What can the world learn from Abenomics?
世界可以从安倍经济学中学到什么?

临别赠箭 Parting shot-书迷号 shumihao.com

AS AN EXERCISE in political branding, Abenomics has been an unusual success. When Abe Shinzo returned to power as Japan’s prime minister in December 2012, he said he would revive the economy by loosing off three “arrows”. The first, expansive monetary policy, would banish deflation. The second, flexible fiscal policy, would restrain public debt without jeopardising the recovery. The third arrow, structural reform, would revive productivity and lift growth. The image stuck, even after the government tired of it.
从打造政治品牌来看,“安倍经济学”异常成功。2012年12月安倍晋三再次出任日本首相,他表示将射出三支“箭”来振兴经济。第一支箭是宽松的货币政策,将消除通缩。第二支是灵活的财政政策,将在不损害经济复苏的情况下控制公共债务。第三支箭是结构性改革,将重振生产率并促进经济增长。这幅图景就这么固定下来,即便后来他的政府自己都厌倦了。

Mr Abe’s archery excited keen interest elsewhere. Many other mature economies, after all, look a little Japan-ish. They combine greying populations, faltering growth, high public debt and stubbornly low inflation, despite miserly interest rates. “Yes, we are probably all Japanese now,” concluded Jacob Funk Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, an American think-tank, last year, even before the covid-19 pandemic added to the debt, disinflation and despair. As Mr Abe departs after almost eight years in charge, what lessons can others draw?
安倍的“箭术”在其他地方引发了浓厚兴趣。毕竟,许多其他成熟经济体的状况看起来都有点像日本。它们同时面临人口老龄化、增长停滞,以及在利率已经极低的情况下公共债务高企且通胀持续低迷。“是的,我们很可能都成了日本。”美国智库彼得森国际经济研究所的雅各布·芬克·柯克加德(Jacob Funk Kirkegaard)在去年总结道。这还是在新冠疫情导致债务、通缩和绝望进一步加剧之前。随着安倍在执政近八年后离任,外人能从中汲取什么经验教训呢?

The first lesson is that central banks are not as powerful as hoped. Before Abenomics, many economists felt Japan’s persistent deflationary tendencies stemmed from a reversible mistake by the Bank of Japan (BoJ). It had combined fatalism with timidity, blaming deflation on forces outside its control, and easing monetary policy half-heartedly. In 1999 Ben Bernanke, later a Fed chairman, called on the BoJ to show the kind of “Rooseveltian resolve” that America’s 32nd president showed in fighting the Depression.
第一个教训是,央行的影响力并没有大家希望的那么大。在安倍经济学实施之前,许多经济学家认为日本持续通缩的趋势源于日本央行的一个可逆的错误:它怯懦且持宿命论,把通缩归咎于它无法控制的力量,同时在放宽货币政策上敷衍了事。1999年,本·伯南克(后来担任美联储主席)呼吁日本央行拿出“罗斯福式的决心”,也就是美国第32任总统在对抗大萧条时的那种决心。

Sure enough, in April 2013, the BoJ made a display of new determination, promising to buy enough assets, including government bonds and equities, to raise inflation to 2% within about two years. In 2016 it introduced negative interest rates, a cap on ten-year bond yields and a promise to let inflation overshoot its target (which the Federal Reserve emulated last month). These efforts stopped persistent deflation, a feat that is often forgotten. But they could not lift inflation close to the central bank’s target (see left-hand chart).
日本央行在2013年4月确实展现了新的决心,承诺购入足够多的资产,包括政府债券和股票,在两年左右的时间内把通胀提升至2%。2016年,日本央行引入负利率,对十年期债券收益率设置上限,并承诺允许通胀超出设定目标(美联储上月也采取了这一做法)。这些举措遏止了持续通缩——这一成就常被遗忘。但它们没能把通胀提高到接近日本央行的目标水平(见图表左侧)。

One reason may be peculiar to Japan: its regular workers are economically monogamous, enjoying long-term employment relationships with a single firm. They are almost impossible to fire but also difficult to poach. Thus, although Abenomics lowered unemployment to just 2.2% by the end of last year, regular workers did not benefit from a bidding war for their talents. Firms instead spent more on part-time workers. Yet because these recruits collect a relatively small share of the country’s wages, their improved pay put little upward pressure on prices.
有一个原因也许是日本独有的:它的正式员工群体履行经济上的“一夫一妻制”,也就是与同一家公司保持长期雇佣关系。他们几乎无法被解雇,又很难被挖走。因此,尽管到去年年底安倍经济学已令失业率降至仅2.2%,其正式员工群体并未因此而受益于人才争夺战。相反,日本公司在兼职员工上加大了投入。但由于这类雇员的薪资占日本整体工资的比例较小,其工资水平上升给市场价格带来的上行压力很有限。

