This Credit Crunch started when the Us authorities and the UK authorities decided to call time on the respective bubbles they had helped create in their economies. We know the UK thought it was necessary to teach those who had borrowed too much and those who had lent too much a lesson, for both the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank told us so in speeches in the autumn of 2007.
Now they are discovering they cannot just teach the imprudent some financial arithmetic. The low interest rates they have set are clobbering the savers. Many running good businesses are struggling for custom and cash as the credit and the orders dry up. Worse than that, the most imprudent banks are the ones that are walking off with the cash, as the government frantically pumps new share capital into them instead of making them address their underlying business problems .We all know that if we work hard and save for the future, it will be us who pay the higher taxes and pick up all the huge bills they are now running up. Policy seems to be based around the proposition that there is no limit to how much taxpayers should borrow collectively, to remedy a problem brought on by some taxpayers and some taxpaying banks and companies borrowing too much individually! Nor is there any apparent limit to how much taxpayers are made to put into weak banks, who carry on paying large salaries and bonuses.
To some extent it is the same pattern globally with the different countries. Japan, Germany and China worked hard, saved a lot and exported good well priced products to many parts of the world. Where we imported they exported. Where we borrowed, they saved. Where we failed to provide for the future, they put lots by for a rainy day.
Now we see a much faster rate of job loss in China as her exporting industries hit the brick wall of low demand. We heard this week of a 10% cut in industrial production in Japan – and similar bad news for workers in good Japanese car plants in the UK. German industry is being hit hard, owing to its reliance on the particularly troubled auto sector.
Some will say it is only fair that all are suffering. Some may even enjoy in that peculiarly British way to see success brought down. It is certainly true that it takes two sides to create such a massive imbalance – there was a huge and ultimately unfinanceable gap between how much the successful exporters saved and how much the unsuccessful importers borrowed.It is a gap which has to be adjusted on both sides. Part of the adjustment will follow from the large currency price changes we have seen for the yen and to a lesser extent the Euro. The USA seems to want a further appreciation of the Chinese currency. This at one and the same time devalues all China’s holdings in dollar bonds, and makes it more difficult for them to carry on exporting to the USA. It means fewer jobs in China.
On current policies we will not avoid having to take some of the hit ourselves as part of a borrower nation. There is a price to pay for past excess and past regulatory errors. It is about to come through in the form of much higher import prices, cutting how much we can afford. It will be a tragedy if British industry and service businesses are unable to find the cash and talent they need to fill the gap. We need a quick response from business at a time when it is much weakened, so we can make for ourselves which we have in he past borrowed to buy from abroad.