The Great Debate UK

Latvia: Apocalypse (not quite) now . . .

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Morten Hansen

-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.

Yet life goes on here and journalists I speak to seem somewhat disappointed when I cannot confirm sighting starvation or death in the streets…. Admittedly, it is very hard to be optimistic but it was clearly a positive sign when the parliament approved yet another round of budget cuts including across-the-board 20 percent wage cuts in the public sector and a 10 percent cut in pensions, which should release another tranche of much-needed money from the IMF and the EU. These cuts are tough but necessary as Latvian public finances were unsustainable – even in the years of growth rates of 9, 10, 11 percent the country still ran budget deficits.

Whatever the value of the currency, the public sector needs serious reform, which is why I am somewhat annoyed by the incessant rumours of devaluation emanating from in particular Sweden and the UK. The currency and the public sector are not linked to each other and should be treated as separate issues.

What European election campaign?

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Richard Whitaker- Richard Whitaker is a lecturer in European politics at the University of Leicester, UK. The opinions expressed are his own. -

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.

German Opel rescue tests EU road rules

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paul-taylor– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

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:

In for a penny, in for £175 billion

It may not be tax and spend exactly, but it's definitely tax and borrow.

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.

The devil will be in the Budget detail

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fay– Fay Goddard is chief executive of The Personal Finance Society. Any opinions expressed are her own. —

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:

UK suffers from banks’ Darwinian hibernation

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

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.

from The Great Debate:

Fighting deflation globally ain’t easy

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

With the U.S., Japan and Britain -- nearly 40 percent of the global economy -- facing the threat of deflation, it's going to be just too easy for one, two or all three of them to get the policy response horribly wrong.

The global economy is so connected, and our experience with similar situations so limited that the scope for error is huge.

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