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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Personal and Government indebtedness

The contextual relationship between balance sheet of citizens and their government, to my mind, holds the key to evaluating responses to current crisis. We see three main segregations:

  • China and some developing countries – where both government and personal savings are high
  • US and developed world – where both government and personal debts are high
  • Countries like India – where personal savings are high but government is seriously indebted.

Keynes solution is meant for the Chinese situation. So Chinese are spot on with their solution. But it is still not clear if this will work in China. Keynes’ solution needs a robust wealth-distribution mechanism that China lacks. Therefore, we need to watch Chinese government actions keenly. Other countries with surplus will be better off if they have access to markets for their produce and Keynes-style stimulus will be the way to go.

For US and other developed countries, the same Keynesian solution will put their future in jeopardy. Beyond a certain tipping point, there will be a bigger crisis looming. It will start with Chinese stopping the US bail out. China is bailing out the US who is in turn bailing out most of the world. Surprising that Chinese want so less say in who gets their money. Possibly, they got a raw deal. Anyways, if China continues stimulating both US and domestic Chinese economy, it will end up like India! As the scale of stimulus or bailout increases, I get ever so more worried.

India is in further mess. It has the consumers who can spend but its government cannot do anything to stimulate the economy. So India will have to sit tight till domestic economy revives on its own. It won’t grow at a pace similar to past 2-3 years but it will still grow robustly. Indian slowdown is likely to be deep and short. After the initial bubble bursting, you will see Indian consumer wring his/her hand in despair and get about their normal trend-line consumption.

So in all, everyone has large problems.