The Great Debate UK
The UK, USA, the PIIGS (Ireland and Italy are together in the same stye), France is in poor fiscal shape – OK, Germany is ostensibly living within its means, but it looks a lot less solvent when you remember that it has underwritten the rest of the euro zone (in large part, to protect its own irresponsible banks). In any case, as I have argued in previous blogs, this or a future German Government is likely to cave in to the pressure from its own electorate and from inflationist economists at home and abroad to join the party and spend, spend, spend. Only Australia and Canada, riding high on the commodities price boom, and a handful of small countries, look stable.
Where will it all end?
With inflation, almost certainly, but beyond that, it is hard to say. However, there is one prediction I would offer for the medium to long term outcome, and it applies not only to the euro zone, but to Britain and America too – in fact to the whole of the comfortable, complacent industrialised world – and it is this.
We are living through the death throes of an ideal, a dream which has turned into a nightmare – it is the end of the social democratic welfare model.
I am referring to the whole panoply of benefits (entitlements, as they are called in America), labour market regulations (employment protection, minimum wage legislation, limits on the length of the working week etc. etc.) and other social democratic devices intended to inflate like airbags to protect us all from shocks from any possible direction. The whole edifice built up in Western countries to shelter us from the need to earn a living is now clearly unsustainable. We can no longer afford a regime which allowed, indeed encouraged us to live permanently beyond our means both as individuals and as a society.
By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.
Here we go again – the same sickening feeling, as stock markets reel amid a flight to “safety”. For months, there have been worries about contagion from the Greek imbroglio, and now the nightmare seems to be coming true, as one after another the weak European economies are put to the sword.
First came Greece and Ireland, then Portugal, now it’s the big league – Spain and, even bigger, Italy (and don’t forget Belgium, an accident waiting to happen for many years now, not very important in pure economic terms, but psychologically significant as the home of the whole sorry euro disaster).
By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.
The markets always suffer from a chronic case of short-termism, but once a sovereign debt crisis takes hold it is very difficult to reverse. Investors may be concentrating on Greek, Irish and Portuguese funding needs for the next 24- 36 months now, but it won’t be long before investors start to scrutinise longer-term liabilities that are currently being clocked up for the next 10,20 even 30 years.
As the Greek tragedy goes into what looks like its final act, there is increasing talk of the country leaving the euro zone and refloating the drachma. Perhaps the Athens street mobs favour this “solution”, but what would it involve, and would it work?
It is a bizarre situation, without precedent as far as I am aware (though I am no economic historian). Usually, new currencies are introduced to replace old ones which have become discredited (typically after hyperinflation), whereas here we are talking about the absolute opposite: abandoning the euro because it is too strong, in favour of a new drachma, which will be a weak currency by design – rather like launching a ship, in the hope it will sink!
Another week another round of EU officials proposing solutions to the Greek insolvency problem.
First there was the President of the European Council Jean Claude Juncker who suggested that bond holders could be tempted into rolling over their maturing debt and buying more Greek bonds as long as a few sweeteners like higher coupon or interest rates were thrown in.
By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.
While some market commentators are questioning if the euro zone should even exist, authorities in Switzerland might be looking with envy at the 27-member currency bloc.
But why would a nation as renowned for political as well as financial stability like Switzerland desire the euro? The chief benefit is for its export sector. Swiss companies including watch marker Hublot have complained recently about the strong Swiss franc weighing on their competitiveness. And watch markets are not alone. Exporters in sectors as diverse as cheese and chocolate to engineers, pharma companies and chemical firms are all suffering from the same problem: a strong franc.
-Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-
The saying goes that you only really know who your friends are during times of crisis. Well European officials must have been beaming after two of the world’s largest economies promised to purchase the debt of the currency bloc’s most troubled nations. China came out first and pledged to “support Spain’s financial sector”, through participating in its upcoming debt auctions. Likewise, Japan pledged to purchase a quarter of the upcoming euro zone bond sale that will help fund the bailout of Ireland.
– John Keilthy is Managing Partner of ReputationInc Ireland and is a former business journalist and director and chief operating officer of NCB Group. Andrew Hammond is a Director in ReputationInc’s London office and was formerly a UK Government Special Adviser. The opinions expressed are their own. –
In recent weeks, the focus for Ireland and indeed the world’s financial markets has been on devising a plan to remedy the country’s precarious banking and fiscal affairs.
Ireland's fall from grace has been rapid and far worse than that of its counterparts, even Greece. But life in the euro zone has still been one of profound growth, as it has for most of the other peripheral economies.
Take a look first at the progress of PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) GDP since 2007 when the global financial crisis took hold. In straight comparisons (ie, rebased to the same point) Ireland is far and away the biggest loser. Portugal is basically where it was.
– Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own. –
Supporting Ireland to the tune of a few billion quid must look like a no-brainer to the British Government. We should not make the same mistake as the Germans, who managed to get the worst of both worlds over Greece – forced by the scale of their bank exposure to support Greece, but providing the money with ill will, causing bitterness rather than gratitude – and now repeating the error in the Irish case.