|BILL BENFIELD: IMF stalks the world economy|
It must be really cool being Christine Lagarde, the telegenic International Monetary Fund supremo who appears as the acceptable face of austerity at every opportunity writes Bill Benfield in a welcome return to the columns of the Morning Star.
But it's bad news for us in Britain because she has just appeared in this country and, where she goes, financial disaster follows as surely as night follows day.
Lagarde was delivering an IMF report on the UK's performance and it was a very mixed bag indeed, although Chancellor George Osborne was leaping around waving his report card like an excited teenager on GCSE results day.
Osborne, she concluded, was trying very hard and had made substantial progress, but could do considerably better.
However, the report told you as much about the weaknesses of the IMF as it did about the efforts of young master Osborne.
It claimed "substantial progress" towards balancing Britain's books thanks to the coalition government's deficit-reduction programme - or cuts package - but it noted that the economy remains "flat" and warned that the weak recovery may be "more protracted than previously anticipated."
Now there's a contradiction to ponder over. A "flat economy" is described as "substantial progress" and a prediction of a weak and protracted recovery is apparently a positive sign.
The recovery is expected to gain pace in the second half of 2012, Lagarde said in a statement which can only be seen as a triumph of hope over experience, seeing that unemployment is "much too high" and much UK productive capacity could remain "idle for an extended period."
The soppy supremo then attempted to present the IMF as in favour of expansion, claiming that there is scope for the government to boost growth through higher spending on infrastructure projects, which would increase employment and demand within the economy.
Well, yippee, you might think. But you would be wrong.
Because she continued that this could be funded within existing budgets by imposing further public-sector wage restraint.
How reducing demand by cutting wages increases demand Lagarde didn't say, but it must be some esoteric corner of IMF monetary theory of which we know little.
And the IMF head suggested that, if the recovery fails to take off, ministers must be prepared to use temporary tax cuts and more infrastructure investment to give the economy a shot in the arm, even if it means reining in the austerity programme.
So cutting tax revenue and increasing expenditure is good for a government that is already borrowing more than last year or the year before, is it?
Another recondite IMF gem of economic theory of which we are not aware, obviously.
Clearly, though, Chancellor Osborne understands IMF doublethink. He was quite specific in his celebrations of what he felt was a glowing endorsement of his policies.
"I welcome the IMF continuing support for the UK deficit reduction plan. They agree that, in their words 'reducing the high structural deficit remains essential' and make clear in their statement that they consider the current pace of fiscal consolidation to be appropriate," he gushed.
Funny, that. We thought that Lagarde said that the recovery had not taken hold, that youth unemployment was too high and austerity programmes might need to be reined in.
But then she also said that deficit reduction should continue.
It would be interesting to take the report and redact it, removing any statement contradicted elsewhere in the document.
There wouldn't be much of substance left at the end of the exercise.
But, as with all these meaningless and misleading reports, there's a large element of unspoken agreement between reactionary capitalist politicians and reactionary capitalist bankers - they are both reactionary and they are both capitalist, after all.
The message is essentially hogwash for public consumption, the obvious contradictions are glossed over, but the subtext is always the same.
Everything is subordinated to the interests of the rich, the bankers and the capitalist class as a whole.
For example, if there's a need for growth to repair a deteriorating system in this country, why has there been no such need isolated and considered in Greece, where the EU and the IMF have shown no such concerns?
For once, the Chancellor told the truth last year, when he said that he had no Plan B. Neither did any of the representatives of his class whether they call themselves bankers, the IMF, politicians of business leaders.
But the Greek people and progressives across the world have called their bluff and they are all scrambling to appear to have regard for positive measures to return to growth.
However, it's only flannel. It's all wind and piss with no substance when you look at the detail of their statements.
Lagarde and Osborne have merely been indulging in a shadow-play without substance.
There will be no solution from their rather pathetic performance, and there can be none because the contraction in the world's economy and the "strong fiscal consolidation" that the IMF and the OECD warned about on Tuesday is simply unavoidable.
These earthquake-stye convulsions that the world economy periodically goes through are simply the way that capitalism adjusts itself.
They may rip our lives apart and stunt the development of children, families and even nations.
But that's the price we pay for capitalism. And it's much too high.
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