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Eurozone Crisis

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World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.

This was the idea behind the formation of the European Union which was initially formed by the ‘Inner Six’ countries like France, West Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The origins of the European Union sees its history of  70 years of war and unrest between France and Germany which led to the formation of ECSC(European Coal and Steel Community) under the SchumanPlan of pooling the coal and the steel of France and Germany. The European Union grew out of the aim to build a common political entity to undo the adverse effects of wars and to build up for an ‘internal single market’ with common laws and systems. It was culminated on 7th February 1992 under the Maastricht Treaty.

The Eurozone Crisis began in the year 2008 with a rise in debt of countries like Greece and Ireland.  In 2009, Greece had a budgetdeficit of 12.9% of the GDP. That was more than 4 times of the limit suggested by the European Union which is 3%. The investors were discouraged. As a result, the investors sold the bonds of these countries to purchase the bonds of more credible countries like Germany and France. The uncertainty of the European Central Bank to act in such a situation led to a liquidity crisis and an erosion of the credibility of the European Union. Eurozone Crisis also demonstrated that it was the delayed collective action by the European Union that strengthened the ulterior motives of the Financial markets to make profits out of the difference in the bond prices of the different member states. The economic conditions in the year 2010 exposed the loopholes in the European Union’s foundation. There can be numerous reasons for this. They are as follows: –

Lack of a single currency – A single currency means a union or a political union but that is a distant dream as member states think that it would jeopardize their sovereignty.

No Federal European Government– Because of a no common governing body, there is no mechanism to set a central tax or budget policy. All member states under it are sovereign having their own political complexities in their respective countries.

No common Euro Bonds– Due to the lack of a common budgetary policies, well to do countries like Germany have rejected to subscribe to a common euro bond. They withdrew to underwrite Europe wide bond issues.

The United States Link-What happens in a country doesn’t stay in a country in the interconnected financial system of the world. The European Debt crisis was not just limited to Greece, but it had connection with the spending of the US government budget. US contributes approximately forty percent to the International Monetary Fund’s Capital. Waiving off the debts of Greece means adding additional burden to the Taxpayers in US.

Not just economic, Even Political Issues involved in emerging the Crisis. They are as follows: –

Austerity led to Protests: – The countries who were adversely affected by the Eurozone crisis switched to austerity. (Austerity is a set of political and economic policies which intends to reduce the government deficits either by increasing taxes or cuttingdown expenditure). Austerity leads to decline in the consumption and  the employment rate of a country. A lot of protests occurred in Spain and Greece against the government because of the increased unemployment. Austerity measures even led to the removal of party in power in countries like Italy and Portugal.

Financially sound countries vs High Debt countries: – European Union saw a strain in the relationship between fiscally sound nations like Germany and the nations under high debt like Greece. Germany was not ready to ratify to a region wide solution rather pushed such countries to make changes in their budget policy. These situations might have led any of the member state to leave the Euro. There was a high possibility of the weakening of Euro against the other currencies in the global market. This crisis, indeed,witnessed the periodic weakness of the Euro.Slovakia andLithuania refused to bear the burden of Greece’s debt. Even these two countries resorted to austerity measures but without any aid from the EU.

Greece had manipulated its balance sheet to conceal its debts and it was also the result of long years of tax evasion, fiscal mismanagement and authorities misleading the reports.

The European Financial Stability Facility paid a bailout of 190 billion euros in the year 2011. It was only in the year 2014, that Greek economy was able to recover a bit and grew by 0.7% and successfully balanced the budget by selling its bonds. The crisis was not just limited to Greece.

Even Ireland’s banks borrowed loans from the housing market in the year 2008 which led to a huge debt crisis by 2010. $112 billion EU- IMF package was given to Ireland in exchange of following Austerity measures. This was again a severe Eurozone crisis with the Irish economy’s decline in output by 10% and Unemployment rising to 13% in the year 2010.

Portugal also received an aid of $116 billion in the year 2011 from the EU as it fell into recession as the deficit grew for about more than 10% of the GDP in the year 2009.  Not just this, the deficit shifted to large countries like Italy and Spain too leading to an overall Eurozone crisis.

