Ten Years Later: The Crisis Has (Not) Taught Us So Much

A growing debt-to-GDP ratio of many countries, high credit indebtedness of individuals and households, insufficiently dynamic development of small businesses that was supposed to generate employment growth, advocating for austerity, even when such an approach is detrimental, the political divergence of decision-makers who were supposed to lead to any kind of new regulation and general the state of hopelessness – all this is a picture of today’s society, exactly a decade after the outbreak of the biggest economic crisis after the Second World War, the Global Economic Crisis, that appeared as the consequence of the preceding financial crisis, and that has started on September 15th 2018 with the fall of Lehman Brothers.

The rhetoric of the majority of European politicians, especially from those from the center, has split many concerns on the subject, mostly concluding that the financial markets had only to perform well and that the rest of the world would see the stabilization after a while. However, the financial crisis has rapidly turned into a more solemn international economic disaster since the crisis of 1929, as it affected the real economy by distressing credit and led to sharp weakening in GDP growth of the countries with the strongest economies by domino effect. As it became visible, the leaders of the most powerful countries at that time met regularly at G20 meeting, declaring big determinations, promising nothing would be the same.

More and more people nowadays are understanding that the numerous crises we face are connected to the perpetuity of the supremacy of finance and that the society is no longer able to stand the expenses of its overindulgences. Global population clearly understands that economic growth has certain boundaries, that the unsustainable levels of dissimilarity we are experiencing are discordant with a society living in peace with it and that the climate problem is a major problem for our future. For example, if one country wants their trade imbalances to be sustainable, and the other surpluses to persist, absolute freedom of capital actions is needed, which is why it is impossible to seriously regulate finance without shifting the ladder and global economic scheme at the same time.

As information and technology move across borders without factual change of the ownership, countries are led to focus and position themselves in different parts of the productive system. This situation does not simply create interdependence, which, as a consequence, generates hierarchy. The latter financial crisis has determined, like the previous ones, by obtaining time so that nothing essential changes in the end except the announcement that any further crisis will probably be more threatening as the finance gained a specific role in the world economy since it now helps to cover the trade disproportions.

Correspondingly, the more significant these are, the more the financial imbalances would exist, which causes exhaustion of even world’s most powerful financial industries by allowing the deficits of some and the extras of others to grow faster. Similarly, any kind of effort at financial corsetry can only lead to the downfall of the global trading system, as it happened few months after the emergence of crisis when the disruption of the financial system led to the distraction of trade flows. For example, taking a look at the fact that the global economic machine yields to satisfy the need for consumption of households in the United States has something captivating about it, as brings together the way in which ancient Rome acquired the surplus of wheat produced in other Mediterranean areas in order to feed each day its population of one million.

Apart from that, the situation in the US also reflects something from not that much late history when the president Theodore Roosevelt has promised to move the merchants out of the temple while the American Congress approved a financial guideline named the Glass-Steagall Act. That specific financial act detached investment banks taking huge risks from deposit banks, beneficial and needed to the rest of the economy, as the president understood that this was the only method to evade a thoughtful catastrophe in the US. When the administration of Bill Clinton annulled the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 it appeared that the fears of the Great Depression were forgotten. However, not so many people denounced it when the crisis occurred in 2008, while later the administration of the president Barack Obama made not enough effort in order to accomplish better financial results.

The situation in Europe was characterized by the regulation of bank under the policies of the European Central Bank, as they were compulsory to rise their own assets, to reinforce the barriers that protect them and to contribute to a joint reserve fund that could be used in case of bankruptcy. Since the world economic crisis many leading central banks were required to make financial stabilization a priority and therefore ECB handled a sovereign debt crisis that led it to reconsideration the broadcast of monetary strategy within the Eurozone. Besides that, the ECB initiated the process of massive refurbishments of state debt in the spring of 2015 by buying up to 80 billion euros each month until this year, while its zero interest rate policy is still in power.

