Greece’s public deficit currently stands at 13.6% and the UK isn’t that far behind. Austerity measures are planned to reduce the Greek deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014. This will be achieved through a variety of spending cuts and tax rises. This is the price that Greece will have to pay to receive a £95 billion bailout. Wages are likely to be frozen, cuts will be evident throughout the economy in areas such as education and pensions and the general population may see a tax rise.
In response to these proposals, on which Parliament will vote by the end of the week, the Greek economy has suffered from widespread strikes. Flights were grounded, trains stopped, schools shut, hospitals closed their doors, offices closed for business and those close to retirement are considering resignation before the measures are passed.
As life almost comes to a stop in Greece, could the UK follow suit? It’s no secret that the UK deficit is enormous – £163 billion or about 12% of GDP. Nor is it a secret that spending cuts and tax rises are inevitable. Furthermore, over the past two years, there have been several high profile strikes. (See article The Winter of Discontent: the sequel? and Turbulence in the air). A spokesman from The Public and Commercial Services Union said:
“If the cuts are anything like what is being suggested, industrial action by the unions is not only likely, it’s inevitable”.
The bailout of Greece may avert one Greek tragedy, but another one could be just around the corner and that’s not just for Greece.
Greece brought to half over general strike over cuts BBC News (5/5/10)
Greek strikes test government austerity plans Reuters (4/5/10)
Bank of England Governor: poll winner will be out of power for a generation Independent, Andrew Grice and Colin Brown (30/4/10)
Flights grounded, shops shut in Greek strike Channel 4 News, Kris Jepson (5/5/10)
Greek strikers hit Athens streets over austerity plan BBC News (4/5/10)
Greek strikes test government austerity plans The Economic Times (4/5/10)
- What is the purpose behind the strikes? How effective are they likely to be?
- What are the costs of strikes to a) consumers b) businesses c) the wider economy?
- Why is collective bargaining more effective than individual bargaining?
- Why could the Greek picture be a possible forecast of the UK economy after the May election?
- Are strikes a price worth paying if the government is to reduce its debt?
The global economy has been in a recession since December 2007, but have we now passed the worst of it? Whilst companies are still going bankrupt, unemployment is still rising, the housing market is still looking pretty gloomy and government debt surely can’t go up anymore, there are indications that we’ve reached the bottom of the recession. There are murmurs that the economy may start to recover towards of the end of the year.
But, of course, economics wouldn’t be economics if there wasn’t considerable disagreement. Many still believe that the worst is yet to come. According to the OECD, the recession is ‘near the bottom’. Yet, output in the UK is still set to decline by 4.3% in 2009, and by 2010 the budget deficit is predicted to have grown to 14%. Unemployment is at its highest since November 1996, but US consumer confidence is said to be rising and the pound is climbing. Read these articles and make up your mind about the state of the UK and global economy!!
Business and Consumer Surveys (After following link, click on chart) European Commission, Economic and Financial Affairs (29/6/09)
Pound climbs against euro as King sees signs recession easing Bloomberg, Lukanyo Mnyanda, Gavin Finch (20/6/09)
Bank says banking crisis easing BBC News (25/6/09)
First signs of optimism returning to some parts of financial services CBI PRess Release (29/6/09)
Darling and King agreed on tentative recovery Guardian, Ashley Seager (17/6/09)
Sharp contration for UK economy BBC News (30/6/09)
Housing market knocked by price falls Moneywise (22/6/09)
OECD says recession ‘near bottom’ BBC News, Steve Schifferes (24/6/09)
US Federal Reserve says recession is ‘easing’ Telegraph, James Quinn (24/6/09)
Public borrowing at record levels BBC News (18/6/09)
Leading index suggests recession easing UPI.com (18/6/09)
US consumer confidence up in June BBC News (26/6/09)
Blow for housing market as prices fall The Independent, David Prosser (22/6/09)
Most UK businesses freeze pay as recession bites, CBI says Telegraph, Peter Taylor (23/6/09)
- What are the typical characteristics of a recession? Do the current statistics of the four main macroeconomic objectives fit in with what economic theory tells us?
- Which policies would governments normally implement to get a economy into the expansionary/recovery phase of the business cycle and how do they work?
- Why is consumer confidence so key to economic recovery?
- What type of banking regulation is needed to prevent a similar crisis happening again?
- Movements in the housing market are often seen as indicators of the state of the economy. Why is this?