Mass default looms as world sinks beneath a sea of debt

As if the fast degenerating geo-political situation isn’t bad enough, here’s another lorry load of concerns to add to the pile.

The UK and US economies may be on the mend at last, but that’s not the pattern elsewhere. On a global level, growth is being steadily drowned under a rising tide of debt, threatening renewed financial crisis, a continued squeeze to living standards, and eventual mass default.

I exaggerate only a little in depicting this apocalyptic view of the future as the conclusion of the latest “Geneva Report”, an annual assessment informed by a top drawer conference of leading decision makers and economic thinkers of the big challenges facing the global economy.

Aptly titled “Deleveraging? What Deleveraging?”, the report points out that, far from paying down debt since the financial crisis of 2008/9, the world economy as a whole has in fact geared up even further. The raw numbers make explosive reading.

Contrary to widely held assumptions, the world has not yet begun to de-lever. In fact global debt-to-GDP – public and private non financial debt – is still growing, breaking new highs by the month.

There was a brief pause at the height of the crisis, but then the rise in the global debt-GDP ratio resumed, reaching nearly 220c of global GDP over the past year. Much of the more recent growth in this headline figure has been driven by China, which in response to the crisis, unleashed a massive expansion in credit.

However, even developed market economies have struggled to make progress, with rising public debt cancelling out any headway being made in reducing household and corporate indebtedness..

Reduced mortgage finance during the banking crisis temporarily succeeded in capping and partially reversing the growth in UK household debt. Yet with a reviving housing market, these reductions may have come to an end, with the Office for Budget Responsibility expecting household debt to income ratios to start climbing again shortly.

In the meantime, the government has been piling on borrowings like topsy, not withstanding attempts by the Chancellor, George Osborne, to bring the deficit under control. Total national non financial indebtedness has therefore barely budged since the start of the crisis.

Full artilce: Mass default looms as world sinks beneath a sea of debt (The Telegraph)

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