Thursday, December 8, 2016

India's cash ban: A royal intention, a reckless move

As many who follow international news would know by now, the Indian government recently banned all 500 rupee and 1000 rupee notes that were in circulation (these notes constituted 86% of the total cash that was in circulation in the economy). I had been trying to not comment on this for sometime because there are clearly pros and cons to this – and I was waiting to see which will outweigh the other. And to be frank, I am still waiting to see how this plays out, but in the meantime, I just couldn’t stop myself from commenting on what seems to be, in my opinion, a grand move with goddamn repurcussions for the most honest, hard working people in the country, who frankly built that country despite the government and not because of it.

First of all, let’s take the pros of this sudden action by the central (federal) government. India is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Period. No ifs. No buts. And this action of banning or making the 500 and 1000 rupee notes invalid has basically made all that corrupt money to become worthless – well, atleast the ones that were held as cash. Putting aside the fine points of the economic arguments aside for a minute, this is a huge positive to the quality of life for the Indians in the long run – because all the corrupt money (or illegally obtained money) that was in the economy was the root cause of various law & order issues – including growth of land mafia, gangsters related to political parties and so many more illegal activities across the country. And to make things worse, these illegal activities were becoming a business where younger generation Indians found a way to make money rather than confront it. So in other words, all this corrupt money was changing the culture of the country itself. So rooting out this gives a fresh opening to make things better in a country that has so high potential with a billion plus individuals. 

But what are the cons? Well, consider this: how would it be if in order to confront an illegal activity going on in a house in the street, the entire street is destroyed? That is how this sudden policy action seems to be. And in that same street where the illegal activity was taking place, poor farmers were residing, migrant construction workers who buy their lunch with the money they earned that morning were residing, rural women entrepreneurs who learnt a skill through a cash based micro-finance loan and were giving their best to escape poverty were residing, older generation of grandparents who thought that the most responsible thing they did for their future generation was saving and hoarding cash that they earned so hard throughout their life were residing, children whose parents have never even seen the gates of a school but were ambitious enough to get a school or college degree through a loan or their parents savings were residing, patients who have saved every paise (penny) their entire life in order to finally have their life-saving surgery were residing, small business owners who have risen through decades despite the government policies and not because of them were residing, and so many other innocent, hardworking, wonderful people were residing.  In other words, more than 90% of India was residing in the same street.

Why did the government had to do such a drastic move? Well, they provided two reasons and I don’t buy both of them. Here they are:

1.      National Security concerns due to the prevalence of fake/counterfeit currency flooded in by foreign countries (a.k.a Pakistan) to destabilize India: Well, I am not a national security expert and let us assume (and most likely) this is true. But, common sense says, this amount, if anything, has to be so minimal relative to the overall huge Indian economy and the cash that was in circulation that it doesn’t warrant destroying the entire street (like I mentioned above). Moreover, fake currency doesn’t cross borders itself. Someone is bringing it in. So a responsible government would try to identify the source through which the counterfeit currency travels and would work on preventing it instead of…again, what is it? – that’s right! – destroying the entire street.

2.      Unearthing black money: So the money that was legally or illegally earned but haven’t been reported and paid taxes on is called black money. Again, it is legally or illegally. Considering just the legally earned portion for now, for some reason, in a country like India, the officials fail to understand the concept that black money is not fake money. When we pay taxes, the government collects it as revenue and spends it back in the economy. When we don’t pay taxes, the individuals who have been hoarding that cash spend it back in the economy. Was that clear? In both ways, the money comes back to the economy. Now, I strongly believe we all should pay taxes so that we can build a safer and equitable society that covers all sections of the population. But in a country like India, where governments have either been inefficient or corrupt since independence, people have accustomed to under-reporting their income or have accustomed to not understanding the benefits of paying taxes. And this is 99% India. I re-iterate and I am not exaggerating – this is 99% India. So, in a country where tax revenues have been slowly going up every year, tax-base widened every year through gradual policy changes (like increasing the bond paper value on real estate transactions, mandatory income tax reporting on gold purchases above a certain amount at the time of purchase, or on other expensive transactions, or bringing more and more sectors into formal category through globalization and opening up to foreign investments), why on earth, in the name of “I know better, so I want to spend your money”, would the government disrupt and…..what is it again? right, right – destroy the entire street where more than 90% of Indians live?

