chief editor of FT spoke on NPR

Discussion in 'Economics' started by andrasnm, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. and he said in a nutshell that we are fucked, not only in the USA but globally. He said the only thing can get us out of this shit is Chinese domestic consumption and spending to reach US levels and then we could, somehow miraculously become a net exporter and they will consume some of our stuff...
    Yeah, I cannot somehow see that happen....
    all in all it was rather educational and said we shall be in this abyss for a while.....so do not think we are over the hump...yet
    He also said we managed to export at least half our toxic debt as an asset class...so we are good at exporting some things....otherwise our banks would be totally under water and fucked even worse than now.....
     
  2. I think he's right... Ultimately, the real productivity kick has to come from China and the rest of EM. If/when they get over the financing/liquidity shock, that's where the engine of growth is that will bail out the mature economies. And yes, banks managed to export their stuff to the whole world, which is one of the reasons why this crisis is so global in nature.
     
  3. The real productivity kick will come when markets clear, if they are allowed to, and perform their age-old function of washing away unproductive economic activity and replacing it with new more productive and successful forms. China has nothing to do with it, the cause of recovery in each country will be primarily the efforts of the domestic entrepreneurs there who found, grow, and expand new lines of business and provide new jobs and opportunities for the rest of society.

    Almost every piece of government "stimulus" or regulation that gets introduced is likely to retard and restrict this process, either now, or in the future, or both. There are some tweaks that could be made, given wise legislators (hah), but with the record of government worldwide, history says that most legislation enacted will be ill thought out and economically harmful, and do little or nothing to reverse the bust. FDR spent 10 years flapping around in the 1930s and yet unemployment stayed in the teens until WWII bailed his ass out. Japan's textbook Keynesianism was equally ineffectual in their quasi-depression in the 1990s, and just ended up prolonging the slump and accumulating record national debt by building numerous white elephant projects and bridges to nowhere. Contrast to Asia 1998 or Brazil 2002-03 where allowing the collapse to run its course (mainly because the governments there were too ineffectual to mount any coordinated response - lucky for their citizens!) resulted in the slump ending within about 18 months to 2 years of its onset, and growth rebounding to pretty nice rates in the subsequent years. A similar argument can be made for the USA before 1930 - numerous crashes and recessions, yet a record pace of growth making it the richest most powerful country in the world.
     
  4. China = fucked ...

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-beijing-bust22-2009feb22,0,5564951.story

    Beijing's Olympic building boom becomes a bust
    Many buildings in the city's impressive skyline are empty.
    By Barbara Demick

    February 22, 2009

    Reporting from Beijing — "Empty," says Jack Rodman, an expert in distressed real estate, as he points from the window of his 40th-floor office toward a silver-skinned prism rising out of the Beijing skyline.

    "Beautiful building, but not a single tenant.

    "Completely empty.

    "Empty."

    So goes the refrain as his finger skips from building to building, each flashier than the next, and few of them more than barely occupied.

    Beijing went through a building boom before the 2008 Summer Olympics that filled a staid communist capital with angular architectural feats that grace the covers of glossy design magazines.

    Now, six months after the Games ended, the city continues to dazzle by night, with neon and floodlights dancing across the skyline. By day, though, it is obvious that many are "see-through" buildings, to use the term coined during the Texas real estate bust of the 1980s.

    By Rodman's calculations, 500 million square feet of commercial real estate has been developed in Beijing since 2006, more than all the office space in Manhattan. And that doesn't include huge projects developed by the government. He says 100 million square feet of office space is vacant -- a 14-year supply if it filled up at the same rate as in the best years, 2004 through '06, when about 7 million square feet a year was leased.

    "The scale of development was unprecedented anywhere in the world," said Rodman, a Los Angeles native who lives in Beijing, running a firm called Global Distressed Solutions. "It defied logic. It just doesn't make sense."

    Construction cranes jut into the skyline, but increasingly they are fixed in place, awaiting fresh financing before work resumes.

    Boarded fences advertise coming attractions -- "an iconic landmark" or "international wonderland" -- that are in varying states of half-completion. A retail strip in one development advertised as "La Vibrant shopping street" is empty.

