Socialist Worker

Gordon Brown's bid to save the world falls flat

by Chris Bambery
Issue No. 2145

Gordon Brown's plans for a 'global new deal' to save the world economy came badly unstuck long before this week's summit of G20 world leaders.

European Union (EU) leaders had already ruled out spending billions on a new rescue plan, despite Brown's hopes and Barack Obama's urgings.

Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd more recently cautioned that the London summit should be a chance to reflect rather than to make any real financial decisions.

A leaked document that outlines the topics to be discussed at the G20 shows that Brown's plans for a global stimulus package have been dropped.

The document instead reiterates a vague commitment to 'an open world economy based on market principles'.

Things are also unravelling for Brown on the domestic front, with the collapse of the Dunfermline, Scotland's biggest building society, and growing calls for austerity measures to reduce Britain's budget deficit.

Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, last week effectively ruled out further major spending to boost the British economy – calling attention to the increasing budget deficit.

Government bonds

This came as it was revealed that government bonds, traditionally regarded as a very safe investment, had failed to sell successfully on the international market.

International financier George Soros has warned that Britain may require a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He says that, 'You have a problem that the banking system is bigger than the economy.'

David Owen, a former member of James Callaghan's Labour government in the 1970s, joined the chorus calling for austerity measures. Owen said there was a 'breathtaking unreality in Westminster and Whitehall that reminds me of 1975'.

At that time a weak Labour government had to go cap in hand to the IMF – which demanded the biggest post-war drop in living standards and welfare spending in return for a loan.

Today the chorus demanding the same kind of measures senses a similar government weakness. There are widespread forecasts that the Labour government is considering further public spending cuts, a public sector pay freeze and attacks on existing final salary sector pension schemes.

Meanwhile, many people are hoping that Obama can offer some solutions to the economic crisis. US treasury secretary Tim Geithner, who once worked at the IMF, has called for the G20 states to pump $1 trillion into the IMF so it can act to bail out ailing economies.

Japan and the EU have each pledged $100 billion to this end and the US has signaled that it will contribute a similar sum. However China, which has the biggest financial reserves, is reluctant to give unless there are changes in how the IMF is run.

Former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson says the London summit is likely to be remembered 'as the last hurrah for the US and Europe rescuing the world economy'.

Whatever the arguments at the top any IMF 'rescue package' will come with attacks on wages, pensions and welfare – as has been recently demanded of Latvia, Hungary and Ukraine.

Working people across the world are once again in line to be presented with the bill for bailing out a system in crisis.

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