Banks in 'collateral crunch' as debts mount
Thousands of high school students took to the streets outside parliament in Nicosia yesterday. They were protesting against the harsh consequences the people of Cyprus can expect from the deal imposed by the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
This conspiracy of non-elected bodies is the technical arm of a near-dictatorship ruling throughout Europe. It is fighting belligerently to save a social, economic and political system that is wrecking the fabric of societies. The resources that are being consumed, let alone the lives ruined, surely don’t justify the results. As for the people of Cyprus, they simply get no say as the deal is not going to parliament, just in case it’s rejected.
The banking crisis in Cyprus is just one of the storms in the vast clouds of credit and debt invented to finance the global growth of production and consumption from the 1980s onwards. This one was triggered months ago when Greece was forced to write down the value of its government bonds as part of the bail-out punishment for its people. At the end of 2011, the Bank of Cyprus had $14 billion tied up in Greek debt, while Laiki Bank had more than $24 billion.
The botched and brutal temporary patch designed to prevent a formal default by the smallest member of the eurozone will reverberate throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The imposition of capital controls to stop instant transfer of funds out of the country undermines the fragile state of both the eurozone and the wider European Union.
UK civil servants won’t have been the only ones working through the night to minimise the impact on ex-pat Cypriot bank branches, like those in Mayfair and Birmingham. President Putin’s people will have been hard at it too, searching for ways to extricate the remains of the vast amounts of Russian wealth that found its way into Europe via Cyprus in recent years.
Cyprus, already in a deep recession, now facing an estimated further 20-30% cut in its GDP as a result of the deal, will be devastated. Thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs will disappear overnight. The story is being replicated throughout Europe.
Portugal, where unemployment is heading towards 20%, is entering a third year of contraction amplified by austerity; and Spain’s jobless rate will pass 27% according to its central bank as the Europe-wide contraction drives the country into a deeper slump. France, the second biggest eurozone economy, has seen 22 months of rising unemployment, now exceeding 10% and certain to rise further as car factories are shut down due to overcapacity.
The global recession is spreading like a virus across the United States too. Cities wrecked by the crisis, including Detroit in Michigan, San Bernardino and Stockton in California are seeking bankruptcy protection to exempt their pension funds from being raided to pay debts.
In the UK, observers are warning that the decision by the Bank of England today to require banks to raise another £25 billion of capital, could lead to a “collateral crunch” that could shut down the market for credit. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s just Cypriot banks that are over-stretched. UK banks have piles of debt that no one is paying interest on, which is why the Bank of England has stepped in.
Wherever you look, which ever way you turn, the conclusion must be the same. Capitalism as an economic and political system is in extermination mode. In this situation, private and public sector employees and pensioners need to unite with finance sector workers throughout the world with one goal in mind. All the resources needed for production, distribution and exchange must come under social ownership and control. So long as they remain out of reach, the worse our prospects become.
27 March 2013