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Paying the Piper

Placard outside the Bank of England
What are the risks from the global downturn?

BBC Radio 4's Analysis: Paying the Piper is broadcast on Thursday 27th November at 20:30 GMT and repeated on Sunday 30th November at 21.30 GMT.

As the credit crunch feeds through from the banks to businesses, Frances Cairncross examines the consequences of such an unprecedented combination of crunch and slump. She asks which risks we should avoid most and how we should avoid them.

The starting point is the policy mistakes of the boom years, when it seemed that "credit cards were falling out of the sky," as former US Labour Secretary Robert Reich describes it.

Robert Reich
It's the worst form of socialised capitalism. It's socialism for corporations and for the wealthy. It's capitalism for everybody else
Robert Reich

He goes on to assess the challenges facing the president-elect, Barack Obama, as he has to dampen expectations of what he will actually be able to do within the confines of the US political system.

Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the IMF, suggests that the Obama administration could concentrate on shifting the US economy away from finance and back towards technology.

But there are numerous threats. One looming fear is of deflation, which may well create greater headaches for central banks than inflation.

Frances talks to Susan Carpenter, an expert on the Japanese economy, who describes the 20 years of economic failure by Japan following the collapse of its own bubble.

Gavyn Davies
There has definitely been a leftward shift in thinking. So the prior belief that free markets were always for the best has definitely been punctured
Gavyn Davies

She explains how weak regulation meant banks continued to lend money to "zombie companies," extending the crisis for year after year.

And the crisis may create political dangers. We hear from Hungary - one of the first countries to seek IMF help - of fears of the rise of the extreme right.

And there are corresponding worries that a leftward shift could lead the US back down the road of protectionism.

One solution, advanced by Simon Johnson, is much greater coordination of international action. Economic stimulus by one country alone can't do much.

But as the G20 control 90% of world GDP, if they work together they could have a powerful effect.


  • Robert Reich author "Supercapitalism", former US Labour Secretary
  • Gavyn Davies Fulcrum Asset Management, former BBC chairman
  • Simon Johnson Peterson Institute for International Economics, former IMF chief economist
  • Susan Carpenter Edinburgh University Business School
  • Gyorgy Suranyi former governor Hungarian Central Bank
  • Lord Skidelsky economic historian

Presenter: Frances Cairncross

Producer: Sandra Kanthal

Editor: Hugh Levinson

Coming up

David Runciman maps the fast-changing landscape of Scottish politics and asks if this will be the decisive battleground for the next general election.




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Japanese economy now in recession
17 Nov 08 |  Business
Hungary to get $25bn rescue deal
29 Oct 08 |  Business
Europe announces 200bn euro plan
26 Nov 08 |  Business
US Fed announces $800bn stimulus
25 Nov 08 |  Business
IMF head calls for extra funding
17 Nov 08 |  Business

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