WHY DID GERMANY REFUSE TO ADJUST IN THE EUROZONE CRISIS?

Germany had the world’s largest current account surplus of almost 8% in the year 2017 (IMF 2018). And Regional Imbalances have led to the Balance of Payment crises (Schularick and Taylor 2012). Consequently, there had been a resentment against Germany in the international arena. But the following reasons can be the attributed why Germany didn’t behave accordingly: –

  • Current account Surplus may not be always interpreted as beneficial to the economy. It indicates that investments in public and private sector has not been enough. (Bach et al. 2013, Sudekaum and Felbmayr 2017).
  • With an intention to balance against Germany by reducing its current account surplus may not work. It may lead to their improved infrastructure, higher wages, higher inflation and also a higher consumption.
  • With the rise in inflation, the debt burdendeclined, and the wages of the workers in the Non- Tradable Section rose. The High Export dependence of Germany on the foreign nations tarnished its image. Also, the current account surpluses are also related with net capital outflow.

The solution here was not to punish Germany but coming to terms with the fact that Internal Adjustment too, may not have positive consequences all the time. Moreover, A current account surplus was needed for an ageing country like Germany.

GREECE- LEARNING FROM THE MISTAKES OF THE EUROZONE CRISIS

Greece, which were the odd ones out in the Eurozone crisis and had its credibility crippled in the past ten years seemed to have learnt lessons. At present, it is one of the best performing countries in Europe with respect to flattening the Covid curve according to an analysis by the Bridge Tank. Not all perish in a crisis, few turn it into an opportunity.Kyriakos Mitsotakis, The Prime Minister of Greece along with the Sydney born Harvard immunologist Sotiris Tsiodras received praises for handling the Covid crisis. The deaths due to Covid was controlled unlike Italy which turned out to be a disaster.

According to Dr.Ladi, an expert whose field of study includes the Eurozone crisis and role of experts in the public policy said that “ Because of the previous crisis the people were better prepared to react and the country’s leadership worked very quickly compared to others who reacted late’’.

IS BULGARIA JOINING THE EUROZONE ANSWER TO IT’S PROBLEMS?

Bulgaria and Croatia are the latest Eastern European countries who are ready to adopt the Euro currency after meeting certain economic and regulatory criteria. This enlargement has come after a decade long of crisis which deterred the countries from joining. However, the inclusion of these two relatively poor countries may bring risks along with it. The Eurozone has already suffered much because of Greece’s rising debt which destabilized the entire currency in the former decade. Analysts have warned before hand only that the two countries in question may have a hard time in fulfilling criteria like Low Public Debt and the Rule of Law. Croatia is expected to increase its debt to 86% of the GDP by this year which is yet again above the 60% level that the European authorities accept.

Bulgaria joined the EU in the year 2007 and has expressed its intentions of joining the euro area since the year 2009 until the debacle in the form of Eurozone crisis occurred which hindered its entrance at the prevailing circumstances then. With the economic recovery in the year 2018, It again wanted to join the Euro Club. To join the club, it needs to fulfil two conditions: –

  • It must join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM ii) – a waiting room where a country introducing the euro is required to stay for a minimum period of two years at least.
  • The Public Debt levels must not exceed 25% of the GDP (Bulgaria’s GDP here)

Few officials of the Eurozone have expressed their concerns and are quite apprehensive about Bulgaria in the zone. According to them, Bulgaria’s entry will do no good or rather repeat the ‘Greek scenario’. Besides this, Bulgaria also must fulfil the ‘additional’ requirements of joining the Banking Union which was not a requirement before but would be implemented from now onwards. Joining the Banking Union means the scrutiny of the Big Banks of Bulgaria. This is quite obvious with news of the collapse of the Biggest bank in Bulgaria in the year 2014. The European Central Bank is being a watchdog here and Banks in Bulgaria have been given time to create additional capital buffers till April 2020. It must be noted that the FI Bank has still not fulfilled the criteria.

