Brad Setser says case closed:
Case closed: A savings glut, not an investment drought, by Brad Setser: The data at the back of the IMF’s latest WEO (table A16) indicates that the emerging world’s savings surplus stems from a “glut” of savings, not a “drought” of investment.
In 2007, the savings rate of the emerging world savings was almost 10% of GDP higher than its 1986-2001 average. Investment was up as well – in 2007, it was about 4% higher than its 1986-2001 average. However the rise in the emerging world’s savings was so large that the emerging world could investment more “at home” and still have plenty left over to lend to the US and Europe. That meets my definition of a “glut.”
The big drivers of this trend. “Developing Asia” and the “Middle East.” ... It is historically unusually for an oil importing region to be saving so much when the oil exporters are also saving so much. Usually a rise in the savings of the oil exporters is offset by a fall in the savings of the oil importers. The enormous rise in Chinese savings even as China’s oil import bill has soared ... implies a bigger fall in the savings of other oil importing economies.
Government policy has played a big role in the high savings rates in both regions – whether the undistributed profits of Chinese state firms (a policy choice) or large fiscal surpluses of the Gulf financed by the undistributed profits of the Gulf’s state oil companies. It isn’t an accident that the emerging world’s savings glut has coincided with a rise of state capitalism... I suspect the emerging world’s savings glut largely reflects a glut in government (and SOE) savings.
Dr. Delong has argued that this savings surplus will persist for a long time, keeping US and European rates low and keeping housing prices in both the US and Europe higher than otherwise would be the case. Krugman’s fear that home prices need to fall significantly to bring the price-to-rent ratio closer to its long-term average won’t be born out.
Possibly. However, I don’t think it entirely implausible that savings rates in both Asia and the Middle East might start to converge toward their long-term average. What goes up sometimes also comes down. ...