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The UK: A house price based economy with a house price based currency (2)

Saturday, October 15, 2016 5:42
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(Before It's News)

From The Telegraph:

Professor Mody, who led the EU-IMF Troika rescue for Ireland, said the pound had been driven up to nose-bleed levels from 2011 to 2015 by global property speculators and the banking elites acting in destructive synergy, causing serious damage to Britain’s manufacturing base and long-term competitiveness…

“It was essentially a bank-property nexus, and the rest of the economy was left to suffer. It is stunning that just 1.4pc of all loans were going to the manufacturing sector,” he said. The country was suffering a variant of the ‘Dutch Disease’, although in this case the problem was over-reliance on finance rather than commodities.

“Britain was borrowing 5pc to 6pc of GDP a year to buy imports and live beyond its means. The strong pound was great if you wanted to buy a Mercedes Benz of take a holiday in Spain, but the prosperity was an illusion, borrowed from the future,” he said.

Prof Mody said the pound was 20pc to 25pc overvalued in trade-weighted terms before the Brexit campaign got underway, based on classic IMF measures of the real effective exchange rate (REER). This currency distortion would have inflicted deep damage if it had been allowed to continue for another five years.

I pointed out two years ago that GBP and house prices tracked each other very closely from 2004 to 2014, I ought to update that chart and see if it still holds, but as a generalisation it does: “Brexit fears” have clearly been a fairly direct cause of high end London land prices falling (fewer foreigners want to buy here) which in turn reduces demand for GDP and hence leads to GBP falling.

The UK's trade deficit is about £100 billion a year. What do the foreign exporters do with the GBP they accumulate? They like buying up things in the UK which will provide rental/super-profits/unearned income: shares in UK companies, commercial land and buildings, 'privatised' utilities, high-end London residential, student accommodation and things that will entitle them to government-guaranteed payments (Sizewell B, farmland, UK government bonds etc.

This is a vicious spiral of course. Every year the UK as a whole is poorer by the amount of rent which seeps abroad, enabling foreigners to buy more UK rental streams ad infinitum.

So what would happen if we got rid of these subsidies; started taxing rents/monopoly income more and production/wages less; and reduced public sector deficit to zero? Foreign manufacturers and farmers will still be happy to sell us stuff, they are geared up to producing and selling as much as possible.

What will they do with the GBP they receive for what we import? They are welcome to buy land, but most of the value will go back to the UK Treasury as tax instead of seeping abroad as rent. So they will spend much more of their GBP on UK produced goods and services. Or maybe they will sell us less stuff while buying the same amount from us. Either way, it would do wonders for the balance of trade.

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