There are other factors as well which act as an instrument to demotivate Bulgaria to the Eurozone. Those are as follows:-

  • No adequate support from the public for the introduction of Euro in Bulgaria.
  • The EU area crisis is also a factor.
  • Depiction of EU as a fading power.
  • Bulgaria is also seen as an under- performing state and the common currency works in the interest of the third parties.
  • Gaining domestic support and Anti – EU voices is much easier than in favour of it.

The Bulgarian government doesn’t want to escape this opportunity of joining the EU zone in the Corona crisis. It would be interesting to see whether it gets successful or not.

Today, in the times of Corona, The European Central Bank seems to have learnt from its past mistakes unlike the Eurozone Crisis. It has acted quickly and has kept the borrowing costs low for all countries in the Euro Zone because as per the forecasts done by IMF, the public debt will reach almost 100% of the GDP by the year end. To cope up with this, the head of the ECB, Ms. Christine Lagardesaid that economic implications of Covid- 19 would result in decrease in the supply chain by approximately 35%  and would also expose us to a rise in the inequalities in the Euro- Zone.  Factors such as Climate Risk and bio-diversity will be taken into account while drafting plans.  The ECB also created a Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme worth of € 750 billion involving both government and private debt. A decision regarding the same is to be made in the upcoming EU Summit which will be held on the 17 and 18th July 2020.

Economy

2022: Small Medium Business & Economic Development Errors

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Calling Michelangelo: would Michelangelo erect a skyscraper or can an architect liberate David from a rock of marble? When visibly damaged are the global economies, already drowning their citizenry, how can their economic development departments in hands of those who never ever created a single SME or ran a business, expect anything else from them other than lingering economic agonies?

The day pandemic ends; immediately, on the next day, the panic on the center stage would be the struggling economies across the world.  On the small medium business economic fronts, despite, already accepted globally, as the largest tax contributor to any nation. Visible worldwide, already abandoned and ignored without any specific solutions, there is something strategically wrong with upskilling exporters and reskilling manufacturers or the building growth of small medium business economies. The SME sectors in most nations are in serious trouble but are their economic development rightly balanced?   

Matching Mindsets: Across the world, hard working citizens across the world pursue their goals and some end up with a job seeker mindset and some job creator mindset; both are good. Here is a globally proven fact; job seekers help build enterprises but job creators are the ones who create that enterprise in the first place. Study in your neighborhoods anywhere across the world and discover the difference.

Visible on LinkedIn: Today, on the SME economic development fronts of the world, clearly visible on their LinkedIn profiles, the related Ministries, mandated government departments, trade-groups, chambers, trade associations and export promotion agencies are primarily led by job seeker mindsets and academic or bureaucratic mentality. Check all this on LinkedIn profiles of economic development teams anywhere across the world.

Will jumbo-pilots do heart transplant, after all, economic performance depends on matching right competency; Needed today, post pandemic economic recovery demands skilled warriors with mastery of national mobilization to decipher SME creation and scalability of diversified SME verticals on digital platforms of upskilling for global age exportability. This fact has hindered any serious progress on such fronts during the last decade. The absence of any significant progress on digitization, national mobilization of entrepreneurialism and upskilling of exportability are clear proofs of a tragically one-sided mindset.

Is it a cruise holiday, or what? Today, the estimated numbers of all frontline economic development team members across 200 nations are roughly enough to fill the world-largest-cruise-ship Symphony that holds 6200 guests. If 99.9% of them are job-seeker mindsets, how can the global economic development fraternity sleep tonight? As many billion people already rely on their performances, some two billion in a critical economic crisis, plus one billion starving and fighting deep poverty. If this is what is holding grassroots prosperity for the last decade, when will be the best time to push the red panic button? 

The Big Fallacy of “Access to Finance” Notion: The goals of banking and every major institution on over-fanaticized notions of intricate banking, taxation are of little or no value as SME of the world are not primarily looking for “Access to Capital” they are rather seeking answers and dialogue with entrepreneurial job creator mindsets. SME management and economic development is not about fancy PDF studies of recycled data and extra rubber stamps to convince that lip service is working. No, it is not working right across the world.

