David Ingall, Past President of the UK200Group discusses the current economic climate.
The world seems to be going topsy-turvy at the moment. Trump, the outsider, has fought his way into the Whitehouse. Putin is extending his stranglehold on Russia, seemingly with impunity to world opinion. The Syrian conflict meanders on casting whole populations into suffering in conflict zones reminiscent of the end of World War Two. The UK voted for Brexit throwing half the citizenry into ecstasy the other half into blind panic. The EU was flabbergasted and produced a typically multi-faceted response primarily promising Gallic revenge on the ungrateful Brits for rejecting their club. A bit like a bust up in the playground with ill-considered insults being exchanged in diplomatic language. And, of course, the UK carelessly losing one prime minister and so nearly losing the leader of the opposition, though one is never sure whether the results leave us in a better or worse situation.
All of this against a backdrop of forecasts of financial Armageddon resulting from Brexit, yet another Greek financial tragedy, the Chinese trading powerhouse slowing down (or is it sliding into something unpleasant?) and sundry other scares of various financial tragedies.
At home my wife is singlehandedly trying to kick start a boom in the nation’s economy and I’m trying to get to grips with finishing my tax return in the hope that the repayment due to me (at least I think it’s a repayment) will make some minor contribution to a Christmas present for my wife.
So things are not really so bad and little different from my life over the past 40 years but I find that having retired I am constantly surprised how I ever found time to go to work. I am aware that I take my time over things and then suddenly days and hours have passed. But I do keep busy with being the sole church warden in our village church. The problem is that I am below the average age of the overall PCC and decision making and getting things actually done is something of an anathema. The church’s hierarchical decision making processes are stuck in the mid19th century which can be so frustrating when you want to get anything done.
So you might gather that I might feel a tad out of step with the rest of mankind (so there is nothing different there) But you might want to know what I think ought to be done about it all. Actually, whether you want to know or not is of little interest. You are going to be told. There is actually very little.
The disasters, crises and lurid headlines are really very little different from those I have seen and lived through in the past 50 years or so. The Cuban missile crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Korean and Vietnam Wars and many other events took mankind to the very edge and frankly we, the peoples of the world, could do very little about it all, except worry and pray.
When Reagan was elected there were similar worries about his effect on the stability of the world but very often the free world leader reflects a mirror image of the Russian leadership. Despite those worries we came through but perhaps the next time?
Our biggest dangers are in the economic field, particularly in our own country. We are still feeling the effects of the recession of 2008 particularly in relation to the very sensible steps taken to mitigate the shortage of funds in the financial system. Quantitative Easing was a spiffing idea and propped the system up but the great brains who thought it up didn’t have a real plan to unwind it. Now we are feeling the Law of Unintended Consequences biting us. Interest rates are heading towards the negative and though house prices, in the UK are being propped up by low rate mortgages the return for having capital is working against saving. In fact it has almost become unsociable to save; there is so little reward for doing so.
This period of historically low interest rates will cast its effects far into the future with low returns in pension funds hurting those who will be retiring in twenty or thirty years’ time. But of course our politicians only think the next general election and getting back into office. Another effect of those low rates is the effect on government spending. It is cheap to fund overspending so the grandiose plans which are much beloved of politicians are another opportunity for them to leave their mark on the historical landscape.
Little changes in reality. The politicians of the world go on their sabre rattling way and imagine this scheme or that plan will write their name in history for posterity. We, the people, want to live in peace (and hopefully prosperity) to live our lives with as little interference from the state as is possible. We also hope that our governments, despite their previous track records, take sensible decisions and look after our money. In fact make our times as uninteresting as possible (except as far as interest rates are concerned!)
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