Austerity measures imposed on already depressed economies have not been very helpful. Anyone with pedestrian knowledge of economics would have predicted that austerity measures imposed during a recessionary period would do more harm than good.
The IMF, which has been party to policy absurdities in the eurozone, now armed with the benefit of hindsight, admits to the damage that their nonsensical austerity measures have caused, more especially to the Greek economy. Former IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn when interviewed by Richard Quest on CNN also admitted to the unimaginative approach by the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank and its failures. Forcing Greece to cut government spending when the economy was in recession was not only stupid but dangerous. Unemployment in Greece has since skyrocketed from a low of 8.5% in 2008 to an eye-popping 26.9% in 2013. Consumer spending, which is a critical component in the engine of economic growth, failed to grow due to lack of stimulus.
The one-size-fits-all policy approach to the eurozone under the dictatorship of Angela Merkel will not assist with economic recovery and will continue to negatively impact on the global economy. A policy shift is necessary to respond to the global economic realities. The global economic outlook has been slashed. Major economies have recorded declining growth rates. Emerging economies, which have been driving global economic recovery, are also under severe strain while still posting positive growth rates.
Japan has struggled for many years to fondle its economy back to decent growth. Its economy has been plagued by protracted periods of deflation, which are exacerbated by lower than desired consumer spending. The stimulus package of about $600 billion has had minimal inflationary effect to reach the target of 2% by 2015. Instead the Bank of Japan has cut the inflationary outlook, in spite of pumping liquidity into the market. The significant increase in government spending does not seem have the desired effect on the $5 trillion economy.
China, which has grown at mouth-watering rate for a consistent period, is also experiencing a slowdown. Some instructive lessons could be drawn from how Beijing has managed its economy over a period of three decades and how it continues to respond to changing circumstances with appropriate policy. The manner in which China manages its economy has offended some like the US, which accused Beijing of manipulating the exchange rate. The Chinese economy had been export-led for a number of years and low exchange rates served a meaningful purpose. There has been a policy shift in that there is an attempt to focus on consumption-led growth going forward. Low exchange rates, which the US has been whining about for a number of years, are of no significant consequence in the long-run. Consumer spending in China is about 40% of total GDP, compared to 70% in the US.
Policy-makers ordinarily see consumption as an opportunity for long-term growth and have responded accordingly with a stimulus package of about $600 billion. The results of policy intervention in China are evidenced by rising demand in luxury goods. Consumer spending on luxury products has been on steroids. The obvious question raised is the sustainability of these policy measures and potential bubbles created in the system, which may return later to cause heartache. But one thing remains, China appears to be demonstrating practical approaches to its own economic situation.
There are numerous global economic forums, like the G20, the World Economic Forum and so on, where global leaders converge on a regular basis to discuss problems confronting the world and how best to respond to them. These forums have become nothing more than talk-shops that do not generate any meaningful outcomes. There seems to be a greater need by world leaders to be seen to be doing something about global problems when in practical terms only narrow national interests take priority. The amount of hot-air emitted during these global forums could be the biggest contributor to global warming. The people are not doing enough to hold their leaders accountable and keep them honest.
Until the people begin to forcefully demand that leaders commit themselves to promotion of common welfare, they will keep getting the leaders they deserve. When leadership fails, it becomes the responsibility of the people to transform society and their conditions into what they should be. The act of transformation in the vacuum of leadership should begin with the overthrow of purposeless government, in the knowledge that revolutions are merely a means to an end but not an end itself. A successful revolution must equally transform the general thinking of society and strengthen their resolve in the pursuit of what is just and equitable. According to Che Guevara: “The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it drop.” This persistent deterioration in the general welfare of society should be enough to agitate people to rebel against their thieving governments and punish crooked politicians. The people must rise!