Outlook

Events have already forced Irish Premier Brian Cowen to carry out the harshest assault yet seen on the public services of a modern Western state. He has passed two emergency budgets to stop the deficit soaring to 15pc of GDP. They have not been enough. The expert An Bord Snip report said last week that Dublin must cut deeper, or risk a disastrous debt compound trap… Education must be cut 8pc. Scores of rural schools must close, and 6,900 teachers must go. The Garda (police), already smarting from a 7pc pay cut, may have to buy their own uniforms. Hospital visits could cost £107 a day, etc, etc. “Something has to give,” said Professor Colm McCarthy, the report’s author. “We’re borrowing €400m (£345m) a week at a penalty interest.”
No doubt Ireland has been the victim of a savagely tight monetary policy given its specific needs. But the deeper truth is that Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, the US, and Japan are in varying states of fiscal ruin, and those tipping into demographic decline (unlike young Ireland) have an underlying cancer that is even more deadly. The West cannot support its gold-plated state structures from an aging workforce and depleted tax base.
As the International Monetary Fund made clear last week, Britain is lucky that markets have not yet imposed a “penalty interest” on British Gilts, given the trajectory of UK national debt – now vaulting towards 100pc of GDP – and the scandalous refusal of this Government to map out any path back to solvency.
The imperative for the debt-bloated West is to cut spending systematically for year after year, off-setting the deflationary effect with monetary stimulus. This is the only mix that can save us. My awful fear is that we will do exactly the opposite, incubating yet another crisis this autumn, to which we will respond with yet further spending. This is the road to ruin.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard