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Deleveraging: Challenges, Progress and Policies

  • Romain Bouis
  • Ane Kathrine Christensen
  • Boris Cournède

In the run-up to the financial crisis, indebtedness of households and non-financial businesses rose to historically high levels in many OECD countries; gross debt of financial companies rose dramatically relative to GDP. Much of the debt accumulation appears to have been based on excessive risk-taking and exceptional macro-economic conditions and therefore not sustainable. Since the start of the crisis, non-financial private sector debt has receded substantially in the United States and the United Kingdom. Other OECD countries have not experienced significant debt reduction but already achieved some adjustment in terms of private saving and investment (with the seeming contradiction between these two observations explained by the private sector accumulating gross financial assets at a faster pace). Some macro-economic risks related to future household deleveraging nevertheless remain in a few OECD countries where indebtedness has risen in recent years. In the financial sector, possible future deleveraging will be more damaging to growth if it involves reducing assets rather than retaining (or raising) equity. To speed up the deleveraging process and minimising its impact on prosperity, bad loans should be recognised swiftly, losses taken, insolvent banks wound down orderly and capital shortfalls plugged at still solvent banks. Désendettement : Enjeux, progrès et politiques économiques Dans la période qui a précédé la crise, l’endettement des ménages et des entreprises non financières a augmenté jusqu’à des niveaux historiquement élevés dans de nombreux pays de l’OCDE. La dette brute des entreprises financières s’est accrue de manière spectaculaire par rapport au PIB. Une grande part de cet endettement, qui semble avoir été la contrepartie d’une prise de risque excessive dans un environnement macro-économique exceptionnellement favorable, ne paraît pas soutenable. Depuis le commencement de la crise, la dette du secteur privé non financier a reculé aux États-Unis et au Royaume-Uni. Aucune réduction significative de l’endettement n’a été observée dans plusieurs autres pays de l’OCDE qui ont toutefois effectué une part d’ajustement en termes d’épargne privée et d’investissement immobilier. La contradiction apparente entre ces deux observations s’explique dans ces pays par une accélération de l’acquisition d’actifs financiers bruts par le secteur privé. La possibilité d’un désendettement des ménages continue néanmoins de faire peser un risque macroéconomique sur certains pays de l’OCDE qui ont connu une augmentation de l’endettement au cours des dernières années. S’agissant du secteur financier, une éventuelle baisse du ratio d’endettement sera plus dommageable à la croissance si elle se produit au moyen de réductions d’actifs plutôt que par l’accumulation de capital. Afin d’accélérer le processus de réduction de l’effet de levier et de réduire ses conséquences défavorables pour la prospérité économique, il convient d’identifier rapidement les prêts improductifs, de comptabiliser les pertes qui leur sont associées, de liquider les banques non solvables et de combler les besoins en capital des banques qui demeurent solvables.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5k4221459fjc-en
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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 1077.

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Date of creation: 05 Aug 2013
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Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1077-en
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