SME are also not looking for government loans. They do not require expensive programs offered on Tax relief, as they make no profit, they do not require free financial audits, as they already know what their financial problems are and they also do that require mechanical surveys created by bureaucracies asking the wrong questions. This is the state of SME recovery and economic development outputs and lingering of sufferings.

SME development teams across the world now require mandatory direct SME ownership experiences

The New Hypothesis 2022: The new hypothesis challenges any program on the small medium business development fronts unless in the right hands and right mindsets they are only damaging the national economy. Upon satisfactory research and study, create right equilibrium and bring job seeker and job creator mindsets to collaborate for desired results. As a start 50-50, balances are good targets, however, anything less than 10% active participation of the job creator mindset at any frontline mandated SME Ministry, department, agency or trade groups automatically raises red flags and is deemed ineffective and irrelevant. 

The accidental economists: The hypothesis, further challenges, around the world, economic institutes of sorts, already, focused on past, present and future of local and global economy. Although brilliant in their own rights and great job seekers, they too lack the entrepreneurial job creator mindsets and have no experience of creating enterprises at large. Brilliantly tabulating data creating colorful illustrative charts, but seriously void of specific solutions, justifiably as their profession rejects speculations, however, such bodies never ready to bring such disruptive issues in fear of creating conflicts amongst their own job seeker fraternities. The March of Displaced cometh, the cries of the replaced by automation get louder, the anger of talented misplaced by wrong mindsets becomes visible. Act accordingly

The trail of silence: Academia will neither, as they know well their own myopic job seeker mindset. In a world where facial recognition used to select desired groups, pronouns to right gatherings, social media to isolate voting, but on economic survival fronts where, either print currency or buy riot gears or both, a new norm; unforgiveable is the treatment of small medium business economies and mishmash support of growth. Last century, laborious and procedural skills were precious, this century surrounded by extreme automation; mindsets are now very precious.  

Global-age of national mobilization: Start with a constructive open-minded collaborative narrative, demonstrate open courage to allow entrepreneurial points of views heard and critically analyze ideas on mobilization of small mid size business economies. Applying the same new hypotheses across all high potential contributors to SME growth, like national trade groups, associations and chambers as their frontline economic developers must also balance with the job creator mindset otherwise they too become irrelevant. Such ideas are not just criticism rather survival strategies. Across the world, this is a new revolution to arm SME with the right skills to become masters of trade and exports, something abandoned by their economic policies. To further discuss or debate at Cabinet Level explore how Expothon is making footprints on new SME thinking and tabling new deployment strategies. Expothon is also planning a global series of virtual events to uplift SME economies in dozens of selected nations.

Two wheels of the same cart: Silence on such matters is not a good sign. Address candidly; allow both mindsets to debate on how and why as the future becomes workless and how and why small medium business sectors can become the driving engine of new economic progress. Job seekers and job creators are two wheels of the same cart; right assembly will take us far on this economic growth passage. Face the new global age with new confidence. Let the nation witness leadership on mobilization of entrepreneurialism and see a tide of SME growth rise. The rest is easy.

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Economy

Rebalancing Act: China’s 2022 Outlook

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Authors: Ibrahim Chowdhury, Ekaterine T. Vashakmadze and Li Yusha

After a strong rebound last year, the world economy is entering a challenging 2022. The advanced economies have recovered rapidly thanks to big stimulus packages and rapid progress with vaccination, but many developing countries continue to struggle.

The spread of new variants amid large inequalities in vaccination rates, elevated food and commodity prices, volatile asset markets, the prospect of policy tightening in the United States and other advanced economies, and continued geopolitical tensions provide a challenging backdrop for developing countries, as the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report published today highlights.

The global context will also weigh on China’s outlook in 2022, by dampening export performance, a key growth driver last year. Following a strong 8 percent cyclical rebound in 2021, the World Bank expects growth in China to slow to 5.1 percent in 2022, closer to its potential — the sustainable growth rate of output at full capacity.

