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Posts Tagged ‘UK economy’

UK Austerity Budget Points to Continuing Fiscal and Economic Crisis

June 23rd, 2010 Comments off

As expected, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the new British coalition government, unveiled an emergency budget aimed at tacking the UK’s massive structural fiscal deficit. It is being described as the toughest UK budget since the age of austerity that followed in the immediate postwar period after the Second World War. It features a rise in the VAT to 20%, increased income and capital gains taxes, public service wage freezes and across the board programmatic budget cuts. The question that stands is this: will it work?

In my view, as explained in my book (Global Economic Forecast 2010-2015: Recession Into Depression) the United Kingdom, as with many other advanced economies, is in a fiscal and demographic trap. It’s national debt has skyrocketed to almost 70% of GDP; even with the Osborne budget cuts, continuing deficits will send this ratio towards 100% of GDP in the near future. With an aging population, meagre real economic growth at best and an economy that, like a heroin addict, has become dependent on its fiscal deficit fix, the UK economy is in such a trap.

Cut public spending dramatically, warn the critics, and the British economy will enter a double dip recession, and they are right. A renewed economic contraction will diminish tax revenue, largely defeating the purpose  of budget cuts and increased levels of taxation. However, continuing the neo-Keynesian debt folly is even more calamitous, for it will inevitably lead to a total fiscal collapse of the UK.

The real lesson is that the wild spending spree engaged in by policymakers in response to the global economic and financial crisis was flawed, and should have been curtailed before public debt to GDP ratios exploded to unsustainable levels. It is now too late to avoid severe economic pain. The only option left is determining which path will incur the least suffering on society.

UK Economy Sinking Amid Worst British Financial Crisis Since Great Depression

April 24th, 2009 Comments off
When Gordon Brown was Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer under Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, he relished boasting in the House of Commons on the efficacy of his stewardship of the UK’s economy. However, now that the Global Economic Crisis has impacted the United Kingdom with particular severity, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is being seen as ineffectual as both a politician and economic manager. The British economy is plunging into the depths of its most severe contraction since the 1930s, with all the macroeconomic indicators pointing south.
The response to this financial meltdown has been happy talk, at times bordering on the ridiculous. At one point, Brown even claimed that his spendthrift ways had “saved” the global economy. As recently as last November, Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling claimed that in 2009 the UK economy would contract be a mere 1%, a fantasy calculation that even the Labour government now concedes. Yet in the supposedly more realistic budget just tabled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, imagination still takes precedence over reality. The UK government now projects a decline in the nation’s economy of 3.5% in 2009, with a return to growth in 2010. However, the International Monetary Fund released its own estimate on the global economy shortly after the British budget was tabled, projecting a decline in the UK economy of 4.1 % in 2009 and likely a continued contraction in 2010. Interestingly, this number reflects growing pessimism by the IMF concerning the UK economy, as it had projected a decline of 2.9% back in January.
The imploding British economy has set off deflation in key asset classes, particularly real estate. Unemployment is skyrocketing, having reached an official figure of 6.7 %, or 2.1 million jobless. However, the opposition Conservative Party has claimed that the actual number of British unemployed stands at more than three million. Whatever the true number of unemployed is now, it will certainly rise substantially during the next two years.

Complicating the economic problems in the UK is its disastrous banking crisis, which rivals that of the United States. Much of Britain’s banking sector is insolvent, prompting a costly bailout by Gordon Brown’s government. With plunging tax revenues due to the nation’s economic contraction, the UK has been forced to borrow vast amounts of money to cover the cost of subsidizing the nation’s zombie banks. The combination of bank bailouts and stimulus spending has created staggering budgetary deficits, prompting the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, to warn that further government indebtedness threatens the long-term stability of the UK’s finances.

The IMF actually challenged the official UK government estimate on the cost of taxpayer funded bank bailouts, presented in Darling’s budget at 60 billion pounds. When the IMF issued its own cost estimate of 200 billion pounds, Gordon Brown and his team went ballistic, forcing the International Monetary Fund to lower is projection to an earlier figure of “only” 130 billion pounds, still more than double the official UK estimate. However, strong-arming the IMF cannot alter the fact that the national debt of the UK is climbing at an astronomical rate. Alistair Darling is projecting that the UK will need to borrow more than $500 billion during the next two years, a sum that exceeds the cumulative borrowing of all previous British governments since the creation of the Bank of England more than three centuries ago, according to the leader of the official opposition, David Cameron.

