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Les déficits publics : enjeu central de la politique et de la théorie économiques des années quatre-vingt-dix

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  • Daniel Vasseur
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    Abstract

    [fre] La concomittance d'importants déficits publics et d'un niveau historiquement et internationalement élevé des taux d'intérêt français, réels et nominaux, ne peut que conduire à s'interroger sur l'existence éventuelle d'un lien de causalité des premiers vers le second. L'hypothèse la plus immédiate d'un effet d'éviction, total ou partiel, à court et/ou à long terme doit certainement être écartée au vu du contexte actuel de l'économie française. Celui-ci se caractérise par un investissement encore peu dynamique, son ouverture internationale et la capacité grandissante des agents économiques à se projeter rationellement dans le long terme. L'effet des déficits publics transite plus vraisemblablement par le canal d'anticipations défavorables. Pour un pays comme la France, il ne saurait sans doute être question d'une prime couvrant le risque de banqueroute ou de toute autre mesure assimilable - laquelle aurait théoriquement un peu le statut d'une prime d'assurance exigée par le prêteur. Il ne semble pas non plus que les déficits fassent peser, comme on l'entend parfois, la menace d'une résurgence de l'inflation. Il faut, en effet, tenir compte du redressement spontané des soldes publics qu'il est possible d'anticiper avec le retour de la croissance et des contraintes encadrant le mode de financement de ces déficits. Il ne paraît pas non plus, d'ailleurs, solidement établi qu'une telle menace entraîne mécaniquement une remontée des taux. Dans ces conditions, c'est bien le niveau des taux d'intérêt réels eux-mêmes qui se présente comme particulièrement élevé. Ces anticipations pessimistes se focalisent, en réalité, plus probablement sur la parité du franc. Les déficits contribueraient à les entretenir dans la mesure où ils signalent l'épuisement des marges de manœuvre de la politique budgétaire. Celle-ci étant désormais en grande partie surdéterminée par l'objectif de stabilisation du ratio de dette publique, la charge du soutien de la conjoncture créée par l'ampleur du chômage et de l'output gap se trouve reportée sur la politique monétaire. Tant que celle-ci n'aura pas, en quelque sorte, ratifié ces anticipations, l'économie française devra continuer de payer un différentiel de taux nominaux, et plus encore réels du fait du relatif nominalisme des marchés financiers. La vertu de la France, à savoir le primat accordé à la stabilité monétaire (franc fort, inflation faible) concourt paradoxalement à lui faire subir un certain handicap. [eng] The coexistence in France of heavy public deficits with high interest rates (from a historical and international point of view) suggest the idea of a causality link between the two phenomenons. The first hypothesis to be scrutinized is that of a crowding-out effect in the short (vertical or not LM curve) or long run (wealth effects). But there are reasonnable doubts about such a possibility in the current economic situation of France with lagging investment, the internationalization of its debts and assets and growing capacity of its agents to plan over the long range (ricardian or "quasi- ricardian" behaviour). It is more likely that public deficits might trigger pessimistic expectations. Not that a country like France may have to pay a premium for a risk of bankruptcy, (which would be, in fact, similar to an insurance premium due to the lender) whatever the form might be. Not also that public deficits may give birth to the threat of a future acceleration of inflation, as it is often said. There seem to be no point in such worries with the spontaneous narrowing of government deficits to come soon, following the recovery of the economy, and with the numerous obstacles to their being monetary financed. Besides, it is not obvious, from a theorical point of view, that such threats might automatically imply a proportionnai increase in nominal interest rates. Accordingly, the present level of real interest rates appears particularly high and detrimental to short and long term growth, which is a source of unrest as to the future well-being of the country. As a matter of fact, pessimistic expectations regard primarily the rate of exchange of the local currency, the franc. Actually, international investors pay much more attention on it than on inflation, for instance, because it may change at any moment the value of their portfolio in their own currency. The consumer price index might have an effect on the exchange rate, sooner or later, but it cannot be taken for sure nor operative in the short run. And this is the international funds' timescale. Public deficits could be a major reason for such concerns to the extent that they clearly show that budgetary policy can no longer help sustain the economic activity. Budgetary policy has been the only one to be used in order to feed the sluggish growth or to minimize the recession of the economy for the past three years - external goals compelling monetary policy to remain restrictive. A fueling of the activity is probably still necessary as the width of the ouput gap and the level of unemployment have reached unusual peaks. But, the strategy of the past three years cannot be led anylonger as the quick speeding-up of the public debt has raised a new aim, i.e. making budgetary policy sustainable again. In other terms, the economic policy has now fewer tools than targets. Thus, financial markets may be entitled to expect a relaxation of the monetary policy. As a result, France undergoes very high nominal interest rates and even worse real interest rates because of some nominalism in the markets' logic. This is due to last as long as the change in monetary policy has not made these expectations come true - with potential hysteresis effects (downgrading of human and physical capital and their long- term aftermatch) evolving in the meantime.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Programme National Persée in its journal Revue française d'économie.

    Volume (Year): 10 (1995)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 135-191

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    Handle: RePEc:prs:rfreco:rfeco_0769-0479_1995_num_10_1_975

    Note: DOI:10.3406/rfeco.1995.975
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    Web page: http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/revue/rfeco

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