Signs of Recovery
The world is near the bottom of a global recession that is causing widespread business contraction, increases in unemployment, and shrinking government revenues. Although recent data indicate the large industrialized economies may have reached bottom and are beginning to recover, for the most part, unemployment is still rising. Numerous small banks and households still face huge problems in restoring their balance sheets, and unemployment has combined with sub-prime loans to keep home foreclosures at a high rate. Nearly all industrialized countries and many emerging and developing nations have announced economic stimulus and/or financial sector rescue packages. Several countries have resorted to borrowing from the International Monetary Fund as a last resort.
The Weakness of Financial Systems Worldwide
The crisis has exposed fundamental weaknesses in financial systems worldwide, demonstrated how interconnected and interdependent economies are today, and has posed vexing policy dilemmas. The process for coping with the crisis by countries across the globe has been manifest in three basic phases.
The first has been intervention to contain the contagion and restore confidence in the system. This has required extraordinary measures both in scope, cost, and extent o government reach.
The second has been coping with the secondary effects of the crisis, particularly the global recession and flight of capital from countries in emerging markets and elsewhere that have been affected by the crisis.
The third phase of this process is to make changes in the financial system to reduce risk and prevent future crises. In order to give these proposals political backing, world leaders have called for international meetings to address changes in policy, regulations, oversight, and enforcement.
U S Crisis Trickles Down to all Nations
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the aggressive measures that governments have taken to counter the financial crisis have not only helped to prevent a more severe downturn but are now setting the stage for a recovery, albeit a weak one. However, the world economy could weaken again once the stimulus wears off, mainly because government debt has increased dramatically in many countries—eliciting rising concerns about the solvency of the state. This has made current levels of stimulus through government spending not quiet sustainable.
The global financial crisis has brought home an important point: the United States is still a major center of the financial world. Regional financial crises (such as the Asian financial crisis, Japan’s banking crisis, or the Latin American debt crisis) can occur without seriously infecting the rest of the global financial system. But when the U.S. financial system stumbles, it may bring major parts of the rest of the world down with it.6 The reason is that the United States is the main guarantor of the international financial system, the provider of dollars widely used as currency reserves and as an international medium of exchange, and a contributor to much of the financial capital that sloshes around the world seeking higher yields. The rest of the world may not appreciate it, but a financial crisis in the United States often takes on a global hue.