When the crisis occurred, the banks themselves had become unable to assess their own losses. Some particular financial labels they had designed during the years of enthusiasm had become unconceivable to their own specialists, while the insurance taken out to cover their fatalities was misleading because the insurers themselves could became insolvent at any time. The biggest US banks that had been the machines of securitization and speculation could organize much more recovering than some of those small regional banks in Europe that had borrowed to individuals and businesses, which had been cautious not to gamble on the financial markets, and yet had to face the losses connected with the global crisis. Due to money creation over the past decade the expansion in liquidity has supported the financial markets and has directed to an increase in global stock market indices, as some of them have augmented roughly four times between 2009 and 2018.

Avoiding austerity was the key priority for investors who are currently driving for the regulation to be resolved while the banking system is both more cortrolled and because of the boost of some banks even more dangerous. That boost led not only to the lack of necessary reforms achieved, but also to the occurence of shadow banking as the financial actors were tryinh to avoid the regulations by multiplyig operations off balance sheet operations, as those subsidiaries were not subject to regulation. Today’s circumstances in the financial world are very similar to the situation that existed a decade and a half ago. The situation on financial markets is still dynamic as the stock indexes and real estate prices have exceeded the peaks they had reached before the crisis. The situation with the debt of households has not improved significantly, whic means that the solvency of large majority of population did not improve. This is also the case with small business that is shut out in the short term or is experiencing great difficulties and limitations.

Awareness of the crisis and regulatory needs has, to a greater extent, caused new fears that consequently contribute to the limited expansion of business, the insufficiently rapid dynamics of reducing unemployment and hopelessness, which many people find difficult to oppose for entrepreneurial steps. The decennial story of the crisis has produced more rhetoric that has served political subjects around the world for internal accounts with non-emigrants who are declared responsible for the emergence of a crisis situation even in segments where it is obvious that it is a product of a number of external factors to which no government has any of the countries whose banking system was internationally networked could not be affected.

Awareness of the crisis and the detrimental consequences of the policy that preceded the outbreak of the crisis did not produce a change, only diminished the possibility that political entities whose attitudes are united in finding a common solution, since the next steps are nevertheless transposed into the domain of decision-making by national governments, reduced chance of being properly reacted if one does not want to repeat a similar scenario.

There are not so many people who, ten years later, can claim that the crisis is behind us, especially those who do not feel any kind of relief in their financial situation, whether they are measuring the share of loans in their wages or they are tracking stimulus programs that remain at all levels as anti-crisis measures. Not only are there preconditions for the same terrible scenario to be repeated today, but the consequences would be much more dangerous.

Advertisements

Oil Price Range: From Conflicts and Terrorism to Mass Tourism

Crude oil price per barrel reached 75 dollars for the first time after four years. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently stressed that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would soon announce that it had achieved one of their key goals, which, based on a five-year strategy, included a reduction in inventories. However, all of this happened when global oil demand increased to nearly 100 million barrels per day, but which are not proportionally provided with the level of supply, which causes the fear of additional price increases.

Of course, the level of supplies depends on Russia’s decision whether to follow OPEC and end the politics of cuts in deliveries that the global market denies from 1.5 million to 2 million barrels per day. On the other hand, US shale gas producers are no longer the key factor on the basis of whose actions prices fluctuate. From 2014 to the last week the price of crude oil was between $27 and $70 per barrel, which has stimulated a number of different industries.

Thanks to cheaper fuel, the airline industry and cruising companies experienced significant flourishing, which, thanks to reduced operating costs, represented the possibility to offer arrangements to an increasing number of passengers whose income ranks among the national average of the countries they live or even below. Flights and cruising were never cheaper and more accessible to those who, over a decade ago what they would reason what they could have to give up if they wanted to afford summer and winter holidays abroad.

The price of crude oil from 2010 to 2014 was above $100. During this time, the political situation in the Middle East countries as well as in the African countries has drastically worsened, along with the redirection of revenues from the sale of oil into pockets of oil tycoons, as well as weapons dealers, and for the financing of terrorist organizations instead of public goods.

