Sunday, 17 February 2013

Get scared when finance ministers play don’t frighten the horses.

Forgive me for being cynical but history has taught me to be scared when the world’s financial ministers think it necessary to proclaim that something or other is not a problem. Hence I have an increased, rather than decreased, apprehension this morning about an outbreak of “beggar thy neighbour” exchange rate policies. For the G20 finance ministers in a communique issued after their meeting in Moscow declared last night that members would refrain from devaluing their currencies to gain economic advantage, amid fears of a new "currency war".
Writing in London’s Sunday Telegraph, Liam Halligan commented:

The very fact, though, that Japan’s recent yen-weakening antics escaped official censure means that efforts to competitively depreciate currencies – in Japan, the US, the UK and the eurozone too – are now more likely to continue than ever.
The yen has dropped from 80 to almost 94 against the dollar in the last two months, a fall that other countries are eyeing jealously. Yet to urge the ECB to follow suit and debase the currency by printing more money, as most eurozone members now advocate, strikes me as a counsel of despair. The “strong euro” is anyway a red herring. On a real effective exchange rate basis, the single currency was 5.4pc weaker on average during 2012 than it was the previous year. Still, it’s a lot easier for Western politicians to blame “foreigners” for our commercial failings and woeful economic performance than it is to explain and then implement the kind of structural reforms needed to boost productivity and genuine economic competitiveness.

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