Angela Merkel emerged from the European Summit last month with lofty visions, speaking to reporters in flowery terms like ‘European family’, ‘running a marathon’ and preparing Europe for… who knows what? A Prussian dominated European Federal State perhaps?
Missing was a coherent plan to reduce the levels of sovereign debt and, more importantly, a strategy to restore growth to European economies.
Fiscal Policy Integration
Yes there was the “fiscal compact”; a Plan for centrally ‘approved’ national budgets and greater fiscal discipline; all good news to Euro federalists. Meanwhile budget deficits continue to exceed revenues in all European countries.
The Plan, if actually implemented, would place Europe in a death spiral of ever-greater austerity, slowing economic growth and rising debt servicing costs. Europe will simply die on the Bond Market rack.
Addicted to Debt
Meanwhile the debt burden rolls on, and the Euro-Zone nations, like alcoholics on a binge, have, with this Plan, simply stepped to the bar and ordered a couple of cool ones in the morning: ‘hair of the dog’ so to speak.
True to form the IMF seems more than willing to play the role of bootlegger. There are plans for the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”), to essentially recycle boomerang loans; i.e. IMF is to borrow money from member states and lent it back to Greece, Ireland and other troubled economies. The IMF involvement it seems is necessary for Treaty reasons, but also to lend an air of legitimacy to the process.
The Brits refused to contribute to the Plan and many other member states are hedging their bets. Germany, for instance, has placed its commitment on hold awaiting the formal commitment of others; who indeed are waiting for Germany to commit. The international community (read USA) is also hedging its bets and if they don’t fulfill their commitments soon the Plan could unravel quickly.
Priorities are Twisted
Europe (like the US) is living in a Bond Market induced coma; just more evidence that the ‘financial sector’ has hoodwinked the politicians into believing they’re the center of the economic universe.
According to the ‘gods of finance’, recovery is assured. We need only rescue the banks and embrace the Miracle of Austerity: the wacky idea that you can CUT your way to recovery.
Unfortunately this thinking is dangerous, delusional. This crisis will not be solved by austarity. The cold reality is this: post-industrial economies, including the US, UK and Europe, have changed their ‘engines of growth’. Recovery in the 21st century requires deliberate, informed capital direction, which is not happening.
Direct Capital (immediately) to the Productive Heart of European Economies
According the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), postindustrial economies (i.e. Western developed economies) are now solidly ‘service’ oriented. The proportion of traditional (i.e. bankable) assets presently being generated in European economies is somewhere in the region of 20% of GDP. In industrializing China the proportion of hard, tangible assets runs about 80% of GDP; similar numbers to J.P. Morgan’s industrializing America a century ago.
According to studies, intangible (asset) investment by U.S. businesses has now risen to $3 trillion per year (2010) dwarfing investment in capital assets. The new ‘intangible’ economy dominates but is concentrated in small to medium sized businesses that are massively undercapitalized.
Unfortunately, this sector alone is capable of driving growth and employment in the West.
IMF boomerang loans will buy time, but not solve the underlying problem. Hang on to your hats, 2012 could be rough ride.