The Great Debate UK
The crisis at Northern Rock marked the beginning of Britain’s slide into large-scale state ownership of the banking system. Returning the mortgage lender to the private sector would be a sign that normal service is being resumed. But rumours that the British government is poised to sell Northern Rock, are premature. Suggestions the government could do so at a profit are even more far-fetched.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown is apparently keen to offload the Rock, ideally “at a substantial profit” before the general election, which must be held before next summer. According to the Times, the prime minister “wants desperately to avoid a Conservative government taking the credit”.
It would be lovely to think the government’s main worry is who might benefit from the “profits” from the banking bail-out, rather than the substantial losses it has underwritten at the state-owned banks. There are plenty of thorny matters to be settled before the Rock is sold.
The government itself has two conflicting objectives. As a shareholder, it wishes to sell its stakes as soon as it can, and to be able to dress up the sale as a profitable exit. However, as the guardian of the economy, it wants to moderate the rate at which the banks shrink their balance sheets, because that denies credit to viable businesses and would-be homeowners. Indeed, the government recently instructed the Rock to stop shrinking its balance sheet and to start lending again.
from The Great Debate:
Higher taxes? Lower public spending? Devaluation? Inflation? Investment in green growth?
European governments are pointing in very different directions as they debate an exit strategy from the global financial crisis. Despite European Union efforts to coordinate economic policy, there are clear signs that the main European economies will charge off in disarray towards separate exits.
- Luke Baker is a political and general news correspondent at Reuters. -
The mountains and deserts of southern Afghanistan are far removed from the elegant charms of Trieste in northern Italy, but there will be a link between the two this weekend.
Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations meet in the Italian city on the Adriatic on Thursday for three days of talks, with the state of play in Afghanistan, as well as developments in Iran and the Middle East, front and centre of their agenda.
- Alf Vanags is director of the Baltic International Centre for Economic Policy Studies. The opinions expressed are his own. -
On April 28, 1925 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill, put Britain back on the gold standard at the pre-World War I parity, a move that was strongly criticized by Maynard Keynes in his pamphlet “The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill”.
-Morten Hansen is head of the economics department at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga. The opinions expressed are his own.-
Latvia, with its 18 percent year-on-year economic decline, ruthless budget cuts to meet the demands stated by the IMF-EU bailout package and recurring rumours of devaluation, may be the most written about country in the world right now, at least on a per capita basis.
Europe rarely features highly in European election campaigns in Britain. In the 2004 campaign the word Euro more often than not referred to a football tournament rather than the single currency. And for at least two reasons, we shouldn’t expect European integration to be much discussed.
Mon Dieu! Are the Germans starting to behave like the French?
Berlin’s efforts to salvage carmaker Opel from the wreckage of U.S. auto giant General Motors pose as big a challenge to Europe’s single market as French attempts earlier this year to tie loans to its carmakers to keeping jobs and factories in France.
from Luke Baker:
For the best part of 12 years, Labour has pursued essentially conservative (with a small 'c') economic policies, steadily underburdening itself of the 'fiscally unreliable' tag that some earlier Labour administrations were (wrongly or rightly) saddled with.
And for most of the past 12 years, as the global economy steadily expanded and Britain's along with it, with aggregate wealth rising smoothly, Labour looked strong at the helm each time the budget came around.
Though it’s a cliche to say that a budget is eagerly awaited you can be forgiven for saying so this time around. This year all eyes and ears will be focused on the Chancellor’s economic figures and forecasts. The big question is how will he balance the books – cut public spending or raise taxes? In the run up to an election cuts are ideal but needs must. What will it mean for personal finances?
from The Great Debate:
Britain's banks are fulfilling their Darwinian role, to survive, rather than their economic one, to lend, and there is no easy or painless way out.
A glance at the latest Bank of England Credit Conditions Survey makes grim reading, with yet another marked tightening of lending conditions to households and businesses. Loans are harder to get and more expensive where available, which is hardly surprising given rising defaults and a hardening view that the UK will suffer a long and deep recession.