Indeed, growth in the second half of 2021 was below this level, and so our forecast assumes a modest amount of policy loosening. Although we expect momentum to pick up, our outlook is subject to domestic in addition to global downside risks. Renewed domestic COVID-19 outbreaks, including the new Omicron variant and other highly transmittable variants, could require more broad-based and longer-lasting restrictions, leading to larger disruptions in economic activity. A severe and prolonged downturn in the real estate sector could have significant economy-wide reverberations.

In the face of these headwinds, China’s policymakers should nonetheless keep a steady hand. Our latest China Economic Update argues that the old playbook of boosting domestic demand through investment-led stimulus will merely exacerbate risks in the real estate sector and reap increasingly lower returns as China’s stock of public infrastructure approaches its saturation point.

Instead, to achieve sustained growth, China needs to stick to the challenging path of rebalancing its economy along three dimensions: first, the shift from external demand to domestic demand and from investment and industry-led growth to greater reliance on consumption and services; second, a greater role for markets and the private sector in driving innovation and the allocation of capital and talent; and third, the transition from a high to a low-carbon economy.

None of these rebalancing acts are easy. However, as the China Economic Update points out, structural reforms could help reduce the trade-offs involved in transitioning to a new path of high-quality growth.

First, fiscal reforms could aim to create a more progressive tax system while boosting social safety nets and spending on health and education. This would help lower precautionary household savings and thereby support the rebalancing toward domestic consumption, while also reducing income inequality among households.

Second, following tightening anti-monopoly provisions aimed at digital platforms, and a range of restrictions imposed on online consumer services, the authorities could consider shifting their attention to remaining barriers to market competition more broadly to spur innovation and productivity growth.

A further opening-up of the protected services sector, for example, could improve access to high-quality services and support the rebalancing toward high-value service jobs (a special focus of the World Bank report). Eliminating remaining restrictions on labor mobility by abolishing the hukou, China’s system of household registration, for all urban areas would equally support the growth of vibrant service economies in China’s largest cities.

Third, the wider use of carbon pricing, for example, through an expansion of the scope and tightening of the emissions trading system rules, as well power sector reforms to encourage the penetration and nationwide trade and dispatch of renewables, would not only generate environmental benefits but also contribute to China’s economic transformation to a more sustainable and innovation-based growth model.

In addition, a more robust corporate and bank resolution framework would contribute to mitigating moral hazards, thereby reducing the trade-offs between monetary policy easing and financial risk management. Addressing distortions in the access to credit — reflected in persistent spreads between private and State borrowers — could support the shift to more innovation-driven, private sector-led growth.

Productivity growth in China during the past four decades of reform and opening-up has been private-sector led. The scope for future productivity gains through the diffusion of modern technologies and practices among smaller private companies remains large. Realizing these gains will require a level playing field with State-owned enterprises.

While the latter have played an instrumental role during the pandemic to stabilize employment, deliver key services and, in some cases, close local government budget gaps, their ability to drive the next phase of growth is questionable given lower profits and productivity growth rates in the past.

In 2022, the authorities will face a significantly more challenging policy environment. They will need to remain vigilant and ready to recalibrate financial and monetary policies to ensure the difficulties in the real estate sector don’t spill over into broader economic distress. Recent policy loosening suggests the policymakers are well aware of these risks.

However, in aiming to keep growth on a steady path close to potential, they will need to be similarly alert to the risk of accumulating ever greater levels of corporate and local government debt. The transition to high-quality growth will require economic rebalancing toward consumption, services, and green investments. If the past is any guide to the future, the reliance on markets and private sector initiative is China’s best bet to achieve the required structural change swiftly and at minimum cost.

First published on China Daily, via World Bank

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Economy

The US Economic Uncertainty: Bitcoin Faces a Test of Resilience?

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Is inflation harmful? Is inflation here to stay? And are people really at a loss? These and countless other questions along the same lines dominated the first half of 2021. Many looked for alternative investments in the national bourse, while others adopted unorthodox streams. Yes, I’m talking about bitcoin. The crypto giant hit records after records since the pandemic made us question the fundamentals of our conventional economic policies. And while inflation was never far behind in registering its own mark in history, the volatility in the crypto stream was hard to deny: swiping billions of dollars in mere days in April 2021. The surge came again, however. And it will keep on coming; I have no doubt. But whether it is the end of the pandemic or the early hues of a new shade, the tumultuous relationship between traditional economic metrics and the championed cryptocurrency is about to get more interesting.

