Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

The World is Descending into A Financial Abyss


The World is Descending into A Financial Abyss

The financial crisis that engulfed the banking and financial sectors of the developed countries in late 2008 and brought a widespread economic recession, dubbed the "Great Recession", is finally over for now, but other equally dangerous crises threaten the global economy and many national economies. The financial crisis, having its roots in the U.S. housing market, almost brought down some major economies in the developed world.

The financial crises of sorts, however, cropped up again in other parts of the developed world; with the sovereign debt crises in Greece and Ireland that required bailouts by the IMF and the financially strong European banks. Therefore, in the developed world, comprised of two main economic blocs of North America and the European Union, two distinct streams of financial crises have been visible.

In North America, the UK and parts of the European Union, the financial meltdown of 2008 wrought a catastrophic havoc. In the Eurozone, another financial crisis tied to the sovereign debt obligations of such countries as Greece and Portugal has been threatening the viability of Euro as the common currency of the European Union.

Highly credible sources have reported that Germany and France are back to printing their old currencies: Deutsche Mark and French Franc. This is a precautionary action and is in anticipation of the situation getting much worse and a possible collapse of Euro or the event of these countries choosing to exit the common currency.

The year 2010 was largely seen as the time when the stability and growth returned to the troubled financial markets of the U.S., the U.K. and the emerging economies of Asia. The large financial institutions in the U.S. including the commercial and investment banking corporations registered levels of profitability on par with the pre-crisis period. Goldman Sachs is back to business, and, at the same time, peddling its influence in the corridors of power in Washington. Its annual turnover rates exceed the GDP of many third world countries.

However, this may not be the end of financial troubles for the U.S. and the rest of the developed world as well as the Asian emerging economies. It is extremely likely that new waves of financial tsunami, of the same type that nearly devastated economies in late 2008, will hit again. The very same factors that caused the 2008 meltdown in the first place combined with a host of emerging factors threaten to unleash new rounds of carnage.

In the aftermath of the 2008 meltdown, the general mood in the developed world as well as the developing countries was one of strong criticism of the "too big to fail" banks in the U.S. from which the crisis emanated. Barack Obama and his administration were quick to propose reforms and amendments that sought to increase and strengthen regulatory mechanisms. Many of the same factors that caused the 2008 meltdown are still very much present in the financial sector of the developed world. We might very well be dealing with new waves of financial tsunamis battering economies and markets the world over.

In the U.S., the unbridled risk taking in the financial markets and the astronomical public debt figures in the U.S. are the prime factors that make the prospects of another financial crisis increasing. In addition to these factors, consumer debt as a result of unbridled use of credit cards over the past two decades, and also student loans are fast piling up.

Will the developed economies be able to take the burden of such huge debts without having their financial systems battered over the long-run? Lingering weaknesses in the U.S. housing market and the continued large-scale propping up of financial markets – many would call it outright rigging of markets rather than propping up - are other sets of factors waiting to spiral out of control and create new waves of financial cataclysm in the developed world. The contagion effects of any new crisis in those parts of the world would work to quickly spread the crisis to the developing economies. Afghanistan will not be totally immune.

In the developing world too there are formidable factors that threaten the stability of the financial markets. The revival of rapid economic growth, most particularly in the BRIC group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and increasing demand has already exerted pressures on the commodities markets, pushing up prices.

Oil has climbed to above $90 a barrel and food commodities are rising in price, leading many to argue that the commodities market will again register record rates of the early 2008. Moreover, the gradual revival of world economy has largely weakened the incentives that these countries had for cooperating with each other.

The cooperation among these developing countries has turned to conflict and friction giving rise to currency wars and competitive devaluation. These factors have the potential to weaken the economic growth across the developing countries and lead to instability in their financial markets.

A number of surplus countries such as China, Japan and Germany own large currency reserves owing to their massive exports earnings. They have spent these vast reserves of foreign currencies to buy stakes in the securities and bond markets of the developed world especially in the U.S. On the other hand, the deficit countries, mainly the U.S. and European economies, have been able to sustain their economies, their markets and living standards using the surplus from the first group of countries.

The surplus countries, chiefly China, would like the deficit countries to adopt more fiscal consolidation policies as the value of their reserves and investments depend on the fiscal health of deficit countries. The U.S. and Europe too want China to speed up revaluation of its currency and depend more on its own domestic market for greater consumption as "America is the consumer of last resort" only. All these haggling have proved to be a major point of contention in the world economy. It threatens the stability and health of the financial markets the world over and it, in turn, affects the world economy.

In sum, the stability in the financial markets in both the developed and the developing countries remains extremely fragile. It takes the continued concerted efforts of all countries through such forums as the G-20 to stave off future crises, which is, to be blunt, unlikely. In the developed world and particularly in the U.S., the regulatory responsibilities of the regulators continue to be the first line of defense against possible financial troubles. The Obama Administration had the right approach in reforming and strengthening the regulatory mechanisms. All in all, very difficult days are awaiting the global econ

The author is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlook afghanistan@gmail.com

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