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opinion / london calling

Going back to basics

GRANT WILLIAMS (*). 12/12/2011 "We, the normal, unheard and hard-working citizens, are swamped with daily headlines that tell us that our daily lives are under serious threat. Country risk levels go up, then go down..."

ValenciaPlaza.com inicia este lunes una serie de artículos de opinión y análisis de actualidad redactados en inglés. Para obtener la traducción al castellano, debe solicitarse a la dirección de correo forovp@valenciaplaza.com

VALENCIA. We, the normal, unheard and hard-working citizens, are swamped with daily headlines that tell us that our daily lives are under serious threat. Country risk levels go up, then go down, too high but perhaps low enough to survive. We see the stock markets with unseen volatility - a bad week followed by a good week.

We are seeing century-old financial institutions biting the very dust they have invested their shareholders' capital in during the glorious decade, and we're seeing icons of business and finance literally disappear into the evening dusk. Businesses are disappearing, cash is tight everywhere, investment decisions are being put back until "things" look a bit clearer.

The surviving banking institutions are squeezing credit in order to survive but wait, isn't lending their fundamental business? A diminishing loan book will surely produce a diminishing level of activity. Survival, achieved solely this way, may hide a growing question mark on the very essence of the financial industry business model. Beware, banks.

But these macroeconomic tides - or tsunamis -that fill the evening news on our TV screens, our newspapers and our regular mail bulletins are making us forget what so many economists forget every time they offer a forecast. They forget that recovery will be based on the sum of millions of small and undetectable efforts to improve our situation. They tend to forget that it is the individual actions of people that will drive growth - both upwards and downwards.

That's where credibility kicks in. If I believe things will look brighter in the months ahead I may even decide to replace the old dishwasher, buy that new car I so badly need or simply go out for a well-earned dinner. If I do this, and millions of others fell the same and do the same, the down cycle quickly passes to uptrend. If I see the right signs, I may even be brave enough to take on more staff in my business or avoid slashing my current staff.

However, things have changed, people have changed and this must be factored into the equation.

We may (or may not?) be on the verge of a new Europe, we may be cutting back on our public finance excesses and start to balance the books, our banking institutions are leaner each day, with weaker players being absorbed by the fat cats, and their balance sheets are clearing the mess as fast as possible, and we are the turning point of a new Government with the power and the willpower to slap the reforms on the table that were so badly needed. So wait and see how things start to look brighter. I'm an optimist by nature, but a realist and a believer in the power of collective actions.

We, the normal, unheard and hard-working citizens will analyse these shifts but will probably act and behave in a "new" way. Memories are notoriously short, but I remember my father telling me two simple truths that have governed us for generations. First truth: "you take care of the pennies, and you'll see how the pounds take care of themselves". Second truth: "don't ever spend more than a third of your income on paying for your home". Simple truths, but we are recovering our memories and we will learn from our collective mistakes. This is the definition of austerity and prudence. The basics.

Although we may not yet be seeing the dim ray of light at the end of the tunnel, I can assure you that the light is there. A new beginning has already started to take shape and most of us will never want this to happen again. So I say to you all: let's go back to the basics.
(*) Grant Wlliams. International Business Consultant.

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1 comentario

Guillermo Ramón escribió
13/12/2011 17:06

Austerity vs growth? This is the debate today, on one hand we have countries sacrifying their present growth by believing than if thy cut on public spending, finally they'll achieve a more robust growth, and the other hand we have economist like Krugman and Roubini that say there is no other option to exit the crisis than growth. And growth for them means keep on fiscal spending and Central Banks printing money,, Who is right or who ir wrong?

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