The UK economy has been transformed, in effect, into a candle burning at both ends. Insolvent banks are consuming taxpayer funds at a rate that is intergenerational while the domestic economy tanks and unemployment soars .In the meantime, the national debt is exploding. Deflation is raging now, while the specter of hyperinflation hovers around the corner, as eroding financial fundamentals cripple the value of Britain’s currency. Amid the acute economic and financial crisis afflicting the UK, the nation’s political establishment offers only rosy projections. Tony Blair may have been called George W. Bush’s lap dog, but Gordon Brown is proving to be his economic disciple.

 

 

 

For More Information on “Global Economic Forecast 2010-2015” please go to the homepage of our website, http://www.globaleconomiccrisis.com

 

 

 

 

 

Scary Data From China And The UK As Global Economic Crisis Worsens

January 24th, 2009 Comments off

While politicians have ceased denying what cannot be denied, that the world is enduring a crippling global financial and economic crisis, they still largely inhabit the land of make believe. What is more, they beckon their fellow citizens to enter blindly into their Alice in Wonderland construct for global economic salvation. Never mind that loose monetary policies enacted by central banks and massive deficit spending sustained by political actors lubricated the skids of this global economic disaster, we must accept on faith the prescription of the political establishment; even more public debt, compounded by near-zero interest central bank rates.

The latest macroeconomic data that has emerged from China and the UK should pour a bucket of cold water over even those most tolerant of political smoke-and-mirrors disguising itself as economic salvation. To say that the numbers were dismal would be an extreme understatement. Perhaps more poignantly, they are further markers on the highway to acute global economic meltdown.

China has for a decade been the primary engine of global economic growth. By becoming the factory for much of the consuming world, it accumulated huge savings, this cash pool being used to loan money to the United States, its major customer by a wide margin. As long as Americans bought Chinese products and kept the factory floors from Shanghai to Canton buzzing with full employment, the bosses in Beijing were quite content buying U.S. Treasury bills by the hundreds of billions of dollars. Now that consumer demand in the U.S. is contracting, however, along with other major markets, China will likely need to shift its accumulated savings towards financing its own deficit spending, as opposed to Washington’s stimulus credit needs. The official results for the 4th quarter GDP show a drastic reduction in growth, pointing to a sharp downturn in the Chinese economy.

A 4th quarter result of 6.8 % growth would seem like manna from heaven in comparison with other major economies. However, in the context of China’s massive labor pool this number is problematic, as double-digit growth has been essential for maintaining a level of employment satisfactory for sustaining social cohesion. Economist Nouriel Roubini points out, however, that this number is misleading. He believes that the Q4 in China brought no growth, perhaps even the beginnings of negative growth. Signs point to a recession in China during 2009, with disastrous consequences for the global economy.

The boom in the past decade in the Chinese economy also fueled economic expansion in much of Southeast Asia. Enterprises in South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore, as well as other Southeast Asian nations, provided raw materials, products and services that were incorporated into the output of China’s vast economy. Contraction in China will be devastating to the economies on her periphery, while also diminishing her appetite to lend increasingly scarce savings to finance the profligacy of the U.S. federal budget.

In the UK, the 4th quarter GDP numbers, revealing a decline of 1.5%, magnified the apocalyptic news that has emerged from the carcass of its banking sector. As this is the second consecutive quarter of negative GDP growth in the UK, that country is now technically in a recession, hardly a startling revelation for the beleaguered British taxpayers. As with America, the political establishment offers only more tax-funded bailouts, even more massive deficit spending, garnished with historically low Bank of England fund rates.

In addition to the appalling quantitative data emerging from China and the UK, there is one other barometer of the cascading Global Economic Crisis, the obscure Baltic Dry Exchange Rate. In simple terms this is a measure of the cost of shipping raw materials to China by freighter. When the Chinese economy was humming, the demand for shipping dictated a high rate. That is now history; as the Baltic rate is sinking like a broken old rusty ship, reflecting collapsing demand by China for raw materials, as its factories shutter their doors. In essence, the current anemic Baltic rate attests to a process of virtual de-industrialization occurring on the planet on a titanic scale.

Though China and the UK have different economic characteristics and dynamics, they are both significant actors, along with the United States, in the global drama that is now unfolding. The examples I have sited are just another dose of empirical data pointing to the year 2009 as being one of economic extremis.