Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Financial Armegeddon awaits Europe (and the rest too)

The latest BMW ad says it all "0.9% APR for 60 months, BMW will make the first two payments". 6 months back BMW salesmen would have snickered at any customer asking for those terms and politely pointed the customer to some Hyundai showroom. After that they would have giggled over how America is in the throes of a crisis all due to "greed", reminisced about the most notorious movie quote "Greed is good" (Michael Douglas playing Gordon Gekko) and patted themselves on how conservative Europe was riding it out.

So far US has grabbed the headlines on the financial crisis. However emerging information portrays that Europe, paryicularly the Euro zone, is in far serious trouble. European banks were of course restrained in lending to individual unlike US banks. Unlike US banks they lent freely to companies. BusinessWeek (BW) wryly summed it up "how about subprime companies? European corporations are deeply in hock, with $801 billion in corporate debt maturing this year—nearly one-third more than in the U.S "

The real icing, as per BW, is this, "The Continent's banks may not have written subprime mortgages, but it turns out they financed something worse: subprime countries. The former communist East is sinking into recession as Western banks choke off the easy credit that fueled Asian-style growth. Now, some pundits say, the former Soviet bloc countries are headed for a crisis on the scale of Asia's in 1997 and 1998."

Apparently greed is not an exclusive American vice.

The implications are sending shock waves through the continent. There are fear that the Euro zone itself might breakdown. Note that already there is lot of resentment by smaller countries against France and Germany, which act very arrogantly. Again, unilateralism, self-deluded grandstanding are all not exclusive to US as pompous Europeans want us to believe. "Before the introduction of the euro a decade ago, a country such as Spain could have let its currency fall to make its cars, wine, olive oil, and other goods more attractive to foreigners. That's not an option anymore. Instead, as Europe's highfliers are laid low, companies must cut wages to regain competitiveness. "People aren't aware that monetary union requires new ways to adjust to a recession," says Fernando Ballabriga, an economics professor at the ESADE business school in Barcelona"

A more severe implication is for the eastern bloc of post-Soviet countries which might become more susceptible to Kremlin's muscle flexing. Putin would freely use the crisis to further push Russia back to the old ways, snuffing out whatever little democracy there might be.

Already Hillary Clinton declared that in dealing with China, US desires more co-operation to fight the economic crises and that human rights is secondary. If Condoleeza Rice had said it the left would be crying "murder most foul". Its now the beloved Obama administration that says so.

Already the crises is taking its toll on charitable donations, human rights is now by the way side, nations are becoming bankrupt, one wonders:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
----- The second coming ,W.B. Yeats

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