November 21st, 2008
02:35 PM GMT
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Ever wondered why we are so worried about falling prices? And how worrying about them can become part of the problem?

Can a simple sofa lead to bigger problems?
Can a simple sofa lead to bigger problems?

Let me offer my own, real experience: I was going to buy a new sofa this month. I have found the one I like in the color I want

I suddenly realized: Hey, prices are falling. I can make do with my old one until the replacement becomes cheaper, or I will buy it in the January sales, when I might get a bargain.

So this month I haven't bought the sofa. The shop didn't get the sale. The factory didn't get the order.

The same may happen next month, and the month after. Certainly I want a new sofa, but I don't want to find the same chair cheaper in a month or two's time.

Of course, by this time the economy will have worsened and I may be more concerned about saving for even worse times ahead - at this rate, the dratted sofa may not get bought until next summer.

Multiply my decision by everyone else and you see how the economic crises - coupled with falling prices - is disastrous.

Now tell me, what changes in shopping or economc decisions have YOU made that, if multiplied, will have a major effect? What purchases are you putting off? What vacations are you not taking, and what home improvements have you delayed?

Let me know, so we can truly see the size and scale of this problem. Watch Jasmine Birtles of Money answer your questions and comments.

November 17th, 2008
08:01 AM GMT
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WASHINGTON D.C. –- It was always going to be tough meeting the expectations at the G20 on Saturday. Talk of Bretton Woods II before the meeting inevitably raised hopes that would be near impossible to fulfil.

The fact that 20 nations, representing 90 percent of the global economy were present, merely gave the cynics cause to say nothing could get done - even President Bush admitted as much in his closing statement. Everyone expected an anodyne declaration giving something to everyone; thus nothing to anyone.

But the 10-page declaration proved us all wrong. It is considered, detailed and, yes, it sets out short and medium term goals for the G20.

Let’s remember the salient points: fiscal and monetary stimulus from those nations who can; immediate reform of accounting rules to conform to a global standard; new regulations for derivative markets and better early warning of crises; reform of the IMF and World Bank adding weight for the developing world; and a college of supervisors for cross-border investment companies.

These are not just platitudes. They mean business. Why? Because from what I can see the world leaders are angry and frustrated. Despite the cynics, most leaders go into politics to do some good. They don’t want to spend billions of dollars bailing out banks which should be building hospitals, roads and making life better for the electorate. They are furious that they’re stuck with the worst financial crisis in decades and they’re going to wreak revenge on those behind it.

However, there is an overriding hypocrisy that I found too much to take.

In defining the causes the declaration says “policy makers, regulators and supervisors in some advanced countries did not adequately appreciate and address the risks.”

Policy makers? Some advanced countries?

Surely not George Bush, who has been president for eight years? Or Gordon Brown who was Britain’s finance minister for over a decade and is now prime minister? Even Nicolas Sarkozy was France’s finance minister in 2005! The list of the complicit runs much deeper once you take into account officials in finance ministries and central banks who are still in office.

This is a breathtaking case of “someone was to blame” for the crash, conveniently forgetting they were the people either at the wheel or reading the map.

All I wanted to hear was one word: just one.


My Question: Did the G20 actually make a difference?

Or alternatively: Have the guilty politicians got away with the biggest financial swindle of our time? Watch The Economist's Philip Coggan answer your questions

November 15th, 2008
07:22 AM GMT
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WASHINGTON D.C. – You can tell a lot from the wines people drink. Tonight’s wines at the White House for instance, and those at the G20 get-together in Washington. We are facing the first global recession since World War II. Trillions of dollars are being spent bailing out banks. Jobs are disappearing at a distressing speed.  Christmas parties are being canceled left and right. 

Some might raise an eyebrow at the main wine being offered tonight at the White House dinner of welcome. The Shafer Cabernet Hillside Select 2003 is described as one of the world's most profound Cabernets – and it is not cheap. Costing up to $499 per bottle, this is not a wine for the ordinary palate.

In the spirit of the evening (not harping about the cost), I take the descriptions of tonight’s wines and apply them to the G20 summit. 

The summit meetings, like the Landmark Chardonnay "Damaris Reserve" 2006 being served with the first course, will be full of "nuttiness."

The summit will have moments of "sparkling" discussion between the leaders to go with the Chardonnay Rose toast wine, which will lead to "delicately balancing bold" positions with "subtlety." There will be some leaders who will prove themselves to be "extremely versatile."

Finally, like the extremely expensive Cabernet, whatever happens this weekend we can be sure we will be enjoying the results — "lasting up to 25 years." We are guaranteed a "complex, ripe and long finish."

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