The Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group was held in Tokyo on October 12-13. The conventions tend to be fairly technical in character, but, due to at least a couple of reasons, the latest one was an exception from the rule.
First, the speakers in Tokyo seemed to have shed their usual pretense of optimism. For the next year, prospects for the global economy were described as dire, mainly due to the combination of the debt crisis raging in the EU and the looming US fiscal cliff (1). It is clear that the austerity programs implemented across Europe to tame sovereign debts undercut economic growth, drive unemployment, and cause the socioeconomic climate in the respective countries to deteriorate. In the US, the economy might be headed for a slowdown due to the planned massive reductions of spending that will affect a number of sectors - from defense to healthcare - and to the expiration of the tax relief act. It used to be a tradition that the statements made at the IMF-World bank forums were worded so as to instill greater confidence across the markets, but the message set by the recent one is sure to upset investors and traders worldwide.
Secondly, serious concerns simply had to arise in connection with a certain cryptic passage in a contribution to the debate made by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. «Without growth, the future of the global economy is in jeopardy, and perhaps the greatest roadblock will be the huge legacy of public debt, which now averages 110% in advanced economies, pretty much wartime levels», said Lagarde. One is tempted to read the above as a warning that the epoch of peace is about to end and the world currently finds itself on the brink of a major war…
Hypothetic Readings of the Phrase
The less-frightening hypothesis is that the «wartime» reference could be an ordinary slip of the tongue (2): the background of the Tokyo meeting – the escalating conflict between China and Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands – could indeed prompt Lagarde to inadvertently draw wartime parallels. Protesting against the Japanese attempt to «nationilize» three of the five islands, Beijing minimized its representation at the meeting held in Tokyo, so that envoys of many of the Chinese state-run banks were absent from the forum. China – the government and the nation - are currently seizing every opportunity to put Japan under economic pressure: Chinese firms serially opt out of partnerships with Japanese peers, sales of Japanese products on the Chinese market are shrinking, and the popularity of staples like Japanese cars in China is dwindling. At the moment, a huge question mark hangs over the project to set up a Chinese-Japanese-South Korean free trade zone, an arrangement towards which the tree countries have been inching elaborately for years. The Chinese banking sector's boycott of the IMF-World Bank meeting evidently shocked the international financial establishment as a completely unprecedented measure.
According to a credible alternative hypothesis, however, crucial information could have been leaked at the Tokyo meeting, the reality being that the world financial elite charged Lagarde with the mission of notifying the initiated of a slide into an epoch of a global war. Moreover, Lagarde could deliberately paint an overly grim picture of the world economy to reinforce the trend, considering that it is unclear where exactly she borrowed the 110% public debt estimate. As of the end of 2011, the index as reflected by the IMF own statistics measured 100% in the US and 87.2% in the EU, and the projections currently point to 104% and 90% by the end of 2012. No doubt, the figures are abnormally high, but they do fall short of the alarmist 110% forecast cited by Lagarde. Given the above, the disquieting second hypothesis appears to be more realistic.
Bankers Instigate Wars and Benefit From Them Most
The truth that business tycoons capitalize on wars is common knowledge, the hyper-profits ripped by arms suppliers being only the tip of the iceberg. Lenin's view that capitalists unleash wars to grab global natural resources and markets certainly holds true these days as the tide of oil-related conflicts across the Middle East clearly shows, but even that is not the whole explanation.
At all times, banks stood to benefit most from wars. Demand for credits peaks in pre-war years and at wartime as the parties to military conflicts readily agree to any terms to be able to keep fighting. It is quite typical for banks, it must be noted, to lend money to both sides during wars and to help sustain the balance of forces in armed conflicts with the goal of prolonging the period of heightened prices for financial services (3).
At the moment the world financial sector is facing a serious crisis, and the risk of an epidemic of bankruptcies sweeping over it is a minor part of the problem. The more important part of it is that the profitability of lending drops sharply as the US liquidity injections – the infusions of tons of money created out of thin air – into the global economy leave it saturated with cash. As a result, the current interest rates are stuck in the proximity of zero. Many of the world's central banks offer credits at virtually no cost, and in Japan, for example, the prime rate has been almost zero for about a decade. The banking industry, diligently cultivated for centuries, sees its niche collapse in the XXI century.
The banking that retains some level of efficiency in today's settings is limited to a compact group of financial heavyweights like Goldman Sachs, Citibank, J.P. Morgan, Barclays, Deutsche Bank etc, which enjoy the privilege of close partnership with the US Federal Reserve. Those post exceptional revenues, but they are attributable to investments – to the acquisition of assets across the world - rather than to lending. The availability of the assets worth buying depends on privatization being continuously relaunched in various countries, and the agenda behind globalization must be to place the world's entire natural and man-made wealth – natural resources, land, enterprises, and infrastructures – under the financial elite's control.
Right now the investment companies linked to the US Federal Reserve are being confronted with a problem. The US policy of quantitative easings may echo with higher than ever appetites, but the dismantling of welfare statehood meets with strong popular opposition in many of the world's countries. The financial elite clearly intended to bulldoze the welfare systems in Greece, Spain, and elsewhere, but the resistance of the populations proved hard to break.
It becomes obvious in this light why the financial world is interested in a war of truly global proportions. Thus the banks generating revenues by lending hope to revive demand for loans in all of the countries drawn into the conflict to be ignited, and the investors expect to nab the assets remaining in the hands of nation-states that still hold out.
Soviet-era textbooks interpreted contemporary capitalism as s state-monopoly brand of the formation which grew out of the merger between states and monopolies. The XXI century is marked with the onset of the military-banking capitalism coupling the world's biggest banks to military might. What the military-banking capitalism needs to stay afloat is a permanent world war.
1. The term «fiscal cliff» refers to an anticipated economy slowdown to be triggered by simultaneous spending cuts and tax hikes.
2. Anyhow, S. Freud regarded those as manifestations of the wishes concealed within the subconcious.
3. For Details, see: V. Katasonov. Interest Rates: Prime, Criminal, or Irrational. Moscow, 2011