Hold on tight, says billionaire investor George Soros. The world economy is in for a really rough ride, and the U.K. will feel the brunt of it.
“It’s like a Greek tragedy,” George Soros told the London Times in a recent interview. “You can see the trouble coming, and you can’t avoid it.”
Many in the investment banking world seem to be looking ahead to a recovery. And first quarter growth in the U.S. was just revised upward to 0.9 percent from 0.6 percent.
No matter, says Soros, although it will be worse for England than the United States.
“I think it’s going to be pretty bad,” Soros says. “You have a housing bubble in the U.K. Household debts are higher than in the U.S. The banking and financial industry is much bigger as a proportion of the economy in this country, and that’s been badly affected.”
British households have increased debt aggressively in recent years. Outstanding debt has risen to 148 percent of personal income, compared to 125 percent in the US.
The financial sector accounts for about 8.5 percent of the British economy, almost a point more than in the U.S.
Government policies also contribute to U.K. troubles.
“Taxation of foreigners has come at the wrong time, so there is a small exodus. You face higher prices for food and energy, and the budget allows little room for fiscal growth.”
“I don’t think the government is going to be able to prevent the trouble,” Soros continues. “And I don’t think it matters which party is in charge.”
Overall, the U.K. is in worse shape than the United States, on which Soros also holds a bearish outlook. “The decline is likely to be more gradual than in the U.S., but longer-term.”
Long a foe of the Bank of England, Soros finds fault with their response to the problems.
“It bought into the idea that markets can correct their own excesses. Mervyn King was quite inflexible, and then he suddenly had to make a U-turn over Northern Rock.”
Northern Rock is a U.K. bank that was among the first victims of the global subprime meltdown. It eventually required a $30 billion government-backed rescue plan.
Since coming out of retirement last year, Soros reportedly made nearly $3 billion for his own investment fund.
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