So as good as the intentions are, as bad are the repercussions of such a drastic move in a country where billionaires and below-poverty-liners live side by side. At a time when tax revenues were going up, fiscal deficit was coming down, global crude oil prices down, gold imports shrinking, tax base widening, rupee being one of the weakest currencies in Asia (second weakest after the Malaysian Ringgit), and foreign investors once again eyeing and salivating to pour money into the country, why on earth would the central government decide to make such a bold, irrational move is beyond me. I really, really don’t understand because the timing of this move is terrible. Well wait, not just the timing, but the move itself seems to be terrible – like reaching for a fantasy in a country where people die in hunger because they didn’t get to work in the fields that week.   


But now that this disastrous move has been done, what next? Well, it all depends on what kind of fiscal policies the government comes up with? And the fiscal policy I would like to see and recommend is a tax holiday for a significant amount of time for all income below 50 lakh rupees (approximately $ 80,000) annually. And a moderate tax on the next 50 lakh earned.  Income beyond that could be taxed at regular rates. With all the extra revenue that the government has obtained with the unearthed black money, this shouldn’t be a problem for the government to do. But it is extremely important for people to start generating and accumulating wealth again (legally). Without accumulation of wealth, because of this drastic move, the psychological damage that will be incurred by the sudden reduction in the monetary value of all currently held wealth will significantly dent demand growth for years to come. Without demand growth, local and foreign investments will slow – thereby resulting in further rupee weakness and inflation – which will once again hurt the poorest of the poor much and will suffocate them beyond what they can bear. The middle class will also shrink significantly while the rich will start to park and grow their money abroad. So a major policy, this time not just a bold one, but also a rational one, is urgently needed on the fiscal front. And I sincerely hope that the government uses tax-holiday as that fiscal weapon instead of government spending. There is never a time in today’s world where a government can better spend people’s money than people themselves. Governments can only facilitate growth, but ultimately growth itself has to come from people. 

The government has been royal in their intentions, but reckless in their moves. It’s time for the government to correct that mistake – by first acknowledging the problem and the work before it, and stop being cocky, and build the street back up again! 


Monday, December 5, 2016

A daughter to two, a mother to millions

Today marks an end of an era in the politics of the great state of Tamil Nadu in India.  Jayalalithaa Jayaram (or more popularly called as ‘Amma’ (Mother) by the millions in that state), a leader of a major political party, and the current chief minister of Tamil Nadu has passed away at the age of 68 following a cardiac arrest. When I heard the news this afternoon, there were no mixed feelings. Instead, I had just one feeling – a feeling of sadness. Or more appropriately, a feeling of loss.


I don’t associate myself with any political party in any part of the world and I frankly am not a fan of any politician. And when it comes to Indian politics, it can be written in stone that almost every politician in India is corrupt in one form or the other. Jayalalithaa was not an exception. I have lived under her administration in Tamil Nadu and things were not always clean (though under these circumstances one cannot say for sure if anything directly relates to her. She was convicted of corruption in some court cases, acquitted in many, and acquitted in few through appeals and some cases and appeals still pending before the courts). That being said, one also cannot deny the fact that she has been a force – of some good and some bad – in the lives of nearly 70 million Tamils who live in that state. She entered politics in early 1980s and has administered that state for nearly 15 years in four different terms (sworn 5 times as Chief Minister (akin to a Governor in the United States)).


Of the nearly 70 million people in Tamil Nadu, there will not be a single person who wasn’t affected by her or influenced by her. Affected – by the various policies she put forth during the many years of her administration; Influenced – by the courage, perseverance, grit and political calculation she displayed over the course of her lifetime. 


