under control. It has only to avoid the errors of history.■

如果各国政府不愿采取足够的经济刺激措施,那么即便只是轻微沾染冠状病毒也可能严重毁坏经济。一旦新冠肺炎得到控制,世界经济应该能够重振旗鼓。它需要做的只是避免重蹈覆辙。