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 International Monetary Fund is made up of 186 countries, which together strive for global monetary co-operation, financial stability, the facilitation of international trade, as well as promoting high employment and sustainable economic growth. At the same time, the IMF and the World Bank also aim to reduce poverty around the world. Some task! – especially with the current financial crisis putting strains on even the richest of countries. In its annual meeting on the 2nd October 2009, the ‘rescue’ of more than 12 governments has already been organised by the IMF.
But it is not just countries who are suffering. The World Bank has said that it could run out of money within the next year and the IMF’s Managing Director has also suggested that it will run out of money for its low-income-country loan facility, which loans money to low-income countries at zero interest rates. However, France and Britain have stepped up with a $4 billion allocation to the IMF to help poorer countries, which may lead to other countries doing the same.
Meanwhile, Alistair Darling continues to fight to keep Britain’s seat at the IMF, as some suggest that Europe has too many seats and should give them up to make room for growing economies. This comes at a time when Britain is also facing the prospect of being side-lined from a new group of economic superpowers that would include the US, Japan, China and the Eurozone countries. The following articles consider the role of the IMF and the WB, as the global economy continues to face financial turmoil.
Doubts remain over global power of IMF Financial Times, Alan Beattie (3/10/09)
Pledge for more IMF help for poor BBC News (4/10/09)
World Bank could run out of money ‘within 12 months’ Telegraph, Edmund Conway (2/10/09)
Will tough new G20 measures work? BBC News (26/9/09)
France, UK to loan IMF$4 billion for poor nations Bloomberg, Sandrine Rastello (3/10/09)
Darling rejects call for UK to lose permanent seat on IMF Guardian, Larry Elliot (4/10/09)
Alistair Darling battles to keep UK on the world’s economic top table Telegraph, Edmund Conway(3/10/09)
World Bank Homepage
- How do the roles of the IMF, the World Bank, the G7 and the G20 differ and overlap? Do we need all of them?
- What are the arguments for less European representation at the IMF? How may this affect decision-making?
- If the G4 does go ahead, with the Eurozone as one of its members, why will the UK be sidelined?
- It is often mentioned that all countries are interdependent, but what do we mean by international policy harmonisation and why is it desirable?
- The BBC News article and the Telegraph article talk about money shortages at the IMF and the WB. What does this mean for the poorer countries and also for the UK and France which have allocated $4 billion to the IMF?