Newsnight – economists discuss the ‘graphs of 2011′

This week I appeared on Newsnight with Gillian Tett of the FT and Louise Cooper of BGC Partners. We discussed our graphs of 2011 (see mine below) and wider questions around the global financial crisis this year – and how ecnomists and policy makers need to respond.

Watch the show on iPlayer for the next 5 days here. Our discussion begins at 33 mins.

It's not the public, but the private finance sector, stupid.

Image: acknowledgements to the BBC.

The Autumn Statement reveals but one thing: the Chancellor and his advisers are both ill-advised and dangerously ill-prepared for the forthcoming prolonged Depression. (And if you think I exaggerate, let me remind you that 20 years after the Japanese debt bubble burst, Tokyo house prices are still falling, and the stock market is worth 60% less than 20 years ago. And the Japanese economy was in a healthier state then, than the UK is today, thanks to an export surplus.)

Today’s penalising of the innocent – public sector workers, pensioners and those hundreds of thousands of young people entering the labour market  - is a result of a deeply flawed economic analysis by the Chancellor of the causes of the global financial crisis.

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My verdict on Ed Balls’ conference speech – apologies are not enough

Published in the Guardian Cif alongside responses from Jonathon Freedland and Sheila Lawlor:

Ed Balls said sorry for Labour’s record on ultra-light-touch financial regulation, and that must be acknowledged.

But apologies are just not enough. He and Ed Miliband must stop attacking his electoral base, “hardworking families”, many of whom are trades unionists.

As Balls recognises, unless urgent action is taken, this may be the gravest economic crisis in history – given the global integration of finance and the growth of world population.

So Balls must go further.

First, he must declare loudly and forcefully that Labour will never again be captive to neoliberal central bankers like Alan Greenspan; or private bankers like Sir Fred Goodwin of RSB.

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Capital flows, financial crises & implications for poor countries


Last month I was invited to join the ‘Labour Party Policy Review: Making growth work for the poor and generating resources for development’. The overall group was led by Harriet Harman, and the development section was chaired by Rushnara Ali MP.

Below is my short background note on mobility of capital flows, financial crises & implications for poor countries:

Capital Mobility: what others are saying

“Experience shows that when policies falter in managing capital flows, there is no limit to the damage that international finance can inflict on an economy.”

Yilmaz Akyüz, “Capital Flows to Developing Countries in a Historical Perspective: Will the current Boom End with a Bust?”  South Centre:Research Paper 37, March 2011

“..capital flows, it’s like with fire. Fire can be used to turn raw meat into a wonderful steak. But it can also burn your house down.”

Jagdish Bagwhati, Professor of Economics, Columbia University, on Big Think, 17 November, 2007.


“Looking back on the crisis, the US, like some emerging-market nations during the 1990s, has learned that the interaction of strong capital inflows and weaknesses in the domestic financial system can produce unintended and devastating results. The appropriate response is…to improve private sector financial practices and strengthen financial regulation, including macroprudential oversight.”

Ben Bernanke, governor of the US’s Federal Reserve in speech to Banque de France February, 2011.

“So we have to make some choices. Let me be clear about mine: democracy and national determination should trump hyper-globalization. Democracies have the right to protect their social arrangements, and when this right clashes with the requirements of the global economy, it is the latter that should give way.” (Author’s emphasis)

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Austerity: OECD economists show clear signs of ‘cold feet’ for austerity

(Photo: REUTERS / Yiorgos Karahalis )
A Greek riot policeman stands in front of graffiti written on the wall of a bank during violent demonstrations over austerity measures in Athens, May 5, 2010. Greece faced a day of violent protests and a nationwide strike by civil servants outraged by the announcement of draconian austeristy measures.

Dear readers….Recovering from ‘flu and a trip down to Hay on Wye…Thought you might be interested in this piece I have written for Prime.

“We should note recent developments in political economy, that – while understated – are, we hope, of significance. Last week, the OECD published their latest World Economic Outlook, which features chapters on each developed economy as well as an assessment of the world economy as a whole.

The report is schizophrenic. It clumsily offers an outlook of excessive optimism; makes a selective assessment of ‘risks’; but continues adherence to an economic policy doctrine that is clearly making OECD economists very uncomfortable.

While the OECD report contains the expected justifications and support for the ‘austerity’ approach, nevertheless the organisation’s ‘cold feet’ are becoming apparent, even before the full extent of austerity programmes has begun to impact. There is no better example of this unease than their approach to the UK.

