Sunday, May 9, 2010

 

HELP! I'M A VICTIM OF THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY

People want change but they won't make the changes necessary to achieve it: A very recent obvious example has occurred over the past few days as Greeks took to the streets violently protesting the measures their country must implement to drag itself out of bankruptcy.

Greece's measures; the European Union's bail-out plan; and the protests in Athens sent the constantly jittery investment community into another tail-spin. In a matter of less than 24 hours North American markets, the DOW in New York, and the TSX in Toronto lost all of their gains so far this year.

Amid talk of even more E-U countries failing (Portugal and Ireland have been mentioned), investors sought the relative shelter of the United States dollar, driving down the value of the Euro and other international currencies, including the Canadian dollar. Our "loonie's" feathers were plucked to the tune of about 5-cents, dropping from parity with the "greenback" to 95-cents by Friday's close. The irony in this is that America's own debt of close to $14-Trillion is 37 times larger than the Greek's. Lord knows where we'll be heading when that elephant is eventually forced out of the closet!

Meantime the Prime-Minister, Stephen Harper, has been on a whirlwind tour of Europe's capitals glad-handing leaders in support of Canadian overtures for a NAFTA type trade accord with the European Union. He's also laying the groundwork for both the G-8 World Summit and the subsequent G-20 Economic Summit which he will be hosting in southern Ontario next month. Instead he's been buffeted for resisting G-20 efforts to tax the banking community. Perhaps with their minds turned towards a pending United States debt crisis; the tax, it's argued, would create an economic slush fund against any future crisis. Canada argues that it's banks avoided the plague that's afflicting everyone else because of good behaviour and good planning, and others should instead do likewise.

This week's influential London based "The Economist" says there's also been quite a bit of luck to Canada's relatively shallow recession, and it wonders if others could ever be so lucky. It points to our resource based economy: Mines, Oil, Gas and even Farming for benefiting especially from China's insatiable appetite for raw materials. As for Canadian banking institutions, in the words of The Economist..."keeping tabs on the banks is much easier when all are...based within a few hundred yards of each other and of regulators in Toronto."

Some commentators on the international scene, in particular observers of Canada - U.S. relations suggest Canadians should guard against a feeling of superiority as America and other world countries struggle through a period of growing discontent. They point to a couple of good reasons why our own economic woes may be just around the next corner: First, there is our treasured and terribly expensive universal health-care system; and second, the stressed-out demands on our public pension schemes. Sixty years ago, Canada's "Baby Boom" was the world's strongest and we're about to face the economic consequence of our ageing population. Canada's problem is that there is little sign that our politicians are prepared to deal with either.

When people feel economically frustrated and disenchanted with mainstream politics they may start looking to find a vehicle to voice their frustrations. If and when Canada's economic circumstances wobble; here also anger may get vented on city streets. In Greece this week, Canadians may have caught a glimpse of the shaddow cast by the glow of our perceived economic superiority.

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