Carmen M. Reinhart is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for International Economics at the University of Maryland. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia University. Professor Reinhart held positions as Chief Economist and Vice President at the investment bank Bear Stearns in the 1980s, where she became interested in financial crises, international contagion and commodity price cycles.
We explored the experience of economies surrounding severe financial crises in a paper, After the Fall, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Jackson Hole Symposium. As we pointed out, Germany was a notable outlier in the now-notorious credit and debt boom of the decade prior to the onset of the subprime crisis. Credit relative to nominal GDP fell about 11 percentage points during 1997-2007; during the same period, credit/GDP rose 80 percentage points for most of the advanced economies. Germany’s gross external debt/GDP fell about 5 percentage points during 2003-2007, while that ratio climbed by about 50% for other advanced economies. Germany’s property market cannot even be loosely characterised as part of the global bubble. In fact, real house prices fell 11% from 1997 to 2007. Unlike Japan, which was the other notable outlier during the credit boom, it did not have the burden of a high public debt. As a consequence, despite rapid increases in government debt since the crisis, Germany does not have a private or public debt overhang of the historic proportions confronting most other advanced economies. It follows that a long and painful deleveraging is not on the horizon.
In this regard, Germany is the advanced economy counterpart to emerging markets in Asia and Latin America. Those economies also deleveraged during the tranquil booming years (as discussed in Reinhart and Rogoff, 2010). These emerging markets are not only recovering robustly—some are showing signs of overheating.