For all the court cases before her, and for all the judgments against her, people continued to elect her to represent them as the top elected official of the state – as recently as 2016 when she beat the anti-incumbency wave and rode to electoral victory for a second consecutive term in the state (the only politician in the state to have done that in 30+ years). She had a mass following. She was looked upon with awe and inspiration by her followers, and with fear by people who stood opposite to her. Even her arch political enemies have at times praised her courage and boldness with which she carried on her government. 


This is not to say that I liked everything about her. In fact, I hated so much about her. Corruption was still rife in the society and government under her administration. Work and progress in the state was slow at times because of the iron grip she had on all sections of the government. The ministers who worked under her were terrified of her. So terrified that they would literally fall at her feet and get her blessings when they see her. It was frankly disgusting to watch. But at the same time, the same iron grip quality of her is the quality that maintained law and order in the state far better than many other administrations. The courage she displayed was the quality that made her make bold political calculations where today 37 seats in the Indian parliament, the second largest by a single party in the whole of India, are being held by her party. And this came at a time when the nation was swept by the ‘Modi’ wave (when Mr. Modi became the prime minister of India).  The grit that seemed like an inborn quality of her was the quality that made her daringly take neighboring state governments of Kerala and Karnataka to courts to make sure that the people of Tamil Nadu get their fair share of water from various water and dam treaties. The boldness that radiated from her like a light from the sun is the quality that made her the strongest voice of the time against the plight of the innocent Tamil civilian population in Srilanka at the height of the final civil war there.


Yes, she had her flaws. She was no more than a shrewd politician. Every policy she put forth had an electoral calculation in her mind. But that’s not to say that many of her policies – though politically calculated they might be – hadn't actually helped the people who needed help the most.  Take the ‘Amma canteen’ policy for example that she implemented few years back. On one hand, it was a huge waste of tax payers’ money because it provided subsidized meals to all people of Tamil Nadu in various canteens setup across the state. But on the other, in a state where millions go hungry everyday, it was a Godsend. This policy literally eliminated hunger in the state. 


Or take the fact that under her administration, Tamil Nadu, which was an electricity deficit state, turned into a surplus state. Or the fact that in 2016, under her administration, Tamil Nadu exceeded the ‘Renewable Purchase Obligation’ target from the central government, and was looking for ways to sell surplus wind power to other states where they haven’t met the requirements. At a time of rising nationalism in India, she pushed against the ‘Sanskrit week’ initiative by the central government, and strongly voiced against the central government directive that called for the compulsory use of Hindi in twitter by all central government officials - a group that included officials from Tamil Nadu and other non-Hindi speaking regions.  


And when many people and frankly many leaders across the country were busy trying to (or not) understand the details and complexities behind the bills like the anti-corruption ‘Lokpal’ bill, she displayed her brilliance by calling for an exclusion of the office of the Prime Minister in the Lokpal bill, even when she was in the opposition to the then prime minister's party, citing reasons of dangers involved in foreign powers using such a national law to undermine the office of the Prime Minister at critical times. Or when the entire country stood behind the recently passed Goods and Services tax bill, that completely revamped India’s age-old tax system, she displayed her courage and brilliance by being the sole voice in opposing some fine sections of the bill – by citing the disadvantages and potential loss of revenue and state autonomy in fiscal policies that she considered her state, which she rightly pointed out as a ‘producer’ or ‘manufacturing state’, would incur due to the fact that Tamil Nadu consumes less than what it manufactures. And as much as her political life was filled with complaints of corruption and what-not, it was equally filled with many such brilliant endeavors. 


Jayalalithaa was born to an actress, she herself was an actress, never married, spoke six languages, was a topper in her school, well-read, a lady of immense knowledge on various state and global matters, a ‘lioness’ to her opponents, an ‘Iron Lady’ to her supporters, ‘Amma’ to her followers, and a stateswoman to many people, including me, who saw her objectively within the Indian context. Given the times, it is a huge loss to Tamil Nadu and frankly to India itself.  


She will be missed. May her soul rest in peace. 


Further references:

1.      http://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/regional/jayalalithaa-passes-away-tamil-nadu-chief-minister-biography-see-pics-3059429/

2.      http://indianexpress.com/article/india/jayalalithaa-dead-heart-attack-amma-tamil-nadu-4412542/



Friday, June 17, 2016

The Charge of the Light Brigade

When I see the world’s central banks misdiagnosing the root causes of the anemic global growth today and treat the problem with a heavy dose of poisonous zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) and negative interest rate policy (NIRP), with a heavy bias toward increasing the dosage at all costs if the not-so-sick patient (global economy) doesn’t recover as they expect it to, I just couldn’t help myself from remembering the narrative poem written by Lord Alfred Tennyson in 1854, which I had to memorize and write in my English class exam when I was in the middle school –

From Wikipedia: Lord Alfred “Tennyson's poem written on December 2, 1854, published December 9, 1854 in The Examiner, praises the Brigade, "When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made!", while mourning the appalling futility of the charge: "Not tho' the soldier knew / Some one had blunder'd.

Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, (anemic global growth)
All in the valley of Death (global deflation)
    Rode the six hundred. (global middle class)
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said: (global central banks)
Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
.
.
.
.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
    All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made,
Honour the Light Brigade,
    Noble six hundred.

Friday, June 10, 2016

To my friends in Britain...

My dear British friends,

I am writing this blog post sitting thousands of miles away from your beautiful island at a time of increased uncertainty concerning your decision on whether or not you would like to stay in the European Union. I am not a European. And I am not British. But that doesn’t matter – in the sense that the world is so interconnected today that everything has a ripple effect. And those ripples go back and forth. It affects us all. Positively or negatively. We are living in a world of increased financial uncertainty. We all fell together in 2008 during the onset of the recession. And nothing should stop us from getting up and marching together as we build a financially secure world for every good human being on this planet. 

Over the weekend, I met an elderly couple from Scotland. I asked them how they would vote in the upcoming referendum. They said that they will vote to leave the EU. And when I asked them why, they gave me two reasons – 1. Homelessness is on the rise in Aberdeen and other places in Scotland. 2. They want to use this opportunity to send a message to the elites, bankers and financial markets about how angry and disappointed they are with the status quo. I felt their genuine frustration. And there was validity in the concerns that they expressed. The National Health Services (NHS) is under stress; the housing markets are over-priced due to the influx of foreign money; public services are under stress due to a surge in immigrants. 

And here I am telling you the same thing that I tried to tell them - that leaving the EU will not really solve any of these problems. Voting to leave will not affect the elites or the bankers. The elites and the bankers make money when the world is great; they also make money when the world is not great. But you leaving the EU will affect the rest of us all. I respect that it is your sovereignty. And it is your decision. But undoubtedly, a Brexit will cause ripple effects that will be far reaching - ripples that will only be exacerbated and intensified by the very financial markets that have let you down in the past…and that will let us down again.   

There is too much uncertainty here. No one really knows how the day after the Brexit will look like. But I cannot imagine that some of you think that you would be able to get full benefits of the single EU market even without being in the EU and by not allowing the free movement of people. Though your argument that EU will need the British market as much as the British need the EU market might be true, think for a second why would the EU members accept any proposal that will benefit the U.K more by staying out of the EU than in the EU?  Why would the EU volunteer itself for its disintegration? - because that is what will happen if the U.K. gets sweet deals after deciding to opt out of the EU. Every other member of the EU would then be tempted to ask for such sweet deals. So however economically punishing it might be, EU countries, especially Germany and France will have every motive to bear their economic pain in order to stop that temptation by causing economic pain to the U.K. Doesn’t matter how severe that pain is, but it will undoubtedly hurt. And when it hurts, who do you think it will hurt more? I am afraid it is not the elites. Nor is it the bankers. But the very working people of your country. That will have economic consequences that will send ripples across your shores – the ripples that will tear into the heart of the global financial system and can jeopardize any progress we have made since the financial crisis caused by the bankers and the financial engineers.   

In my humble opinion, considering how the world’s future is shaping out to be, the U.K. would be stronger in the EU than outside the EU. In a world where China is five times the size of your economy and India’s total output is almost the same as yours, size matters - the size of the nation; and the size of the market. For all its flaws, EU is still a formidable single market. It is the world’s largest free trade zone. It is a market which everyone wants a share of – China, India, the US and all other nations. It is a market which produces some of the best and brightest talent and technology. 

I want a German car; a French designer clothing; and may be a Nobel prize in Sweden :). But to even dream of success, I still would want to be able to access the London financial services. So please Britain, stay in the EU. As an English speaking country, we want you as the gateway into Europe and all that excellent opportunities that Europe provides. In this small planet, we are all in this together…and let us continue to be in this together. Let our theme be better integration and not disintegration. 

Sincerely,
A common citizen, a Commonwealth citizen, a global citizen. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Fed is making a grave mistake! ... again!

For the last two years, the Federal Reserve officials are all over the place. Now their jumps across the walls have suddenly become very intense starting from this year. One month, there are some officials of the central bank talking in one direction. Within a matter of weeks, they do an about-turn and speak in the other direction (i.e. hawkish vs. dovish).

And with regard to the fed funds rates, the Fed should have raised them by 25 basis points in March. But they missed it. Not only did they miss it, but they started speaking in extreme dovish voice. And they claimed that none of their fundamental analysis of the economy has changed and that they were merely being cautious. That is baloney. Last September, when they should have raised the rates, they feared the stock market crash in China and held back, only to move further in December to raise rates. And then in January, a devaluation of renminbi along with Japan going into negative interest rate territory caused financial market volatility. They again got scared. This is getting tiresome. If they are going to expect a smooth financial market without any volatility before they can raise rates, then they are never going to get that. 

Then one might ask – why the hurry in raising rates? We don’t even have enough inflation, right? Well, because the global economy is no more about just maintaining price stability in goods and services. It is also about maintaining price stability in assets. And more importantly, it is also about preventing misallocation of capital across assets. And when you keep interest rates at zero for so long, it seriously messes up with the loan-to-savings ratio and savings-to-investments ratio. The deposits in banks are going down globally. And productive loans (where a loan is used to create a good or service) has been going down as well and instead is used in share buy-backs and refinancing/servicing debt.

It’s not even just about all the above. We have actually come to a point where monetary policy is becoming ineffective by the day. In the US, for example, cheaper interest rates have already made many Americans to buy houses and cars. Beyond that, however cheap the interest rate on a loan is, what do you expect them to buy with a loan? Furniture? Well they won’t!  Why would they? Their incomes haven’t gone up; they don’t get any interest on any form of savings anymore. So without that additional income, why would they take a loan and buy something that will not appreciate in value in the future? This is scaring the heck out of them regarding their future financial stability (a.k.a future financial obligations). This in turn makes people want to save for their future rather than spend. And they are saving it in the form of hard cash. And the experts wonder why people aren’t spending? And they wonder why we have a deflation scenario? And they try to fight this deflation by further lowering rates (even negative in some countries). 

Folks – there is a floor to how low you can take the interest rates? Up to a point in the downward direction, a lower interest rate is inflationary/reflationary. Beyond that point, it triggers disinflation/deflation. 

The other argument that lower interest rates will help corporations to borrow and invest is another baloney. Corporations have a lot of cash.  The only reason that they aren’t spending is because they don’t see enough demand – or more importantly, they don’t see a reason to invest when there is such a skewed monetary and fiscal policy that is deflationary rather than inflationary (especially when the demand is looked from the consumer side).

Sorry to say, but the current Federal Reserve members seem so weak to me with regards to taking the tough decision. They are following the financial markets in whatever direction they take them. This is totally skewed. An interest rate increase at this point when the US economy is doing relatively well will bring back many sections of the economy that has been built over decades and that are totally out of whack now. For example: the insurance and pension sectors are suffering from the low interest rates; seniors are suffering from the low interest rates; savers are suffering from the low interest rates; banks are suffering from the low interest rates. Misallocation in search of higher yields is becoming a common phenomenon all across the globe. And with every misallocation, the risk of a bubble burst or crash in the future increases. 

In my view, an equilibrium fed funds rate in not one common point, but rather a range. And few 25 basis point increases this year should not impede the mortgage loan growth or vehicle loan growth or corporate debt servicing. The effects on this front should be minimal and manageable. Instead, majority of the poor and middle-income consumers who aren’t in the financial markets but are instead dependent on fixed income with an anticipated reward for savings will be benefited directly through additional income through their fixed income investments, including any savings. And these are the people we depend upon for demand growth. Once we have more demand, then we should see more corporate spending in the form of capital investments – which is what is lacking today and is the main reason for the weak growth worldwide.

So you want to fight weak inflation or deflation? – increase the fed funds rate. On the fiscal front – address the excessive debt with a long term strategy and reform taxes to put more money in the hands of the poor and middle income people. Without these two changes, we will just keep chugging along with a very weak growth worldwide and wondering why people aren’t spending. Extreme low interest rates = deflation (beyond a point). Negative interest rates = Deflation (immediately). 

Monday, June 6, 2016

In Brexit, a diamond for India

No, I don’t mean the Koh-i-Noor diamond that was siphoned away from India by the British during the colonial era. Or as some recent commentators have pointed out, it was not taken but rather given to the British under the Treaty of Lahore after the end of the second Anglo-Sikh war. For the record, I personally don’t see much of a difference between the words “taken” and “given” given the colonial history of those times. And I personally think that this diamond in some ways represents the ugly truths of the European colonialism of the mercantilist era – and therefore it is better left to stay in the crown of the British queen where it currently resides. 

The diamond I am instead talking about is – is the opportunity that would fall at the doorstep of India if Britain decides to leave the European Union (EU). From the 1990s onwards, globalization has drastically changed the global economic landscape. The size of a market matters more today than at any other point in time in history. And sadly, if Britain decides to leave the EU and thereby pull itself out from the larger EU market, then there will be a need for Britain to find larger markets for its goods and services. Britain will undoubtedly try to maintain the same market share in its exports to the EU. But my opinion is that the EU countries will give it a tough time before agreeing to any sort of trade agreement – especially given the fact that Britain wants to limit immigration from the EU countries – which is one of the main reasons why a Brexit referendum is being held in the first place.

In that case, a U.K-India trade agreement of some sort will definitely start to interest policy makers on both sides. From the U.K standpoint, the British will be under pressure to show that even after a Brexit, they can seal important bilateral trade agreements – agreements that will provide British goods and services access to bigger markets like that of India. From the Indian standpoint, it is much easier to seal a deal with a single country in Europe than with the EU bloc as a whole. For example, a free trade agreement is already in the discussion phase between EU and India for almost ten years now. And they are still not able to seal the deal  because of various regulations and restrictions – mainly coming from the EU side. Traditionally, EU governments have stricter regulations and stringent requirements and when one has to negotiate with all those EU countries as a bloc, then the negotiations are tougher for a developing country like India – which desperately needs both the EU market and the EU capital. 

But when it comes to U.K, what India would require more is the U.K capital than the market itself. Not to get me wrong, the British market will still be important for India, but given the size of just 60 million people, India’s immediate preference will be to the British capital and technology more so than their market. And given this fact, India will have an upper hand when it comes to trade negotiations with the British. The whole world is currently desperate for access to the Indian market given its enormous size. U.K. would just be one among them. But for the U.K. itself, a concluded trade agreement with a country like India would be absolutely necessary to keep its economy shining – even after leaving the EU. With this being the case, India would be well suited to pull more British capital into India, along with obtaining guarantees for more high-skilled immigration of Indians into Britain in any trade agreement. And in my opinion, the British will come along for such a deal. 

One of the problems that is currently a hot issue in Britain is the flow of low-skilled immigrants from the EU countries (mainly eastern European countries) into Britain – and the benefits and welfare that is given to them. But in India’s case, India will be looking to boost high-skilled immigration of Indians into Britain and not low-skilled. And these immigrants are generally not welfare recipients. Initially, Britain will try to resist any kind of immigration. But I believe, if a Brexit happens, and if Britain initiates a trade agreement dialogue with India, India should use that opportunity to hold steady in asking for more high skilled immigration from India to Britain. India has the upper hand here and it shouldn’t miss if such an opportunity presents.

Similarly, Britain might resist some flow of capital into India – especially if the trade agreements involve domestic sourcing or setting up of local manufacturing units. But here too, I believe India has the upper hand. While simultaneously negotiating agreements with EU and the U.K., India can successfully leverage the size of the market it has with the priority to U.K vs EU or vice versa by successfully getting a good end of the deal.

And that is why I say that there is a diamond for India in the event of a Brexit scenario. Though from a global economic standpoint, I still would like to see Britain in the EU, if in case the British voters decide to leave the EU, then there could be one country that might benefit immensely from such a scenario if played right. And that country could very well be India.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Brexit - from dilemma to damage

In one of my recent posts, I had already opined on the Brexit dilemma facing the UK voters and my opinion of it as far as I can see and understand the issue. But in this post, I am going to opine from the other side – that is, how important it is for the rest of the world (and that includes Britain in my opinion) for the UK to stay in the European Union.

First of all, as I have already stated in my previous post, this Brexit referendum comes at a worse time for the global economy. And one of the worse spots of the global economy today is Europe. Their recovery from the Great Recession is still very much incomplete and a British exit from the EU would make matters much worse. To put things in perspective, the unemployment rate in countries like Spain is still in double digits. When one cannot blame the UK for that, this is what would happen if the British voters decide to leave the EU –  The British pound would weaken drastically due to a fear of the future status of trade between the UK and EU (which is a significant portion of UK’s overall trade). While British voters might not be too worried about this – as there seems to be a common consensus that some kind of trade agreement could be worked with the EU, we still do not know the extent of damage it can do the British economy over the short and long run. 

But more importantly, from the EU side – this could drastically weaken the euro; and significantly increase the yield-premiums of some euro-area government bonds – especially those of countries like Spain and Portugal where this is a high level of double-digit unemployment. This will once again trigger the worse memories of sovereign-debt crisis and fear of sovereign defaults. Not only that, this could once again trigger the question of the longevity of the entire EU project and the euro currency.

And today, I see this Brexit scenario as a greater threat to the stability of the global economy than China, oil, deflation or negative interest rates. I think it is important for the other EU leaders to state clearly how their relationship with UK would be if Britain were to decide to leave the EU. This fantasy that Britain can just leave the EU and work out all agreements to their benefit – even while threatening the stability of the entire European Union project and the euro currency – needs to addressed (and probably killed) in clear and unequivocal terms by the rest of the EU countries. 

Because of the anger that is simmering from weak global growth, there is a general trend going around the world today by the public to requite against the (career) politicians by voting against whatever those politicians say or propose. While this anger is clearly understandable and might be justified in many cases, it is also vital to not just vote against something or someone, but also to clearly understand what you are for! Becoming emotional and deciding to vote against something by voting for something even more terrible will ultimately act against all of us. 

And while we all respect the sovereignty of the British voters to decide about their future path, it is also important that we speak out against the dangers that are posed to us by an adverse scenario that might emerge from a British exit from the European Union. And I think it is about time for the world leaders to speak up too!