Another threat to the power of central banks could recur elsewhere. Japan’s public became so accustomed to unchanging prices, it assumed the future would mirror the past. That assumption, which shaped pay negotiations between unions and employers, then became self-fulfilling. This was a difficult legacy for Abenomics to overcome. Proponents of monetary activism were right to criticise the BoJ for not fighting this mindset earlier. They were wrong to think those past mistakes were easily reversible once Abenomics began. “I was too optimistic and too certain about the ease with which a determined central bank could conquer deflation,” admitted Mr Bernanke in 2017.
另一个威胁日本央行影响力的因素却有可能在他国再现。日本民众已经习惯了市场价格稳定不变,以为未来情况会照旧。这种假设主导了工会和雇主的工资谈判,然后假设就会自我应验。这是安倍经济学难以克服的遗留问题。货币激进主义的支持者批评日本央行没有及早改变这种心态,这是对的。但他们认为一旦启动安倍经济学就可以轻易逆转这些过去的错误,却是错的。伯南克在2017年承认:“我以为央行只要下定决心就不难克服通缩,这是太过乐观和绝对了。”

Big is beautiful
大即是美

As well as showing that monetary policy is less powerful than hoped, Abenomics has shown that high public debt is less dangerous than feared. Japan’s gross government debt was almost 230% of GDP when Mr Abe took charge and is even higher now. But the cost of government borrowing has remained negligible. Indeed, yields for five-year bonds are negative.
安倍经济学不仅表明货币政策并没有预期那么大的影响力,还显示公共债务高企也没有人们担心的那样危险。安倍上任时,日本的政府债务总额差不多是GDP的230%,现在甚至更高。但政府的借贷成本一直低到可以忽略不计。实际上目前五年期债券的收益率为负数。

Fiscal scolds point out that yields on bonds are low because the central bank is buying so many of them: its holdings now amount to 99% of GDP, whereas the Fed’s equal about 20% of American GDP. The term financial repression” gets bandied about, as if Japan’s central bank is conspiring to let the government spend more than it should, at the expense of the private sector. But that gets things backwards. The central bank is doing everything it can to revive private spending. Until it succeeds, though, the government has to fill whatever gap in demand remains. The shortfall in private spending is what makes government deficits necessary. It is also what makes them so cheap to finance.
批评财政政策的人指出,债券收益率低是因为日本央行在大举购买债券:目前日本央行持有的债券相当于日本GDP的99%,而美联储的这一比例仅在20%左右。“金融抑制”的说法广为流传,仿佛日本央行是在故意设法让政府支出超过应有水平,而不惜牺牲私营部门。但这把事情说颠倒了。日本央行正在竭尽全力提振私人支出。但在它成功之前,政府必须填补任何剩余的需求缺口。私人支出不足正是政府不得不维持赤字的原因。这也是它的融资成本如此低廉的原因。

What about the third arrow of Abenomics? Before its lost decades, Japan taught the world how to raise productivity in big firms, through “lean manufacturing”, just-in-time delivery, and so on. Unfortunately, the country also shows how badly productivity can lag in small firms. Many operate in service industries, where productivity is notoriously low. Yet even in manufacturing, small enterprises are less than 40% as productive as their larger counterparts, according to the Ministry of Finance (see right-hand chart).
安倍经济学的第三支箭又如何?在进入“失落的二十年”前,日本让世界学到了可以通过“精益制造”和准时交付(JIT)等方式提高大企业的生产率。不幸的是,日本也让人们看到小公司的生产率水平可以滞后到什么地步。许多小公司从事服务业,一个以生产率低下闻名的领域。然而根据日本财务省的数据,即使在制造业中,小企业的生产率也还不到大企业的40%(见图表右侧)。

Just because a firm is small does not mean it is new or particularly entrepreneurial. In Japan, three-quarters of small firms are over ten years old and two-thirds of the owners of small and middling enterprises will be 70 or older by 2025, according to the OECD. The government provides plenty of support to small firms. It guaranteed loans worth 4.4% of GDP in 2016, compared with an average of just 0.1% in the OECD, a group of mostly rich countries. In a report last year, the group expressed concern that such guarantees weaken the incentive for banks to monitor their borrowers and push them to improve.
一家公司规模小并不意味着它就是新公司或特别开创进取。根据经合组织的数据,在日本,四分之三的小企业已经创建十年以上;到2025年三分之二的中小企业主年龄将达到70岁或以上。日本政府向小企业提供了大量支持。2016年,政府为它们担保的贷款占GDP的4.4%,而在成员多为富裕国家的经合组织中这一比例平均仅为0.1%。在去年发布的一份报告中,经合组织表示担心这种担保会削弱银行监督借款人并推动其改善经营的动力。

For the many countries that have expanded similar guarantees in response to the covid-19 pandemic, Japan thus provides a useful lesson. Governments must be careful to ensure that this necessary effort to ensure the survival of small firms in the short term does not permit stagnation in the long term.
对于为应对新冠疫情而扩大类似担保的许多国家来说,日本提供了有益的教训。各国政府必须留心,确保这种为让小企业在短期内生存下来而采取的必要举措不会导致经济长期停滞。

Abenomics will almost certainly outlast the prime minister who introduced it. None of Mr Abe’s potential successors, including Kishida Fumio, his party’s head of policy, Ishiba Shigeru, a former defence minister, or Suga Yoshihide, the chief cabinet secretary, are likely to renounce it. They may, however, be tempted to rebrand it. Suganomics, for example, has a nice ring to it. ■
几乎可以肯定的是,安倍经济学的寿命会长过提出这套政策的首相在任的时间。可能的继任者,包括自民党政务调查会长岸田文雄、前防卫大臣石破茂,还有内阁官房长官菅义伟等,都不太可能放弃这一路线。不过他们可能会很想要给它换个名字,比如“菅经济学”,听起来也挺不错。