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13.40 15 Sep 2018


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Economists are warning that the next financial crisis may already be underway.

A group of economists that predicted the 2008 crash have said the global economy is in danger once again – with the potential for an even deeper meltdown than last time.

One of those experts, Ann Pettifor authored her book ‘The coming first World Debt Crisis’ in 2006.

Two years later - and exactly ten years ago today - the meltdown was sparked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers bank.

Ms Pettifor has warned that huge levels of corporate debt, mixed with the prospect of rising interest rates in the US, could lead to another major crash.

Noting that global debt is now more than three times the level of global GDP, she said: “Naturally it is not going to be repaid and, naturally, there is going to come a point when that debt triggers the next crisis.

“For me, that trigger is going to be high rates of interest."

"We're seeing that companies who borrowed too much money at very low rates of interest are now finding the value of their collateral falling.

“Their debt is rising and the interest on that debt is rising too."

The Department of Finance’s annual report on public debt, released at the start of the month, warned that Ireland’s debt, on a per capita basis, is the third highest in the developed world.

Public debt currently stands at around €201bn – or €42,000 for every person living here.

The exchequer pays nearly €6bn in interest every year.

The Fiscal Advisory Council has also warned that Ireland’s debt burden is among the world’s heaviest.

The country’s national debt is equal to 96% of its Gross National Income – the fourth highest in the OECD behind only Portugal, Italy and Japan."

Ms Pettifor said the US Federal Reserve's decision to wind back its support for the economy and reverse its programme of quantitative easing has already set the process in motion.

"I think it will be worse than the last crisis because we don't have the tools," she said.

"It will be really difficult to start pumping out quantitative easing, buying back all those assets.

"Already the new crisis has begun to roll."

Stuart Plesser, senior director at the rating agency Standard & Poor's has also voiced his concern.

"There are single B [credit rating] companies who are borrowing a lot of money, because rates are low," he said.

"They have borrowed pretty significantly and so, if they don't have a really viable business or business is impacted by something in the economy, or if rates go up, then the concern is this - can these companies, that have borrowed so much, really have the wherewithal to pay back the debt they took on?"

Additional reporting from IRN ...


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