***First, the governments of rich countries allowed their debts to rise, offsetting the reduction in private debt. In addition, emerging markets (notably China) continued to borrow. So there was no global deleveraging; quite the reverse (see chart). Central banks also helped, slashing interest rates to zero and below. Although lower policy rates have not always resulted in cheaper borrowing costs (in Greece, for example), debt-servicing costs have fallen in most developed countries.
Although this approach has staved off disaster, it has not got rid of the problem, as a research note from Manoj Pradhan, an economist at Morgan Stanley, makes clear. “High debt forces interest rates to stay low, which encourages yet more debt,” Mr Pradhan writes. Central banks dare not push interest rates up too quickly for fear of causing another crisis; hence the stop-start nature of the Federal Reserve’s statements on monetary policy. The developed world seems stuck with sluggish growth and low rates.