Editor's Picks

The global liquidity tide is going out and suddenly countries, companies and workers are looking exposed.

You're on your own.

That appears to be the message of the week and one that is resounding across the country and the world, with perhaps one critical exception - China.

Five years after the global financial crisis, the great big government intervention experiment that has shaped the international economy is coming to an end.

The Federal Reserve made that message resoundingly clear this week by saying nothing - well nothing at all about any other country apart from the US. Callam Pickering says despite a big, noisy drop in big-ticket investment by US firms, the Fed thinks the economy is faring well enough to continue tapering and will keep focusing on domestic issues -- unless the great sucking sound coming from emerging markets starts to pull global growth down the plughole.

Alan Kohler believes that as the tide of global liquidity goes out, one-time darling BRICs - who had been the recipients of cheap, debt-fuelled investment by lazy investment banks - are being exposed. Despite, or perhaps because of, all the money they received, they failed to enact proper reform. Currencies and stock markets have been in freefall. As Alan puts it:

"The cliché goes that markets hate uncertainty, which is true, but what they really hate most of all is corruption and incompetence and now that the Fed is starting to withdraw the liquidity that has been covering up the incompetence and corruption of US banks for five years, it’s time to be selective."

Australia, which hasn't seen a recession in 22 years, is suddenly looking around and realising that the tide is going out for it too. We all know mining investment is about to go off a cliff and right at the time that the Fed's taps are being turned off, and China is admitting it has a problem with unsustainable debt-fuelled growth.

Rob Burgess describes it as the great reckoning and identifies four areas that needs to be addressed immediately. It's time the bitter political rancour of the past is put aside and both sides of the political spectrum roll their sleeves up and get to work - including journalists.

"Australia can negotiate these challenges, particularly if journalists focus less on the acrimonious tribalism that has defined politics in this country for the past few governments and devote more space to how these diabolical policy problems can be solved," he writes.

That means microeconomic reform - something that people look on with fond nostalgia, even though it was pretty painful at the time.

In knocking over Coca-Cola Amatil's begging bowl, the Abbott Government has demonstrated it is ready to inflict pain for necessary gain. Stephen Bartholomeusz writes that is how it should be if Australia is to create the conditions necessary to compete in this new, more cut-throat world.

"Extending taxpayer-funded handouts to one enterprise would inevitably see a queue of corporate beggars forming, seeking to avoid the difficult decisions they might otherwise have to confront. Taxpayer-funded welfare for uncompetitive enterprises or industries doesn’t resolve their lack of competitiveness, but simply delays the consequences of it," he writes.

Robert Gottliebsen, scourge of bad managers and union crooks everywhere, has been trying to get corporate Australia to face up to the fact that work practices are a much bigger problem than high wages. Deals giving unions control over many operational areas in construction, food, motoring and mining will end.

"For a long time, unions blamed everyone but themselves. Now the cat is out of the bag, and workers gradually understand that they have to choose between enshrining union power or their jobs," he says.

All in all, it looks like party's over for pretty much everyone from the top floor of Wall Street's shiny towers, to the shop floor except - and this is definitely one to watch for - in China.

A sum of $460 million dollars may not seem a lot of money compared to bailouts during the GFC but the decision by China to prevent the collapse of a retail investment trust fund 'Credit Equals Gold No 1’ might be China's Bear Stearns moment, writes Peter Cai. It was a part of China's shadow banking sector, where 53 per cent of local debt is due this year. "How China manages its bubbling debt issue will be one of the biggest risk factors for its economy and the world at large," Peter writes.

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Have a good weekend,


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