New financial meltdown under way
The potential for a second, more catastrophic breakdown of the global financial system is the reality behind emergency support for the banks announced by the chancellor George Osborne and the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King.
While attention was directed at the proposal to stimulate the economy with an £80 billion fund to lend on to borrowers – which few think will make any difference – the other half of the package is more critical.
A new credit crunch is well under way, driven by the slow-motion collapse of the eurozone. Banks in Britain, like all others, need short-term loans to maintain liquidity. But borrowing rates are rising because of the crisis of the euro. This is adding to banks’ reluctance to lend to business or would-be home owners.
So the Bank of England in a scheme exotically called the Extended Collateral Term Repo Facility will make it easier and cheaper for banks to borrow at least £5bn every month to cover any shortfalls in cash, according to Robert Peston, the BBC’s man who first broke the news of the collapse of Northern Rock in 2007.
In exchange, the Bank will accept a call on virtually any kind of assets banks can offer, rubbish or otherwise. That’s how desperate things are.
Governor King said that the Bank “will provide banks with whatever liquidity they require given the prospect of turbulence ahead." There’s plenty of that about already. Yesterday, the interest on Spain’s sovereign debt rose to 7%. This is regarded as a threshold point at which repayment becomes unsustainable and a bail-out is required. Spain has already been given €100 billion this week to hand on to its bankrupt banks. Now the state itself is facing bankruptcy.
The world’s central banks are also nervously eyeing the outcome of Sunday’s second Greek election in two months. At best, it will result in another hung parliament; at worst, for capitalism, the left-wing bloc Syriza will win and demand a renegotiation of the draconian conditions attached to existing bail-outs by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Either way, Greece’s membership of the euro is in jeopardy and its economy is seizing up altogether due to a lack of credit for the most basic commodities and services.
So stand by for an attempt at co-ordinated global action by increasingly anxious central banks before the markets reopen on Monday.
The options are rapidly closing, however. Providing cheap credit to banks won’t solve the problem of a contracting economy. Corporations and households alike are cutting back on spending at a time of a sharp decline in real earning power, part-time work and massive unemployment.
As King himself acknowledged in a graphic admission the “industrialised world have thrown everything bar the kitchen sink” at the global economic meltdown. Which makes his call for “bolder action” rather meaningless. Especially as China and India and other “emerging economies” are slowing rapidly, adding to what King called an “ugly picture” of the global economy.
In reality, global capitalism isn’t working and creating new credit facilities won’t make a jot of difference. The boom that collapsed in 2007 was driven by debt that ultimately undermined the financial system itself and precipitated a global recession.
Having thrown trillions of dollars, euros and pounds at the problem, nothing has changed. A “return to growth” remains a mirage. Once again, the global capitalist economy is at the precipice. An imminent lurch into outright depression is a distinct possibility.
The system of production for profit is the root problem, not the failure of currencies or banks. A more sustainable, co-operatively-based economic model is urgent. To achieve this, we want a democratic transformation of the political system to ensure we do not become the victims of a crisis not of our making.
15 June 2012