    In a country where protests are rare, migrant workers stand in front of several construction projects, voicing their grievances.

    "Our boss ran away with the money and he is nowhere to be found," said Li Zirong, a migrant worker from Shaanxi province, who was a supervisor on a stunning building with windows shaped like portholes.

    What makes this boom-and-bust cycle different from those in the West is that there is no private ownership of land in China, making local governments de facto partners in the real estate industry, which earn huge fees from leasing and transferring land.

    Huang Yasheng, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, traces the blame for the bust to the Chinese Communist Party and its reluctance to allow a true market economy.

    "The lack of land reform fed into the real estate bubble and now it's coming back to haunt them," said Huang, author of "Capitalism With Chinese Characteristics," published last year. "There should have been more checks and balances on the ability of the government to acquire land."

    The government spent $43 billion for the Olympics, nearly three times as much as any other host city. But many of the venues proved too big, too expensive and more photogenic than practical.

    The National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, has only one event scheduled for this year: a performance of the opera "Turandot" on Aug. 8, the one-year anniversary of the Olympic opening ceremony. China's leading soccer club backed out of a deal to play there, saying it would be an embarrassment to use a 91,000-seat stadium for games that ordinarily attract only 10,000 spectators.

    The venue, which costs $9 million a year to maintain, is expected to be turned into a shopping mall in several years, its owners announced last month.

    A baseball stadium that opened last spring with an exhibition game between the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, is being demolished. Its owner says it also will use the land for a shopping mall.

    Among the major Olympic venues, only the National Aquatics Center, nicknamed the Water Cube, has had a productive afterlife. It's used for sound-and-light shows, with dancing fountains in the swimming lanes where Michael Phelps won his gold medals.

    All around the Olympic complex, there are cavernous empty buildings, such as the main press center for the Games, that still await tenants.

    A shopping arcade that stretches for a quarter of a mile across the street from the complex is empty, the storefronts papered over with signs reading "famous stores corridor."

    "They wanted to build 'the world's biggest this' and 'the world's biggest that,' but these buildings have almost zero long-term economic benefit," economist Huang said.

    Moreover, the makeover of Beijing for the Olympics led to an estimated 1.5 million residents being evicted from their homes, according to the Geneva-based Center on Housing Rights and Evictions.

    In this vibrant capital city of 17 million, there is an insatiable demand for housing, yet prices remain far out of reach of most residents. American-style free-standing homes are being advertised for more than $1 million in gated communities with names like Versailles, Provence, Arcadia and Riviera. Within the Fourth Ring Road, a beltway that defines the central part of the city, two- and three-bedroom apartments are offered for $800,000 in compounds named Central Park and Riverside.

    "These are like New York prices, but we are Chinese. We don't have that kind of money," said Zhang Huizhan, a 55-year-old businessman who owns a Chinese furniture factory. He has been looking for five years for an apartment for him and his wife within their budget of $150,000.

    The average salary in Beijing is less than $6,000 a year.

    Louis Kuijs, a senior economist at the World Bank in Beijing, said a lack of government supervision of the real estate industry tempted developers to build only for the luxury market and to ignore the mass market.

    "If you think demand is endless for anything you build and you have just 200 square meters of land, you will build high-end apartments to make the highest profit," Kuijs said.

    To its credit, the government recognized in 2007 that the real estate market was headed toward a bubble, economists say. In an attempt to make real estate more affordable, restrictions were introduced on ownership of second homes and on foreign home buyers. But the measures came too late, accelerating the crash of an already weakening market.

    The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics reported this month that housing sales in the city dropped 40% last year. Chinese economists have predicted that housing prices will drop 15% to 20% in Beijing this year. Shanghai has experienced a similar decline.

    "You can look at this perhaps as a healthy correction in the market," Kuijs said.

    In the longer term, he said, "China's urbanization and overall development is going to lead to a very large additional demand for housing in the city."

    Before that happens, the situation could get worse. Most of the real estate has been financed by Chinese banks, which have avoided writing down the loans. Eventually, they will be forced to, and that probably will have a ripple effect throughout the economy.

    "At the end, somebody is going to have to pay the piper," real estate expert Rodman said.