Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Eurozone has some good, some bad and some ugly

As the crisis in the eurozone rumbles on, it's worth taking a look at the pros and the cons of sitting on the periphery of the single currency.

The most obvious plus point is that we're not part of the eurozone and not subject to the crisis of confidence in our banking system which seems to be dragging down the economies of Europe like dominoes on an early edition of Roy Castle's TV show Record Breakers.

While the borrowing costs for the sickly Spanish government teeter on the jagged edge of 7%, the level which was responsible for sending Greece running to the EU/IMF with its cap in hand for a bailout, borrowing costs for the UK have slumped.

That means we're now considered a safe haven for investors, one in which they'll sleep well at night knowing we're looking after their big piles of cash with the utmost of care.

Spanish banks, meanwhile, are still sitting on huge amounts of negative equity from the slump in property prices there that has seen more ghost estates on the costas than there are in Scooby Doo.

It's not that our banks have brushed their impairments under the carpet but they're certainly managing them better than the embattled Spanish banks.

Of course, this metaphorical jeering doesn't mean we're immune to the goings-on in Spain or Greece, or indeed across the border.

A further fall in the value of the euro has meant the road has gotten slightly harder for exporters to compete against European competitors.

But on the other hand it's made it less expensive for those companies who are lucky enough to import goods and services from Europe and has come along at just the right time to coincide with the summer holiday season where we'll all be getting more euros for our pound.

So where do we go from here?

A good question and one many will try to answer but few, probably only the lucky, will be able to accurately predict.

However, one Nobel prize winning economist thinks were heading in the wrong direction.

Paul Krugman said yesterday the UK government's austerity plan is 'deeply destructive' and won't get us back to full economic health.

He believes austerity during the boom times is more appropriate but not now, when even though it may appear as if we're on our uppers when compared to the likes of Spain, we're still struggling.

Time will tell if he's right.

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