Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Is the Global Savings Glut Hurting Developing Countries?

Ben Carliner at Cynic's Delight says that too much of the savings being generated in the Asian economies is finding its way to the U.S., thus supporting the low interest rates in the U.S. In particular, they are being plowed into US Treasuries, with the attendant risk of future depreciation of the dollar.

While a single currency [Asian] is too ambitious a goal in the short term, exchange rate stability across East Asia is not hard too imagine. Given the depth of the reserves held by central banks across the region, as well as the general predilection over there for state-led development, why shouldn’t we expect future decisions regarding international monetary regimes to be made in smoky back rooms filled with Asian central bankers?

Moreover, there is a big prize to be had at the end of the day. Any solution to the so-called global savings glut is likely to include the creation of a mechanism for all those Asian savers to intermediate their savings and investments. In other words, a deep, liquid bond market in East Asia. All those savings would be much better spent on infrastructure projects and other investments in Asia itself, and not on buying US Treasuries that are likely to lose much of their value in the long term.
As much as I like Cynic's Delight, I'm not sure I agree with Ben Carliner on this one.
  • If US Treasuries are likely to lose much of their value in the long term, markets will adjust soon. People will not keep buying them for fear that others will soon begin to bail out. The feared loss in US Treasuries is something he can bet on if he's sure about it.
  • Who are we (or the central bankers) to say that these savings would be much better spent on infrastructure projects and other investments? If the types of investments that Carliner has in mind would be better investments, what is stopping the gubmnts of those countries from borrowing and making the investments, especially if they do have what he calls a "predilection for state-led development"? Do they have to pay an interest rate premium? If so, quite likely that is a risk premium that efficiently reflects the markets' perceptions of the risk differentials between those projects and US Treasuries.
  • I keep asking myself, "If I were in control in one of these economies, under what conditions would I rather hold US Treasuries than invest in infrastructure?" I would have to be skeptical about the efficacy of such projects, or I might be concerned about future uncertainties in the markets.

But I may have missed something, so read the whole piece.

Who Links Here