As the eurozone’s recession extended to a sixth quarter, HSBC’s chief European economist Janet Henry told Bloomberg TV this week that we are not even half way through the crisis.
And she is absolutely right. As I have hinted in previous despatches at eurosnews.wordpress.com the problem is that we have seen a Pass the Parcel effect with debt since the middle of the last decade. At first personal debt exploded in the US and elsewhere as there was easy credit. Then the banks got into trouble and could not recoup losses when it became apparent that the ratings agencies may have over-stated the triple-A status of some CDOs. So the debt was passed on to the banks. Then countries highly reliant on the banks for tax receipts or where banks maintained credit lines to poorer EU countries became indebted as they tried to bail the banks out.
Now we “enjoy” low credit again, courtesy of government intervention, and this artificial phase has what to show for itself? Zero growth.
With that, the slightest rise in interest rates will again bring the house down. Governments are trying to balance their own books – by raising taxation and cutting spending. That deflates the economy in the short- to medium-term.
So now households are becoming more indebted as the government takes away support. And some, like the woman who committed suicide last week in Britain because she could not afford to pay the new controversial “Bedroom Tax”, demonstrate an even more regrettable effect.
So the debt pile is being moved around, not countered. The problem is being prolonged, not tackled. No one has the confidence to rebuild. No one is sure it will work or is the right time.
When I see tweets from leading British entrepreneurs like this one from Lord Sugar “Earn extra income & build your own business selling as a
@TropicSkinCare Ambassador!” my heart sinks. Is that the best advice that business leaders have for getting us out of this economic quagmire? What we need is bold business to boost confidence in the economy by investing in it. So said Keynes and an army of others. Otherwise who will rid thee of this economic vicious circle?