Friday, March 27, 2020

Will Coronavirus Transform The Global Economic System?

COVID-19: How A Coronavirus Broke The System

The corona-crisis sends shockwaves through political, economic and social systems. The status quo simply cannot continue...

No one knows how long the pandemic will last, how many people will fall ill, how many lives the coronavirus will claim. But the economic and political consequences of the outbreak are already emerging. Measures to contain the pandemic are disrupting public life around the world.

Starting with China, production has come to a standstill in one country after another. Global supply chains are broken. You don’t need a lot of imagination to see a wave of bankruptcies approaching in many industries where every last cent counts.
In the past few days, panic buying has dominated media coverage. However, anxious consumers tend to postpone larger purchases. When shortages appear, consumption also drops. These upheavals are likely to cause the already sluggish European economies to slide into recession.
However, oil price wars, fears of recession and calamities on the bond markets are causing the stock markets to crash. Only a far-reaching intervention by all major central banks has so far staved off a financial crunch.

The Economic Response

Some countries, Germany in particular, have quickly launched extensive packages of measures to cushion the impending economic crisis. After some initial wavering, the United States is also planning a comprehensive economic stimulus, including the unprecedented dispersal of helicopter money. Whether these and other potential immediate measures are sufficient to stop the economic downturn depends on how deeply the crisis eats through the system. After past epidemics, a brief, sharp slump, the economy was usually followed by a quick return to growth. Whether this will also be the case with the corona crisis depends on many factors, not least how long the pandemic lasts.
However, of greater concern are the shock waves that are now running through the ailing financial systems, where they are accelerating worrying longer-term trends. Many American industries and households are over-indebted. In China, shadow banks, real-estate enterprises and state-owned companies, along with the provinces, are all straining under the debt burden. 

The European banks have not yet recovered from the previous financial crisis. The economic collapse in Italy could cause the euro crisis to flare up all over again. The way in which investors are fleeing for the safety of government bonds indicates the deep fear that these houses of cards will collapse. The corona crisis could set in motion a chain reaction that would end in a global financial crisis.

Unlike the 2008 crisis, however, this time the central banks are not in a position to save the day. To date, interest rates have been at historic lows in all major economies. The US Federal Reserve has therefore started to provide liquidity directly to the markets through repo transactions.The crucial question, however, is whether the Corona crisis can be overcome with monetary policy instruments at all. That very much depends on the nature of the crisis.

Suddenly everything is happening very quickly. Within hours, such large sums are being pumped into the markets that make the “radical” promises of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders seem like pocket money in comparison. German politicians, who yesterday had gotten heated up by the intellectual musings of young socialist Kevin Kühnert, are now seriously considering the nationalization of corporations. What was dismissed in the climate debate as the naive dreams of children is now a sad reality: global air traffic is coming to a standstill. Borders that were considered unclosable in the refugee crisis are now indeed closed. And along the way, conservative governor of Bavaria, Markus Söder has abandoned the German fetish of balanced budgets, announcing, “We will not be guided by accounting issues, but by what Germany needs.”

The corona crisis amounts to an enormous field test. Millions of people are experimenting with new ways to organise their everyday lives.

Like a spotlight, the corona crisis is illuminating the geopolitical, economic, ideological and cultural fault lines of our time. Might this crack in the edifice even signal an epochal break? Does the age of turbo-globalisation end with the decoupling of the major economic blocs? Are the oil price wars heralding the end of fossil industrial economies? Is the global financial system changing into a new regime? Is the system guarantor’s baton going from the United States to China, or are we experiencing the breakthrough of the multipolar world?
What is certain is that the Coronavirus could lead to a breakthrough of a number of trends that have long been hidden. All of these developments are mutually influencing each other at breathtaking speed. This complexity suggests that this crisis will go deeper than the 2008 recession. The pandemic could be the burning fuse on the powder keg of a global system crisis.

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