Even in the welfare countries there was a resurgence of the population and the emergence of shortages that the current generation never experienced due to the fact that production in some of them has dropped drastically. Such a situation was very obvious in Morocco, which was in front of bankruptcy and therefore forced to use supplies from countries that helped them, thanks to which the financial crisis was sidestepped.

Over the course of the year 2014, oil prices had a downward trend for most of the time, and shorter periods of stability mainly included the price between about $50 per barrel. With a particularly difficult situation, Algeria, a country with 40 million inhabitants, faced a particularly difficult situation, which in large quantities does not produce anything other than oil for other markets, and where money from the sale of energy is necessary for the import of all other goods for the normal functioning of the economy. In order to maintain Algeria’s economy, it was necessary for the barrel price to be around $115, in an ideal world $120, in order to provide funds for imports. However, due to the decrease in oil prices in the global market in 2014 and 2015, purchasing power in that country has dropped significantly.

The downward trend in oil prices started in July 2014, when the barrel costed $115, to slide to around $30 in January 2016, and the situation in the exporting countries drastically worsened. Such a situation, in addition to panic in the global market, has caused and intensified the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, nevertheless new reasons for the concern of ecologists have appeared when, in all global projections from 2015 to 2017, it was highlighted that the energy produced that way can only partially reduce the necessity to use fossil fuels and increase CO2 emissions.

At the same time, none of the official reports published then indicated an increase in the number of pollution factors, although the level of pollution from CO2 is still above the anticipated level.

The theory of the emergence of fossil fuels has served many supporters of increasing production to refer to the claim that without existing pollution an animal population would change in the direction of a complete disorder of the food chain, dangerous to survival of the human beings, as the resources for the production of pharmaceutical products were the most vulnerable in that case, which would apparently further increase mortality rate of people faster than CO2 is currently triggering.

The concern for the survival of the resources necessary for the normal functioning of mankind was the most striking half a century ago when even many scientists claimed that the beginning of the 21st century would be ruinous for the mankind due to the anticipated phenomenon of mass hunger in the world caused by the belief that accelerated population growth would not be followed by an equal increase in dynamics food production.

What has happened, however, is that the population has been doubled since the 1970s, and that food production has been drastically improved so that there are no huge shortages. All this shows how much the assessment of the sustainability of certain resources has always been untouched, especially as regards the coal projection, which in fact has for three more millennia, as well as for oil and gas, whose production has doubled.

The industrial revolution has actually improved the quality of life, which can be directly linked to the increase in the use of fossil fuels and a drastic reduction in infant mortality, a reduction in hunger caused by shortages and a prolonged lifetime of the human beings.

The last decade has shown that the data about oil inventories are actually a far more important factor affecting the range of oil prices, since oil exporters, primarily the countries of the Arab world where it is a core business, can achieve economic growth exclusively when the barrel price is above 100 dollars, for all others, this price is extremely unfavorable, since all economic activities, from production of anything to the provision of services, require some type of transport, which is dominantly dependent on the price of oil.

While the high price of oil fits only exporting countries, especially those who count on other economic activities less, and only accumulate budgetary resources, such circumstances are detrimental to all other activities, as transport costs are increasing and making business more expensive. However, when the price of oil after a drastic fall on the transition from 2014 to 2015 was maintained for some time at a level that was sufficiently stimulating, primarily for industrial production, the stock exchanges were revived, and the owners of the capital were on the win again after a long time.

At that time, the price reduction could have forced Arab countries to make serious internal reforms through which, in order to secure a budgetary balance, funding for terrorist groups would be reduced. However, this did not come about through official strategy, but the changes became visible on a wider scale. Even if the statistics were taken into account, the number of attacks by militant groups at certain periods in which the producer countries would face the lack of money provided through the export would be shorter. Nevertheless, in such circumstances, taxes and other disbursements to the population would increase, which would become more dissatisfied, resulting in more and more frequent internal disorder. The problem of lack of funds was sought by the governments of these countries through an increase in the financial supply, which only encouraged inflation, and the purchasing power of the population seemed weaker.

