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Global meltdown closer as risks pile up

Action taken by governments of the rich capitalist countries to reduce their deficits has produced a dangerous accumulation of risks for the world economy, warns the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

A fully-fledged recession will hit key advanced economies in 2012, even dashing hopes for what is bizarrely termed “expansionary contraction”. UNCTAD warns: “In today’s highly integrated global economy, the contractionary contagion will affect all countries and … emerging and developing economies need to prepare contingency plans.”

Other end-of-year reports on the prospects for capitalism in 2012 do not make happy reading for the world of government and politics, let alone those operating the crisis-ridden financial system.

According to the European Central Bank’s latest financial stability review, the probability of two large eurozone banks defaulting simultaneously “has been sharper and larger than in the past, pushing this measure of systemic risk to heights not observed since its inception in 2007”.

Having warned on Monday that the eurozone debt crisis could spread to engulf further member states, “creating risks to financial stability that could reverberate around the world”, the ECB has announced emergency, unlimited three-year loans to the major commercial banks. The ECB hopes this will tide them over the holiday period and avert the catastrophic collapse they face in the New Year.

But where will the money come from? The UK government has failed to stump up its hoped-for contribution to the latest £200 billion eurozone bail-out fund which is already £50 billion short.

This was despite it being brokered via the International Monetary Fund to make it appear that Britain wasn’t contributing directly to Europe. And this adds to the problems of the biggest US money market funds having cut their lending to European banks to a further record low.

Meanwhile, ratings agency Moody has warned that Cameron’s prized triple-A rating for Britain is under threat from slowing growth, a worsening crisis in Europe, or any hesitation in the Coalition’s assault on living standards.

New York economics professor Nouriel Roubini has for years been a front-runner in facing-up to the reality of the crisis. His forecast is for “a perfect storm of a double-dip recession in the US, a disorderly scenario in the eurozone and a hard landing in China” should policymakers continue to avoid “the tough decisions that are required to address their fundamental economic, financial and fiscal problems.”

The trouble is, policymakers aren’t in control of the global meltdown. As a nameless European Commission official quoted in the Financial Times has it: “You kind of always hope that someone, somewhere has a solution. And then one day it sort of dawns on you that no one here does.”

Every action that the governments or central banks take falls short of what would be needed because the social and political consequences are so profound. On the one hand they’re trying to create conditions for a return to growth. On the other hand, they’re obliged to follow the logic of capitalist “creative destruction”. They have to eliminate surplus productive capacity left over from the decades of credit-financed boom – at whatever cost to the billions of ordinary people whose lives are being smashed.

If humanity is to have any kind of decent future, the worldwide protests against the financial system and the effects of austerity must merge with the Arab uprisings and form a global movement of revolutionary people’s assemblies. The aim for 2012 has to be the replacement of the destructive capitalist system of exploitation with a not-for-profit, democratically-controlled system of sustainable production for need.

Gerry Gold
Economics editor
21 December 2011

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