Austerity fatigue – the financial world’s latest fad phrase

July 19, 2013

From the U.S., we’ve had lots of talk of tapering. In Europe, the latest fad phrase in the financial world is “austerity fatigue”.

It’s a strange euphemism, somehow disconnected from reality. More than 19 million euro zone citizens were out of work during May, roughly equivalent to the combined populations of Belgium and Austria. Youth unemployment is on the wrong side of 50 percent in Greece and Spain.

Fatigue here really means growing desperation, a public railing against rounds of budget cuts and rocketing unemployment in euro zone countries.

Judging by what economists say, that’s a fast-rising political risk.

“Austerity fatigue” has been mentioned 10 times already this month in the dozens of research notes received by Reuters Polls each day, compared with just eight times from April to June.

That’s down partly to the political crisis in Portugal, whose finance minister resigned earlier this month, citing growing erosion of popular support for his austerity plans. And this Wednesday, thousands chanted anti-austerity slogans outside Greece’s parliament after its shaky government coalition scraped through a vote to sack public sector workers.

In its mechanical sense, fatigue refers to stress and weakness in something before it breaks. If unrest in countries like Greece and Portugal keeps growing to the point governments are destabilised, we could soon hear economists talking of fracture rather than fatigue.

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