Long-standing readers will remember that then-UK Finance Minister Alastair Darling was the first Western politician to recognise in August 2008 the disaster that was about to hit financial markets.
Now out of office, his warning today therefore deserves the widest possible discussion around the world:
“I despair of the way in which EU leaders are constantly behind events. I do not think enough people realise how serious this crisis is, and how hard it is going to hit us.
“This is far worse than the banking crisis of 2008 in its seriousness and, if it is not solved by Christmas, I think the whole of the euro will break up.
“I know of no one in private who thinks the solution proposed for Greece will work. Any solution that will leave Greece with debts of 120% of GDP in 2020 is simply not credible. Everyone knows there is going to have to be a larger cut than the 50% write-off”.He termed last week’s G20 Cannes summit last week a “disaster” and added that the EFSF (European Financial Stability Fund) “‘rescue fund’ does not exist.
“It has no money in it. So it provides no reassurance to the markets, and it avoids the key issue – which is to get the ECB to say it will do whatever it takes to protect the euro and become the lender of the last resort.
“I recognise that Germany has a historical problem because of its concern about hyper-inflation, but the problem now is not hyper-inflation, it is hyper-deflation.
“The ECB has been buying Italian bonds in the markets for months, and now they have to recognise they have to be the lenders of the last resort, and they must say they will do everything possible to protect the euro. Unless they do that, the markets will continue to have a go at any weak economy.”
Darling described bank recapitalisation as being “like a fire that starts under the floorboards – before you know where you are, the whole building is in flames and burnt down”.
“That is what is happening now. I do not think people realise how serious the situation is. In 2008 we were facing a banking crisis. Now we are facing an economic crisis, and if it gets worse it will turn into a banking crisis that will worsen the crisis.
“We are seeing government after government introducing austerity programmes to protect themselves from the markets, but if there is no growth there is no way that the austerity can be enough. That is why the G20 should have been focusing on how to achieve growth – but it did not, and we may now pay a very heavy price.”
Darling has no need to exaggerate for effect. And his track record is excellent. The blog therefore takes his warnings very seriously indeed.