EU summit not expected to solve debt problems
Updated: 2011-12-09 11:10
NEW YORK - The European Union's summit on Friday may not work out a framework to boost economic growth and implement structural reforms in solving the bloc's debt problems, economists told a symposium sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think tank, here on Thursday.
To tackle the worsening debt crisis, the EU leaders were scheduled to meet on Friday to work on coordinated deals. Since Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had agreed on changing the European treaty, some investors were optimistic about a positive outcome.
But Lewis Alexander, chief US economist of Nomura, said he was "deeply sceptical."
"What's on the table now really doesn't address an awful lot of the problems," because all the measures under discussion were all about austerity, which couldn't boost economic growth, protect financial system or advance banks' capitalization, he said.
"It doesn't fix Greece, it really only deals with the governance part of the equation," Alexander said.
Alexander's opinion was shared by panelist Diane Swonk, chief economist of Mesirow Financial. Swonk said austerity alone could not solve Europe's debt problems and fundamental structural reforms were required to generate economic growth.
"The greatest concern I have is that we get caught in a cycle of austerity that only build your debt problem, it doesn't really clean it up," Swonk said. "If you don't have enough growth as you try to restructure your economies, to bring down your deficit, you will get in a very bad cycle for the region and contraction of banks balance sheets will continue."
Many economists said that the EU summit will highly depend on the political will of Germany and "how far Merkel wants to go." Swonk said the EU does not lack political will, but there were great differences, even "hates" among the member states.
Richard Bernstein, CEO of Richard Bernstein Advisors, said "we are at the beginning of a secular period of tremendous shrinkage of bank balance sheets." The former chief investment strategist of Merrill Lynch predicted that banks would become smaller in the future because of the contraction in lending around the world.