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Les déficits publics en Europe : causes, conséquences ou remèdes à la crise ?

  • Jérôme Creel
  • Henri Sterdyniak

[eng] Public deficits in Europe : causes, consequences, or remedies to the crisis ? Jerome Creel Henri Sterdyniak European countries have recently undergone the conjunction of high interest rates in relation to growth rates and substantial public deficits, which has made the burden of public debt go adrift. This paper aims at describing and explaining this evolution. In the first part, we construct and discuss some indicators of fiscal stance ; we show that, in the recent years, fiscal policy has hardly been expansionary ; the growth in debt can therefore be explained by the high level of real interest rates and the needs for economic stabilization. The discussion over the notion of sustainability of fiscal policies sheds light on its ambiguities and the risks we think are linked to its use. A more relevant distinction is between adjustment deficits, necessary to regulate the economy, and autonomous deficits, which are harmful for capital accumulation. The paper then presents the two opposed theories : according to the neoclassical view, public deficits themselves are responsible for the level of interest rates. Hence, their reduction should decrease interest rates with almost no cost in terms of activity level. These reductions would then boost capital accumulation and growth. According to the keynesian view, however, public deficits are necessary to support demand when interest rates grow because of disinflation policies and financial deregulation. In this context, a number of models can explain the coexistence of high public deficits and real interest rates : Central Banks' independence, non cooperative economic policies with flexible exchange rates, constraints over « domi- nated countries » within a system of fixed exchange rates, the modifica- tion in the functioning of the financial spheres of activity. At last, a model with wealth behaviors discuss the consequences of a growth in interest rates over households and firms. It then analyses the optimal economic policy : the growth in public debt appears necessary to support both demand and capital accumulation. We can globally discard the classical view according to which growth in public debts and deficits would be primarily responsible for high real interest rates and unemployment. This analysis is not sensible in the low- demand context Europe has undergone since 1981. The increase in public deficits has appeared necessary to sustain economic growth and capital accumulation, as States had lost control over interest rates. Recovering their control is therefore a crucial stake in order to decrease real interest rates, boost growth, and then reduce public debts. The criteria on public finance in the Maastricht Treaty are not up the problem. [fre] Les pays européens ont connu ces dernières années la conjonction de taux d'intérêt élevés relativement au taux de croissance et de déficits publics importants, ce qui a entraîné une dérive du poids de la dette publique. Le présent document vise à décrire et à expliquer cette évolution. La première partie construit et discute plusieurs indicateurs de l'orientation de la politique budgétaire ; elle montre que, durant la période récente, la politique budgétaire n'a guère été expansionniste ; la croissance de la dette s'explique par le fort niveau des taux d'intérêt réels et les besoins de stabilisation de l'économie. La discussion de la notion de soutenabilité de la politique budgétaire met en lumière les ambiguïtés de cette notion et les risques de son utilisation. La distinction pertinente est celle entre les déficits de régulation, nécessaires à des fins de régulation, et les déficits autonomes, nuisibles à l'accumulation du capital. L 'article présente ensuite les deux thèses opposées : selon la vision néo-classique, ce sont les déficits publics eux-mêmes qui sont responsables du niveau des taux d'intérêt, de sorte que leur réduction devrait faire baisser les taux d'intérêt, sans coût pour le niveau d'activité, et devrait permettre à moyen terme d'impulser l'accumulation du capital, donc la croissance ; selon la vision key- nésienne, les déficits publics sont nécessaires pour soutenir l'activité, en situation de taux d'intérêt réels élevés imposés par la désinflation et la dérégulation financière. Dans cette optique, plusieurs modèles peuvent expliquer la coexistence d'un fort déficit public et d'un taux d'intérêt réel élevé : l'indépendance de la Banque centrale, la non-coordination des politiques économiques en change flexible, les contraintes qui pèsent sur les pays dominés en change fixe, les modifications du fonctionnement de la sphère financière. Enfin, un modèle à comportements patrimoniaux discute des conséquences sur les ménages et les entreprises de la hausse des taux d'intérêt et analyse la politique économique nécessaire : la hausse de la dette publique apparaît nécessaire pour soutenir à la fois la demande et l'accumulation du capital. La thèse selon laquelle la hausse des déficits et des dettes publics serait la cause essentielle du niveau élevé des taux d'intérêt réels n'a pas de sens dans la situation de demande insuffisante qu'a connue l'Europe depuis 1981. Cette hausse est apparue nécessaire pour soutenir l'activité et l'accumulation du capital, dans une situation où les Etats avaient perdu la maîtrise des taux d'intérêt. Retrouver cette maîtrise est l'enjeu crucial pour diminuer les taux d'intérêt réels, relancer la croissance, et donc réduire les dettes publiques. Les critères de finances publiques figurant dans le Traité de Maastricht ne sont pas à la hauteur du problème.

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Article provided by Programme National Persée in its journal Revue de l'OFCE.

Volume (Year): 54 (1995)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 57-100

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Handle: RePEc:prs:rvofce:ofce_0751-6614_1995_num_54_1_1401
Note: DOI:10.3406/ofce.1995.1401
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