Too much private credit undermines growth and increases inequality

The OECD has just published a new Economic Policy Paper (June 2015) – Finance and Inclusive Growth – which challenges the notion that the financial market deregulation in the period prior to the GFC, which led to a rapid increase in the absolute and relative size of the financial sector, was beneficial. It argues that in the aftermath of the credit binge, with the private sector overladened with debt, further credit “expansion is likely to slow rather than boost growth”, particularly if taken up by households. The research also shows that “Financial expansion fuels greater income inequality” and that government needs to reform the sector to stabilise growth and reduce inequality. What the paper doesn’t say (it is the OECD after all) is that their research also undermines arguments that it is better to base growth on private debt accumulation rather than public debt accumulation which matches deficits. Thus strategies in place in Australia, the UK and the Eurozone for governments to pursue surpluses which then require the private sector to increase debt to drive consumption are fraught and will ultimately fail. Again!

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