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生产率

Executive pay holds the key to the productivity puzzle
奖金文化阻碍生产率提高

史密瑟斯:低投资导致主要发达经济体生产率下降

Productivity has declined in all the major developed economies. This fall is not a mystery, as is often claimed. Poor productivity is a consequence of low investment, and in the UK and the US a major cause of low investment is the incentives created by the bonus culture — the practice (now almost ubiquitous in quoted companies) of paying executives huge bonuses to reward short-term success.

所有主要发达经济体的生产率都有所下降。正如人们常说的,这种下降并不难理解。糟糕的生产率水平是低投资的结果,而在英美两国,低投资的一个主要原因在于奖金文化造成的各种激励。如今奖金文化在上市公司几乎无处不在,表现在支付给高管巨额奖金以奖励短期成功。

Since 1990, investment in the UK has declined from 26 per cent to 17 per cent of gross domestic product. Capital does not last for ever; the rate at which the capital stock is growing must therefore be even lower than that.

自1990年以来,投资占英国国内生产总值(GDP)的比重已经从26%下降至17%。资本不会永远存续;因此,资本存量的增速一定比这一数字更低。

How much a company invests is a decision for its managers, and the way they approach that decision will depend on their incentives; that is what incentives are for. It is striking therefore that, in the US, investment spending by unquoted companies is twice that of quoted ones, though the two groups are about the same aggregated size. The incentives given to managers of listed companies appear to have been a crucial cause of low investment.

一家公司投资多少由经理决定,而他们如何决定取决于受到的激励;这正是奖励的目的所在。因此,在美国,令人吃惊的是非上市企业的投资支出是上市公司的两倍,尽管这两类企业的总体规模大致相当。上市公司给予经理的奖励似乎是造成低投资的重要原因。

People who own the businesses they run, or who have close links to the owners, worry about the danger of long-term decline, particularly loss of market share. Low prices are one way to moderate this danger. High investment, which improves productivity, is another. But bonuses encourage managers to put more emphasis on the short term for which they are rewarded and pay less attention to the longer-term dangers their companies face. Competition takes time to materialise. Ten years hence, shareholders might rue your decision to cut investment or raise prices. But if you care only about the short term, for which most companies have a great deal of monopoly power, the same choice can boost profits.

企业所有者或与企业所有者关系密切的人,会担心企业在长期衰落的危险,尤其是失去市场份额。低价格是弱化这种危险的一种方法。而能够提高生产率的高投资是另一种方法。但奖金会鼓励经理更加重视短期效益(因为他们的奖金基于此),而较少关注公司面临的长期危险。竞争的影响需要时间才能显现。10年后,股东可能会对你减少投资或提价的决定感到懊悔。但如果你只关心短期效益(短期内大多数公司都有很高的垄断力),同样的选择却能够提升利润。

In many public companies, management teams are likely to give less weight to the long-term risks of low investment and high prices than to their own short-term interests. We should therefore expect the rise in short-term incentives to have been accompanied by low investment and high profit margins. This is exactly what has happened.

在许多上市公司,相对于低投资和高价格带来的长期风险,管理团队很可能更关注自己的短期利益。因此,我们可以预期,短期激励的增加必然会伴随着低投资和高利润率。这正是当下发生的现实。

The bonus system may not be the only reason why investment has fallen. Management teams may see fewer profitable opportunities available because we lack exciting new technology, or they may expect growth to be weak. But this should have been offset by the fall in the cost of capital, as interest rates collapsed and the stock market boomed.

奖金制度可能并非导致投资下降的唯一原因。因为我们缺乏令人兴奋的新技术,管理团队看到的盈利机会可能越来越少,或者他们可能预期增长变得疲弱。但是,随着利率暴跌、股市大涨,这应该已被资本成本的下降所抵消。

Productivity improves with the amount of capital per employee, and the efficiency with which it is used. With the capital stock growing so slowly it is not surprising that increases in productivity have almost stopped. We do not know how to improve the efficiency with which capital is used, so to improve productivity we need to raise investment. To do that we need to change the incentives that have caused it to fall.

生产率随着员工人均资本的数量及其使用效率的提升而提高。资本存量增长如此缓慢,生产率的提高几近停止也就不足为奇了。我们不知道如何才能提升资本的使用效率,所以,为了提高生产率,我们需要增加投资。为做到这一点,我们需要改变导致投资下降的激励机制。

Management incentives are wrongly perceived as an issue for shareholders. But the bonus culture is a problem for the entire economy.

对管理层的激励被错误地认为是股东的问题。但奖金文化是整个经济的问题。

Increased monopoly power boosts profits and shareholders’ wealth but is bad for the rest of us. We seek to preserve competition in the interests of the economy. The effect of bonuses is very similar to a fall in competition as it encourages managements to exploit their companies’ short term monopoly power. Both need the attention of government.

垄断力的提高可以扩大利润及股东的财富,但这对我们其余的人不利。为了经济发展,我们力图保护竞争。奖金的影响与竞争的下降非常类似,因为它鼓励管理层更多地利用企业的短期垄断力。这两方面都需要引起政府的注意。

The challenge is to alter incentives from those that damage the economy to those that help it. Bonuses should be linked to increases in productivity as well as to profit targets.

当前的挑战在于,将那些损害经济的激励转变成有助于经济发展的激励。除了利润目标,奖金还应该与生产率提高挂钩。

The first essential is to get a public debate on the issue. Until the damage to the economy from the bonus culture is understood and discussed it will not be solved. And until it is solved we will have low investment and poor productivity.

首要是就这个问题展开公开辩论。在奖金文化对经济的危害被理解和讨论之前,这一问题不会得到解决。而在这一问题被解决之前,我们将一直保持低投资和糟糕的生产率水平。

The writer is the author, most recently, of ‘The Road to Recovery: How and Why Economic Policy Must Change’

注:本文作者新近著有《复兴之路:让世界经济重返正轨》(The Road to Recovery: How and Why Economic Policy Must Change)。

译者/陈隆祥

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