Saturday, 13 February 2010

How Much Is A Greek Urn?

The old Morecambe and Wise joke doesn't seem so funny anymore as one of the beneficiaries of the modern innovation of a single European currency is virtually bankrupt - Greece is on its knees and the Eurozone is having to bail it out.

It sounds chillingly familiar. I blogged on the subject of National Debt being the new sub-prime and Greece was not the first to succumb as arguably that was Dubai. In both cases to date, rich neighbours or alliances have had to bail the countries out, but in the case of Greece they are part of the Eurozone unpleasantly known as PIIGS or Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain where National Debt is about to send the countries into crisis. Greece, having gone effectively belly up first, is the beneficiary of a bailout but can the Eurozone and the Euro currency sustain a long, hard attack on it from all those countries? Can the rich, like Germany and France actually have deep enough pockets to help them all? Will it affect us in Britain?

As we sit here making pithy jokes at the expense of the Greek economy it's worth a thought that part of Greece's huge budget deficit problem was the cost of the Olympics and guess what is just around the corner for us. While we sit here doing nothing about our budget deficit in case the frail recovery falters, we share with Greece the nasty fact that both our deficits are over 12% of GDP. We are both in the current state through stupid spending, low savings and cheap money.

On a league table I saw of currency debt swaps, Britain's position in the league table is just behind Austria who, in turn, is just outside the PIIGS zone. In other words, speculators are beginning to rate our Sovereign Debt and our ability to pay as weakening and only marginally worse than those in the PIIGS zone.

While we sit here contemplating a General Election and the possibility of a hung Parliament leading to a further period of economic inertia and all the while no-one actually tackles the growing budget deficit, we are sending further alarming signals to the world markets that our National Debt is not only a huge problem getting bigger but that we really see paying it off as a low priority. That will not help us if a) we need to borrow more - even as we speak the cost of borrowing for Britain is far higher than say that of Germany whose economy Gordon Brown scoffed at for so long and b) if the frail recovery starts to falter as it has done last quarter in Germany.

Our current hope that growth will lead to our recovery alone has already been dented by Germany's latest figures of flat growth while France's advance of 0.6% last quarter was only slightly more encouraging. The fact of the matter is that Britain is not that far different to Greece and time is running out for us to address our problems.

In the week, we saw a cleverly timed documentary on Gordon Brown designed to show him in a more human light just two months before an Election and to dispel his imagine of a granite-faced, humourless old fart with about as much feeling as an ice cube. Yes, we saw that he has feelings - to be frank he has suffered tragedy and to have not been emotional would have been strange beyond belief. The program's aim was to present an alternative view to the PM than hustings or debate - this was a sugar-coated sell worthy of the masters of spin themselves, Blair and Campbell, stage-managed by the obsequious Piers Morgan.

I just wish he would take his eye off the Election and act. Britain is sinking fast - Dubai and Greece are the warning signs of a potential domino effect and we are in the line of dominoes waiting our turn.

Will someone not do something about it?

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