Wednesday, November 30, 2011

European Crisis Still Around

Sleep is a great equalizer.
In periods of distress many times it happens that if you go to sleep then in the morning the trauma is considerably reduced.
European crisis defies such powerful remedies.
But some Aligs might object that Muslims of India, the main focus of things Alig, have enough problems of their own and one should not worry too much about the problems of those people whose borders are far away from the location of AMU.
Not entirely true. The on going crisis is taking place in the global village called world.
It does not take much time for crisis to travel-or to make its aftermath apparent.
Having said that let us come to the overview of what is happening in European economic scene.

(1) Entering Critical Period
This is the most unnerving current news. Our brothers in Europe, who have been exploiting whoever they could, have only days to take action before their financial system goes out of control-with unforeseen implications. We in India can not be smug by any imagination because we are not the leaders in financial markets and Europeans (and American and Japanese) are. On top of that we are already reeling under huge price rise that even a septuagenarian financial  wizard, Dr Man Mohan Singh, is not able to exorcise.

To bail out European troubled states they have formed European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). The target money is supposed to be $1.3 trillion. (Nice number, isn't it?) They might not meet this target. And they must reach this target because some big economies, like Spain and Italy, are under the threat of going down.
(No, no nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism. It is their own financial quagmire that has lead them to this situation. Unless, of course they manage to blame it on Taliban.)

EU financial ministers meeting doled out the latest installment to Greece. They also suggested some more financial discipline.

(2) Matters Italian
In the second week of November Italy moved to the center stage of European financial crisis. Earlier it was Greece that was taking the lime light. Before that it was Ireland etc. These Europeans do love the spotlight.
Just a few weeks back Italy was considered relatively safe for its major debt was internal. Then in they were were forced to pay much higher interest rates in a bond auction and bingo they stumped others, made Greek performance a side show. You try to ignore one bad news after another regarding European financial health and then they tell you that you must pay attention-we are burning our house. (Alright-by now the things might be reality out of their control.)  It is strange how your adjectives and superlatives get exhausted when you try to watch this show. It is strange how people feel at ease just because they can understand the consequences of the crisis-even if these are bad.

So far the only man standing is, we mean the only woman standing is Angela Merkel of Germany. She asserts that Italy is good because it has strong economy (read large only and not stable) but they must reduce their debt in coming few years. In plain words they should give up living on borrowed money. Great realization. Greece living on borrowed glory. Italy living on borrowed glory. As if other Europeans are doing something else. Whole European and American economy is based on living on debt. It reminds one of old Indian philosophy of Charwak. Yawad jeevam sukham jeeveyt. Rinam kritwa ghritam pibeyt. Till you live, live in luxury. Take a loan and drink elixir. Only Europeans are courageous enough to implement this. (Not strange because Charwak philosophy is, like Europe, atheistic and is not the mainstream Indian way of life-that is theistic.) Merkel also realizes that governments should spend less. (An ages old wisdom that no government feels like implementing.) She also feels that taxes should be raised. This one is a good one. No one in those lands likes this statement. Anyway doesn't it go against the very basic European philosophy of luxury living?

May be this crisis will bring them into senses. In reality the stage seems to be set for rather painful future. For a change this disaster can not be blamed on eastern illiteracy.

Of course the economists would like to have their share of cake. They scream that an average Italian is not as indebted as a French, Canadian or a Briton. Get the point? Yes, bring all and sundry into the net. May be that will solve the crisis. Suddenly you feel that Italians are sort of ascetics. And oh, if they borrow, then it is to pay the principal. Get that also. How nonchalant these guys can be about those people who borrow to pay for the principal?  Till some time ago an economist was a person who knew more about money than the people who had it. No more. Now they might be super rich themselves-who knows?

Then there is another interesting observation. Italy can not increase its production because of its aging population. Err.. what? Oh yes. But is that true about Italy only? We thought whole of Europe was gracefully aging. In this context we have only one request-please stop hating those Muslims who are migrating to Europe to take care of your old. If you so please.

The slow Italian growth, just 0.75 percent for many years might get weighted down by the debt growth. No wonder they had a bad time in bond auction. And this low growth rate is slated to be saddled there because Italy can not be competitive with healthy people like Germany-Italian gave them hefty salaries and ended up in this pit.

Then there is additional worry, Any austerity scares the markets. An economy with austerity as the main philosophy is not growth based-it is as simple as that. Apparently capitalism is not a one way street. There may be a back gear in economy too.

No growth also might lead to unemployment and it is not a consolation. And it is no surprise that Italy is on the center stage.

(3) Problems of Spain 
Spain has its own unsolvable economic conundrum. And as a consequence it  makes the European problem insoluble. European finance ministers want private funding for European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). The current target is not enough to handle both Italian and Spanish bailout. Its borrowing rate from financial markets was 6.3 percent-a leader before Italy topped them by achieving 6.3 percent.

And it confounds the pundits and wizards. They do not know where to put the blame for this crisis-even if it is a big economy that looks unbailable.