The report commends UK policymakers for their “current fiscal consolidation (which) strikes the right balance and should continue.”  At the same time, OECD economists hedge their bets by urging the UK government to embark on “higher infrastructure spending (that) would lower the short-term negative growth effects of consolidation without affecting its pace.”   At a press conference last week, the OECD chief economist warned that the UK should be prepared to cool austerity in the wake of weaker growth.

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Bankers must be made to serve the economy.....

21 February, 2010

Once again apologies for a longish absence. This is down in part, to smashing (literally) building works, to a little grandchild-minding, and to other writing commitments. But have been itching to comment on a) Greece and the EU b) Iceland (it seems the UK is easing up on the pressure); c) the progress of the global recession; and d) China-US relations…..so posts on a, b, c and d are on their way….promise.

In the meantime this is the text of a letter I signed and helped draft, published in today’s Observer, and yesterday (20 Feb 2010) in the Times. It is a response to the letter written to the Sunday Times last week by 20 conservative economists, including Ken Rogoff of Harvard, Lord Megnad Desai, previously a Labour peer, and Bridget Rosewell, who was Mayor Ken Livingstone’s economic adviser.

Our letter has a number of distinguished economists as signatories, as well as my pals in the Green New Deal group – all of whom I am proud to be associated with.    See below.

Sir,

We urge the UK government not to heed the siren song of the 20 economists who, having failed to predict the crisis, now seek to advise on its resolution. The world economy is in the deepest recession since the Great Depression. In the UK, output has collapsed by £70bn on an annual basis. Under such conditions, common sense tells us that the government must compensate for the collapse in private investment and address the high level of unemployment.

The only way to restore the public finances to health is to restore the economy to health.

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Why I want to be a Labour candidate

17th January, 2009.

This was posted on the Compass site on the 16th January.

I am shortlisted for the North West Durham Parliamentary Selection. A less likely candidate you would be hard pressed to find. I am not a local big wig and did not grow up in the constituency. I don’t have the backing of big hitters – either in the party, or in the unions. Nor am I a youthful 25-year-old, ambitious for power. No, I am far more ambitious than that.

I want the people (especially the young people) of North West Durham to have a sound and stable future. I want Britain to learn from the catastrophic debacle of the financial crisis, and ensure it never happens again. The hopes, aspirations, health, jobs, businesses and climate of Britain must not be sacrificed to pay for economic failure engineered by a small elite in the City of London.

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Osborne's puppet-masters: Société Générale.

15th January, 2009.

Patient readers this blog is triggered by Jeff Randall’s column in the Daily Telegraph today.

In it he inadvertently discloses the identity of the puppet-masters dictating the Tory political agenda around public spending cuts.

In a somewhat histrionic column in which he describes the public deficit as a ‘disaster’ ( he should mind his language: Haiti’s earthquake is a disaster) Randall quotes a piece of ‘research’ by the French bank, Société Générale.  The paper is titled “Popular Delusions” and its authors explain some simple facts about government spending cuts to Telegraph readers:

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Green New Deal - 'The Cuts won't work' report is published.

7th December, 2009

This is the press release from the new economics foundation:

“Two days ahead of the pre-budget report, and as the UN climate change talks open in Copenhagen – the second report from the authors of the original Green New Deal argues that the British Chancellor is likely to miss a historic opportunity to tackle public debt, create thousands of new green jobs and kick-start the transformation to a low-carbon economy.

The cuts won’t work, the Green New Deal Group’s second report shows how, contrary to the policy of all the major political parties, cutting public spending now will tip the nation into a deeper recession by increasing unemployment, reducing the tax received and limiting government funding available to kick-start the Green New Deal.

Instead a bold new programme of ‘green quantitative easing,’ rather than simply propping up failing banks, could help reduce the public debt and kick-start the transformation of the UK’s energy supply while creating thousands of new green-collar jobs.

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Debts and deficits: stocks and flows

6th December, 2009.

Most economists (who should know better) confuse the government’s budget deficit with total government debt.

The distinction really is important.

Mixing them up is a little like confusing stocks and flows.  Or confusing your outstanding mortgage – say £200,000 – with your monthly debt repayments. They are quite different things, and if you were to lose your job, the flows (paid with your salary) come to a halt, and then it’s the stock – the £200,000 – that really matters.

Furthermore it is quite possible to increase your mortgage – and lower your monthly payments.  Many did this in the boom years of mortgage re-financing. Or even to decrease your mortgage and increase your monthly payments.

So, just as the movements in regular mortgage payments tell us little about the outstanding stock of debt, so government deficits tell us little about the stock of debt invested and the stock of debt outstanding.

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