A tese do descolamento das economias emergentes daquelas do muito “já emergido” volta à tona. Desta vez é a nova revista The Economist que levanta a peteca!
May 21st 2009
From The Economist print edition
The biggest emerging economies will recover faster than America
REMEMBER the debate about decoupling? A year ago, many commentators—including this newspaper—argued that emerging economies had become more resilient to an American recession, thanks to their strong domestic markets and prudent macroeconomic policies. Naysayers claimed America’s weakness would fell the emerging world. Over the past six months the global slump seemed to prove the sceptics right. Emerging economies reeled and decoupling was ridiculed.
Yet perhaps the idea was dismissed too soon. Even if America’s output remains weak, there are signs that some of the larger emerging economies could see a decent rebound. China is exhibit A of this new decoupling: its economy began to accelerate again in the first four months of this year. Fixed investment is growing at its fastest pace since 2006 and consumption is holding up well. Despite debate over the accuracy of China’s GDP figures (see article), most economists agree that output will grow faster than seemed plausible only a few months ago. Growth this year could be close to 8%. Such optimism has fuelled commodity prices which have, in turn, brightened the outlook for Brazil and other commodity exporters.
That said, even the best performing countries will grow more slowly than they did between 2004 and 2007. Nor will the resilience be universal: eastern Europe’s indebted economies will suffer as global banks cut back, and emerging economies intertwined with America, such as Mexico, will continue to be hit hard. So will smaller, more trade-dependent countries. Decoupling 2.0 is a narrower phenomenon, confined to a few of the biggest, and least indebted, emerging economies.
It is based on two under-appreciated facts: the biggest emerging economies are less dependent on American spending than commonly believed; and they have proven more able and willing to respond to economic weakness than many feared. Economies such as China or Brazil were walloped late last year not only, or even mainly, because American demand plunged. (Over half of China’s exports go to other emerging economies, and China recently overtook the United States as Brazil’s biggest export market.) They were hit hard by the near-collapse of global credit markets and the dramatic destocking by shell-shocked firms. In addition, many emerging countries had been aggressively tightening monetary policy to fight inflation just before these shocks hit. The result was that domestic demand slumped even as exports fell.
Not such a bad idea after all
But the global shocks are now abating. Firms cannot slash stocks for ever. And as investors’ panic recedes, so credit markets are beginning to function. This will not be enough to spur a vibrant recovery in America, where households must painfully rebuild their balance-sheets. But it removes a drag on big emerging economies—all the more so because their governments have dramatically loosened the fiscal and monetary reins. China’s stimulus is the most spectacular, but Brazil has also been able to cut interest rates and boost spending.
Government activism helps explain why the creditworthy big emerging economies can recover more quickly. But it cannot create long-term resilience. China’s rebound will only be sustained if the economy shifts further from state-sponsored investment to private consumption. That will require tough structural changes, from forcing state-owned firms to pay fatter dividends to a stronger social safety net. Other countries, notably India, must calibrate their government finances even more carefully (see article). The idea of decoupling lives on, but that does not mean sustained prosperity in the big emerging economies is a foregone conclusion.