The job market is at the most confusing crossroads in recent times. The hiring rate in the US has slowed down in the past two months, with employers adding only 199,000 jobs in December. The numbers reveal that this is the second month of depressing job additions compared to an average of more than 500,000 jobs added each month throughout 2021. More concerning is that economists had predicted an estimated 400,000 jobs additions last month. Nonetheless, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the unemployment rate has ticked down to 3.9% – the first time since the pre-pandemic level of 3.5% reported in February 2020. Analytically speaking, US employment has returned to pre-pandemic levels, yet businesses are still looking for more employees. The leverage, therefore, lies with the labor: reportedly (on average) every two employees have three positions available.

The ‘Great Resignation,’ a coinage for the new phenomenon, underscores this unique leverage of job selection. Sectors with low-wage positions like retail and hospitality face a labor shortage as people are better-positioned to bargain for higher wages. Thus, while wages are rising, quitting rates are record high simultaneously. According to recent job reports, an estimated 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in November alone. Given that this data got collected before the surge of the Omicron variant, the picture is about to worsen.

While wages are rising, employment is no longer in the dumps. People are quitting but not to invest stimulus cheques. Instead, they are resigning to negotiate better-paying jobs: forcing the businesses to hike prices and fueling inflation. Thus, despite high earnings, the budget for consumption [represented by the Consumer Price Index (CPI)] is rising at a rate of 6.8% (reported in November 2021). Naturally, bitcoin investment is not likely to bloom at levels rivaling the last two years. However, a downfall is imminent if inflation persists.

The US Federal Reserve sweats caution about searing gains in prices and soaring wage figures. And it appears that the fed is weighing its options to wind up its asset purchase program and hike interest rates. In March 2020, the fed started buying $40 billion worth of Mortgage-backed securities and $80 billion worth of government bonds (T-bills). However, a 19% increase in average house prices and a four-decade-high level of inflation is more than they bargained. Thus, the fed officials have been rooting for an expedited normalization of the monetary policy: further bolstered by the job reports indicating falling unemployment and rising wages. In recent months, the fed purview has dramatically shifted from its dovish sentiments: expecting no rate hike till 2023 to taper talks alongside three rate hikes in 2022.

Bitcoin now faces a volatile passage in the forthcoming months. While the disappointing job data and Omicron concerns could nudge the ball in its favor, the chances are that a depressive phase is yet to ensue. According to crypto-analysts, the bitcoin is technically oversold i.e. mostly devoid of impulsive investors and dominated by long-term holders. Since November, the bitcoin has dropped from the record high of $69,000 by almost 40%: moving in the $40,000-$41,000 range. Analysts believe that since bitcoin acts as a proxy for liquidity, any liquidity shortage could push the market into a mass sellout. Mr. Alex Krüger, the founder of Aike Capital, a New York-based asset management firm, stated: “Crypto assets are at the furthest end of the risk curve.” He further added: “[Therefore] since they had benefited from the Fed’s “extraordinarily lax monetary policy,” it should suffice to say that they would [also] suffer as an “unexpectedly tighter” policy shifts money into safer asset classes.” In simpler terms, a loose monetary policy and a deluge of stimulus payments cushioned the meteoric rise in bitcoin valuation as a hedge against inflation. That mechanism would also plummet the market with a sudden hawkish shift.

The situation is dire for most industries. Job participation levels are still low as workers are on the sidelines either because of the Omicron concern or lack of child support. In case of a rate hike, businesses would be forced to push against the wages to accommodate affordability in consumer prices. For bitcoin, the investment would stay dormant. However, any inflationary surprises could bring about an early tightening of the policy: spelling doom for the crypto market. The market now expects the job data to worsen while inflation to rise at 7.1% through December in the US inflation data (to be reported on Wednesday). Any higher than the forecasted figure alongside uncertainty imbued by the new variant could spark a downward spiral in bitcoin – probably pushing the asset below the $25000 mark.

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