Financial Turbulence: New Downturn in the Global Economy
By Nick Beams
October 27, 2012
There are increasing signs that the global economy is about to enter a new period of financial turbulence, coupled with deepening recession in a growing number of countries.
In the immediate aftermath of the global economic breakdown that began in 2008, set off by the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers, governments around the world took on increased debt as they made available trillions of dollars to prevent a complete collapse of the financial system. Meetings of the Group of 20 were dominated by pledges there would be no return to the conditions of the 1930s and assurances that the lessons of history had been learned.
The writings of John Maynard Keynes, the British economist of the 1930s who advocated increased government spending to counter depressions, were suddenly back in vogue. But a sharp turn came in June 2010, when a meeting of the G20 initiated a turn to austerity, emphasising the necessity to impose “fiscal consolidation.” The essence of this program was to claw back the money given to the banks through massive cutbacks to government spending, especially on social services.
However, this program brought a contraction in economic growth leading to decreased profit opportunities for major corporations. Faced with this situation, the US Federal Reserve initiated a policy of “quantitative easing”—the provision of unlimited supplies of money to banks and financial institutions. Central banks around the world cut interest rates to record lows and followed that up with their own versions of quantitative easing (QE). Under conditions of a stagnant real economy, these measures were aimed at boosting the value of financial assets, thereby providing a new avenue for finance houses to realise speculative profits.