Last week FORA.tv presented The Buttonwood Gathering: A World Unbalanced, a two-day conference organized by the influential, London-based newspaper, The Economist. A number of thought leaders, practitioners and provocateurs in the international finance community came together to discuss several current events, including Occupy Wall Street and the Greek bailout.
As Occupy Wall Street gains momentum throughout the world, analysts look to Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan where it first began to distill the protesters’ main grievances. Terra-Lawson Remer, an International Affairs professor at The New School in New York City, shared her experiences as a visitor to Zuccotti Park. “When you talk to people in the park they want a system where people’s voices are heard in an equitable way,” she said. They don’t want “a government that is influenced by corporate contributions and people who are well-connected and privileged.”
With the unemployment rate hovering just about 9 percent, President Obama recently unveiled a jobs bill that focused on infrastructure improvements and securing salaries in the public sector. Steven Rattner, former advisor to the US Department of Treasury, said the president believed the bill could gain bipartisan support, particularly since its tax cuts appealed to Republicans. But the current dysfunctional situation in Congress meant the bill was essentially “dead on arrival.”
In recent weeks, economists have turned their attention the European Union’s effort to assist the nearly bankrupt Greek government. While Germany and France push forward with a bailout, a larger issue looms in the background: Will rich countries in Europe end up overseeing the economic affairs of poorer countries? Not according to Jacob Kierkegaard, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Poorer countries like Portugal and Italy are in the process of establishing plans that will help them maintain their economic sovereignty.
Emerging economies around the world are dealing with ways to control growth and limit debt. In China, the housing market is booming because of the country’s burgeoning middle class that is hungry for real estate. However, government officials are taking steps to tame speculation and avoid a bubble that eventually sent countries such as the United States into a recession. Steven Roach, a senior executive with Morgan Stanley, said the Chinese government’s current policy is to prevent buyers from purchasing beyond their means. “If you look at what they’ve done, the Chinese have limited the amount of property investment by raising down payments on multiple purchases.” Roach explained that such measures have been effective tools in controlling speculation, and that the US may have benefited from such measures before the housing crisis of 2007.