UK chancellor Rishi Sunak seems to be trying to build for himself the image of a man who is not afraid to “tell it like it is” when the situation requires it. But his actions show that he is prepared to sacrifice long-term economic development for a short-term boost for his Conservative party.
If after the great financial crisis of 2007-2009 the word “extraordinary” characterised monetary policy, the Covid-19 pandemic calls for a much stronger adjective: “unprecedented”.
As the world has never before been faced with an instance when virtually all economic activity stopped for a certain period of time, this is an appropriate word. However, in monetary policy really very little can be said to be truly “unprecedented”.
For example, take modern monetary theory (MMT) — a theory about how to have your (monetary) cake and eat it, which (simplistically) states that if a country can print its own currency, that country will never default on its debt because it can create as much currency as it wants to and use it to pay back the debt.
Major central banks, to a certain degree, have already begun versions of MMT.
Before the new coronavirus pandemic, one of the main ways in which the UK’s Conservative Party boosted consumer confidence was pushing house prices up with the aid of various taxpayer-funded schemes such as Help to Buy.
But as the damage done by Covid-19 to the economy heaps pressure on the public purse, should the taxpayer still generously fund schemes that mainly serve to boost house prices and the fortunes of a few big companies and their already well-off clients?
The fact that chatter about a wealth tax is increasing to the point where it could become reality in the UK should not be a surprise. But it would be a very odd thing for a Conservative government to be the one to actually implement it.
The reports of the death of the European Union have been greatly exaggerated – to quote Mark Twain — a few times already in the bloc’s tumultuous life.
This time, however, the European Central Bank (ECB) cannot be the only one to do “whatever it takes” to save the eurozone – and implicitly the wider EU — from the economic consequences of the Covid-19 crisis.
As governments and central banks around the world throw money at their economies trying to mitigate the pernicious effects of the Covid-19 outbreak, debt is mounting at an alarming pace.
Once the first, acute phase of the pandemic-induced economic crisis ends, something will need to be done about this debt.
By Michael Brett
So Boris, as he likes to be called, hopes he can reassemble a disjointed Britain. Under his benign leadership families that were torn apart by violently differing views on EU membership can be restored to harmony and domestic bliss.
The 29 million-odd people WHO DID NOT VOTE TO LEAVE THE EU in the 2016 referendum are to be dragged out willy-nilly to satisfy the 17.4 million who voted to leave. This is widely hailed as democracy.
Brexit rules the waves (which, incidentally, can only be used in future to transport goods at the cost of a hell of a lot more paperwork, restriction and delay). We will be poorer in the future than we would have been as EU members. Even the would-be leavers are forced to concede this.
How on earth did we land in this situation?
When he finishes negotiating his “deal” with China, US President Donald Trump will probably try to take credit for the country’s shrinking current account surplus with the rest of the world.
However, the fact that China’s exports are slowing is not a new phenomenon, and it is not necessarily a reason to celebrate.
The central banks’ “extraordinary” and “non-conventional” measures are now more than a decade old and they are still going strong.
If initially they were only supposed to last for a few years after the financial crisis of 2007-2009 until things “went back to normal”, this expectation was quietly dropped once it became clear that the extraordinary had become ordinary.
But as these measures continue, their toxic side effects are increasing. They may in fact be contributing to the sluggishness of the world economy and to the lack of productive investment, rather than counteracting them.
Of all the fears sweeping the markets right now, perhaps the most worrying is the fear of a debt crisis in the corporate sector.
Warnings about corporate debt rising to unsustainable levels are intensifying, at a time when interest rates are at record lows and even Greece joined the club of negative-yield sovereign debt issuers.