In the period since the beginning of war in Iraq in 2003, until the conflict in the northeast of Africa in 2014, there was a pressure on the global supply chain, accompanied by foreseeable growth in capital and operating costs, and an additional challenge for manufacturers was research on the impact of oil wells on seismic activity. All these were the reasons why the world’s leading consumers were re-examining the possibilities to find alternative fuels for new fuel for industry and transport, since renewable energy sources are not yet exploited to the extent that they would satisfy even the minimal needs of a part of the market that try to concentrate on them. First of all, the construction of these power plants represents a relatively expensive investment in the moment when saving is avoided, although in the long run they bring benefits that, after less than ten years, result in earnings.

However, the problem is that the growing demand for energy products – now and immediately, as well as the fact that the world market for at least another two decades will depend on oil. While oil and gas prices continue to grow, exporting countries are the only ones benefiting from a change in prices that alleviate at times when production levels are in line with demand and when the key issue is to control production costs. Markets at that point depend on the manufacturer’s operational capacity – if, for example, part of the territory of the exporting country is blocked due to war, which is why it is forced to use ports at the other end of the country, increasing operating costs, regardless of other factors, affects the price increase.

The price of oil in the United States is conditioned by the amount of reserves, which are reduced in those periods of the year when seasonal fuel production is increased, but also due to shale production, which is becoming stronger and stronger. By concentrating on this type of production in the middle of this decade, price growth has been halted and temporary stabilization of the US economy has been made precisely because many American companies have seen a place for profit here. Not only have they increased their employment, especially in rural areas, but have influenced, on the principle of competitiveness, that fuel is being traded at lower prices.

The expectations were that by the beginning of the next decade, US oil imports could double in relation to the existing one. With regard to oil reserves, they are still concentrated on Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Egypt and South Sudan – those countries with a very unstable political situation, which threatens the reduction of partial or complete spending cuts with each new geopolitical tensions and armed conflicts.

Only when no conflicts occur in order for OPEC member countries to provide budget sustainability oil must be exported at a price not lower than $80 per barrel, while any difficulty in exporting by blocking ports and inability to transport through the Suez Canal price of this fuel is rising sharply.

However, the IEA has long pointed out that, in order to recover from the global market, it is essential that the price of crude oil is calmed at no more than $100 per barrel, for a period of not less than a year, which, in view of the existing conflicts The Middle East is almost inconceivable.

With $75 per barrel of countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia are on the rise, this price is still insufficient for the economic recovery of other OPEC members. In the rest of the world, the increase in fuel prices reduces the possibility of increasing wages and, consequently, personal consumption that further stimulates economic activity. Such a price ratio, however, makes US production of shale gas significantly more favorable. The Arab attempt to get the US competitors out of the game by lowering the price has actually returned to the OPEC countries as boomerang, as the US increased productivity, so the price of $40 per barrel was acceptable. Saudi Arabia, as the leading country in OPEC, has changed its approach after its financial reserves began to disperse.

However, the transition from $40 to $75 a barrel, although it implied a two-year period, went too fast to leave room for recovery, especially in European countries. In other words, economies need at least two years of functioning under certain conditions to see all the circumstances on the basis of which strategies for adapting to new prices would be created, but such a long stagnation was not nearly as early as this century.

Consequently, expansion in certain areas is to a much greater extent a reflection of a number of favorable circumstances than the actual results of the work of the entities that directly benefit from it. For example, focusing on tourism in any of the European, especially Mediterranean countries, shows that positive results are least conditioned by an internal approach.

A decrease in oil price, Middle East uprisings and better life standards of the middle class in Far east countries are three factors that have directed to a number of flights to a number of European airports, leading to a growing number of cruisers in the European ports of the European region. We should remember this, at the end of the year, when we will, as always, celebrate the results of a visit by as many more percent of tourists, especially American and Chinese, who would have a different attitude in case of dissimilar cyclical effects, when fuel would be expensive and when some destinations would not have status of risky ones, either negligible in relation to the one in these market circumstances.