Counting the Cost

Could the world be heading for another financial crisis?

From a health emergency to an economic disaster. Plus, how many jobs will be lost to the pandemic?

As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, unresolved old wounds may trigger another financial meltdown. 

As wealthy nations spend trillions trying to keep businesses afloat, they are relying on banks to maintain the flow of cash to industries and offering loan repayment holidays to consumers. 

In Europe, where banks have yet to recover from the 2008 North Atlantic Financial Crisis, there are fears that bad loans will topple some banks and financial institutions. 

In the United States, President Donald Trump’s administration has been rolling back safeguards to prevent another financial crisis, relaxing rules on how much money banks should have on hand to cover losses, weakening stress tests and allowing more proprietary trade.

Remember when banks would bet against their own clients? For more than a decade, banks stopped using their own money to bet on markets but they have lent money to hedge funds to do just that. 

Bloomberg calculated that Trump’s tax cuts saved the US’s top six banks $32bn – at the same time these banks cut jobs, slashed borrowing and ramped up payments to shareholders. The 2008 financial crisis has cost US taxpayers an estimated $23 trillion or $70,000 dollars per American.

In Europe, despite politicians saying taxpayers would no longer be on the hook for bailouts, they are still happening. In December, Germany’s $4bn rescue of Norddeutsche Landesbank-Girozentrale was approved by the European Commission. 

Emilios Avgouleas, the chair of international banking law and finance at the University of Edinburgh, shared his thoughts with Al Jazeera on whether the world could be heading for another financial crisis. 

How many jobs will be lost to the pandemic?

In the midst of a global recession, the world is witnessing the fastest pace of job destruction since the Great Depression. Tens of millions of jobs could be lost despite trillions of dollars being spent on saving businesses and industries. 

The hardest-hit sectors are the airline, hotel and tourism industries.

In the US, more than 17 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks. Goldman Sachs says the economy could contract by as much as 34 percent and unemployment could rise to 15 percent.

With unemployment already at a 45-year high, many workers in India’s informal economy stand to lose their jobs as 1.3 billion people remain in lockdown. It is a similar picture in many low-income and developing countries.

While in the United Kingdom the number of people seeking universal benefits soared to a staggering 950,000, there are similar numbers in Spain and Italy. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has estimated the pandemic will eliminate 6.7 percent of working hours globally this quarter. That is equivalent to 195 million full-time workers.

Sangheon Lee, director of the Employment Policy Department at the ILO, discusses global job in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.