It was not today but, yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, this accountant is not here to stay, I hope we fear for yesterday!
It seems appropriate to use the words of the Beatles here. Even though many at times wonder whether London had remained British (it’s a foreign bankers thing), we all agree Liverpool is as British as it gets.
So, what brought this about? Well, it was another part in the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/apr/15/imf-forecast-uk-george-osborne-deficit-reduction-growth-fuel-tax). You see, I had an issue with all this right from the start. Perhaps you all remember how in April 2013, the IMF told Osborne to slow austerity and spend more, because that was good for the economy. George Osborne stood firm, ignored the IMF and he was right. Lowering debts as much as possible, tightening the belt was a solution. It was not a popular one, but behold, the UK economy went slightly better. So when we read ‘IMF forecast blows hole in George Osborne’s deficit reduction plan‘, I am faced with all kinds of doubts in the direction of the IMF. the subtitle gives us ‘Gloomy view on UK economy says government spending on welfare may need to be higher than Treasury plans, while lower tax receipts will undermine growth‘, two parts, the first part would be nice, because those on welfare are truly in a bad place. Yet, the UK treasury is less then empty, it is at minus 1.7 trillion and the dangers of Greece is adding fuel to that danger. Lower tax receipts do not undermine growth in my view, it starts spending to some extent and hopefully investments in business and staff to a better extent. Whether that is true remains to be seen, but raising tax receipts is definitely not going to work.
“The Washington-based organisation said the current prediction of a £7bn surplus in the last year of the next parliament would instead be a £7bn deficit” is an interesting quote! What was it based upon? You see, they imply an error of 14 billion, which is 1/3rd of the entire Defence spending. More apt, 14 billion is the budget of ‘protection’ for 2016, which covers: Police services, Fire-protection services, Law courts, Prisons, R&D Public order and safety, Public order and safety n.e.c., so how exactly can we see this 14 billion blowout? The quote “the IMF warned that its officials took a gloomier view of the UK’s growth prospects over the next five years” should be read carefully. Just like the initial mismanaged prediction the IMF made in 2013, what are they not telling us? Yes, we might ‘accept’ the harsh words from Christine Lagarde as given in another place where we read “The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, said delaying the payments would be an unprecedented action that would only make the situation worse“, in regards to the 1 billion Euro bill that Greece has to pay in the very very near future. Yet, Mario Draghi stated only a day earlier in regards to a Greek default “I don’t even want to contemplate that. And based on the Greek government leaders’ statements this option is not contemplated by themselves as well. So I’m not ready to discuss any possible situation like that“. So is Mario Draghi at this point utterly reckless or incompetent? There is clear indication that Greece cannot pay. Bonds for Greece are now set at well over 22%, which is almost unheard off, it also means that repackaging old debts could cost many billions extra. In addition we see the speculation from some economists “If Greece was unable to pay the IMF and is forced to default on payments to public sector staff, pensioners and welfare recipients, economists have speculated it may be forced to introduce capital controls to prevent a flight of funds out of the country“, so what do you mean prevent? Do you remember the Article by Kostas Vaxevanis? It was in 2012, where the journalist (not them tax evaders) was arrested for publishing that list of almost 2100 rich Greeks with well over 2 billion Euro in Swiss Bank accounts. This is less about money leaving and more about those who already filled their pockets (all Greeks) living somewhere else in luxury for a decade or two whilst Greece burns down.
So back to the British budget, yes when Greece defaults (which is a reality we could actually face) it will also hit the British budget. Consider the punch that Grexit will have on Italy and France, export to those two nations will lower considerably, their budgets will hit hard and anyone who financially supported Greece will now face the reality of losing out of that 300 billion means that the money comes from those underwriting those loans. Who and for how much I cannot tell at present, but it will be a distinguished list. So in all this, is the response from Mario Draghi reckless or incompetent? I let you decide!
The next part of the issue with the article is one that is an issue for me as well. The quote “Earlier this week the IMF warned that the UK’s stellar growth was due to slow from 2.7% this year to 2.3% in 2016. A judgment on the likelihood of a messy outcome to the election was behind that forecast, which it said would have knock-on effects for several years to come“. There is truth in it! You see, it should not matter too much, but the one party that could change it is UKIP. I guarantee you that if Greece gets any leniency whilst they have not done one thing to remain credible, there will be a push towards UKIP in a way we have never seen before. The people are angry! They have been cut to below a minimum and at the same time, the Greeks get to toss around 300 billion, unaccountable in any way. Timing is an issue here and I believe it had another part to play. If UKIP gets the infusion because others are going soft on Greece in the 25th hour, it will also push the power Marine Le Penn (France) needed. At that moment the push for National Front could result in a landslide victory, which means that the two largest players will walk away from the Euro, this pushes Germany as well, because it must protect itself. The fallout will be legendary.
First I must warn you that the last part is a personal view, so you should look at where you live and whether my vision has any reality, but if so, consider what would happen and how much it hurts your future!
But back to Britain we go! Those elements have an impact and that is why they had to be mentioned, but the reasoning of the IMF projecting it all 14 billion lower is still and issue. They were wrong before, but are they wrong now? Are they factoring in Greece? The IMF looks further, but now includes greenhouse gas emissions. It is stating a needed change (to some extent) to counter lower taxation due to collapsed oil prices into raised taxation based on energy usage. I am not sure if there is a case here, if the lower oil prices gets people moving, preferably into jobs, that that would also spike the Tax coffers as welfare goes down and taxable income increases. Pushing people into high energy bills is not a solution, especially if that stops a workforce from becoming mobile. So, I have issues with this article on several sides.
Beyond the budget, the first duty will be to lower to total debt. It will be a hard road and it will mean ongoing austerity, but if now, consider how Greece could be a factor in toppling the governments of France and Italy as their debt is maxed out, we must walk away from the walk softly approach, we must battle the debts if we want to come out on top, which relates again to the IMF and some of their statements, who are they representing stronger with their ‘status quo’ message? Japan? US? Or their own chance to survive?
The question there is too complex for me to see a solution in, but there is clarity that the first duty of the Commonwealth will be to get our budgets right and to get rid of the debts we have. Germany already showed the evidence a few years ago, now the Commonwealth must follow!