OECD warns of worst recession since early 1980s

OECD says developed world could face worst recession since early 1980s; warns of deflation

LONDON (AP) — The financial crisis will likely push the world’s developed countries into their worst recession since the early 1980s, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday.

In its half-yearly economic outlook, the Paris-based organization said economic output will likely shrink by 0.4 percent in 2009 for the 30 market democracies that make up its membership, against the 1.4 percent growth prediction for 2008. As a result, the OECD said it supported fiscal rescue measures, including tax cuts, provided they were targeted and temporary.

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Record Fine in EU Cartel Case


A worker checks a plate glass on the production line at the Saint-Gobain Chantereine glass factory in Thourotte, France, on Oct. 17, 2007. Photographer: Fabrice Dimier/Bloomberg News

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) — Cie. de Saint-Gobain SA, Asahi Glass Co., and a Nippon Sheet Glass Co. unit were fined a record 1.38 billion euros ($1.7 billion) by the European Union over claims the companies fixed the price of car windows.

Saint-Gobain, Europe’s largest building-materials supplier, was fined 896 million euros, the highest against a single company, the European Commission said in a statement today. Asahi Glass was fined 113.5 million euros, Nippon’s Pilkington unit 370 million euros. A fourth company, Belgium’s Soliver, got a 4.4 million-euro penalty.

The penalties were increased because the companies are repeat offenders, the commission said. Saint-Gobain, Pilkington and two competitors were fined a total of 487 million euros for participating in a separate cartel to set the prices of glass used in the construction industry. Saint-Gobain shares fell 5.2 percent.

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IMF urges radical action to fight global recession

The International Monetary Fund has slashed its forecast for the world economy next year, predicting outright contraction for the rich economies of North America, Europe, and Japan for the first time since the Second World War.


Taxi driving through Tokyo at night. Photo: GETTY

“Prospects for global growth have deteriorated over the past month. The financial crisis remains virulent. Markets have entered a vicious cycle of asset deleveraging,” said the fund yesterday.

Britain’s economy will suffer and will see the steepest decline in G7 club of leading powers, shrinking 1.3pc as the crunch in the City of London leads to more job losses. Germany will decline by 0.8pc, The US and Spain by 0.7pc.

Sending shivers through stockmarkets everwhere, the Fund cut its world outlook next year to just 2.2pc, down from 3pc just a month ago. This is a global recession under the IMF’s 3pc rule-of-thumb.

“Financial stress is likely to be deeper and more protracted than envisaged in October. Markets are pricing in expectations of much higher corporate default rates, as well as higher losses on securities and loans,” it said.

“Activity is increasingly being held back by slumping confidence. As the financial crisis has become more entrenched, households and firms are increasingly anticipating a prolonged period of poor prospects for jobs and profits. As a result, they are cutting back.”

Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s chief economist, called on authorities around the world to respond rapidly with combined monetary and fiscal stimulus, saying risk on an inflationary surge had subsided as commodities prices slump.

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Record opium harvest in Afghanistan threatens new heroin crisis in Britain

• EU agency fears glut and reversal of deaths decline
• UK tops cocaine abuse table for fifth year in row


Afghan farmers in a poppy fi eld: Helmand province, centre of British military operations, accounts for over half of the opium crop. Photograph: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

A glut of opium on the world market, fuelled by a record Afghan harvest, threatens a new heroin crisis in Britain, the European Union’s drug agency warned yesterday. The agency’s annual report also confirms that the UK remains at the top of the European league table of 27 countries for cocaine abuse for the fifth year in a row. The UK accounts for 820,000 of the 4 million Europeans who have “recently used” cocaine.

But the agency also reports that there are “stronger signals” of the declining popularity of cannabis across Europe, especially among British school students.

Nevertheless the drug experts say that a quarter of all Europeans – 71 million people – have tried cannabis at some time in their lives.

The heroin warning from the European monitoring centre for drugs and drug abuse follows two record opium harvests in Afghanistan of 8,200 tonnes in 2007 and 7,700 tonnes this year. The harvests represent 90% of the world’s illicit opium production with Helmand province, the centre of British military operations, accounting for over half of the crop.

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UK energy prices rising twice as fast as EU average


Energy bills in the UK rise faster than in the EU, figures show. Photo: David Sillitoe

Energy prices in Britain in the past year have risen twice as fast as the European Union average, according to latest figures.

Gas and electricity prices in the UK rose by 29.7% in the last 12 months compared with a 15% increase for the EU.

The figures, released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), show bills are up just 14% in France and 12.2% in Germany.

Ed Mayo, chief executive of government watchdog Consumer Focus, said: “The UK energy consumer is being clobbered faster and harder than those in Europe. Other countries may be doing more to keep their prices down and we should learn from them.

“The UK has a relatively free market, but the freedom to cut prices in the early years now seems to be the freedom to raise prices with impunity.

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Europe’s secret plan to boost GM crop production

Gordon Brown and other EU leaders in campaign to promote modified foods

GM corn growing in France, which has since suspended cultivation of modified cropsAFP/Getty Images
GM corn growing in France, which has since suspended cultivation of modified crops

Gordon Brown and other European leaders are secretly preparing an unprecedented campaign to spread GM crops and foods in Britain and throughout the continent, confidential documents obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveal.

The documents – minutes of a series of private meetings of representatives of 27 governments – disclose plans to “speed up” the introduction of the modified crops and foods and to “deal with” public resistance to them.

And they show that the leaders want “agricultural representatives” and “industry” – presumably including giant biotech firms such as Monsanto – to be more vocal to counteract the “vested interests” of environmentalists.

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News of the secret plans is bound to create a storm of protest at a time when popular concern about GM technology is increasing, even in countries that have so far accepted it.

Public opposition has prevented any modified crops from being grown in Britain. France, one of only three countries in Europe to have grown them in any amounts, has suspended their cultivation, and resistance to them is rising rapidly in the other two, Spain and Portugal.

The embattled biotech industry has been conducting a public relations campaign based round the highly contested assertion that genetic modification is needed to feed the world. It has had some success in the Government, where ministers have been increasingly speaking out in favour of the technology, and in the European Commission, with which its lobbyists have boasted of having “excellent working relations”.

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Sarkozy Calls For European ‘Economic Government’

Sarkozy wants top EU economy team

Mr Sarkozy is steering the EU presidency until January

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a European “economic government” to ensure a more united EU response to financial turmoil.

The leaders of the 15-nation eurozone should co-ordinate their actions with the European Central Bank, he said.

Meanwhile the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Europe should weather the worst of the turmoil thanks to the EU’s “crisis management” measures.

However, the IMF predicts eurozone growth will slow to 0.2% next year.

That compares with a predicted rate of 1.3% this year and 1.4% in 2010.

In its latest assessment, the IMF forecasts that the Irish Republic and Italy will prove to be in recession already, with growth figures for 2008 of -1.8% and -0.1% respectively.

Both would remain in recession next year, with Spain joining them.

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Financial crisis: Christine Lagarde warned Hank Paulson to bail out Lehman Brothers

Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, warned her US counterpart Hank Paulson that he had to bail out US investment bank Lehman Brothers or face global financial collapse, but her advice went unheeded.

Financial crisis: France's finance minister Christine Lagarde
Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, warned her US counterpart Hank Paulson that he must bail out US investment bank Lehman Brothers or face global financial collapse, but her advice went unheeded. Photo: Reuters

Sources close to Mrs Lagarde said that she had called the US Treasury Secretary – a close personal friend – well before the ailing bank’s collapse imploring him to act, but he chose not to.

Lehman Brothers’ demise sparked the biggest shake-up on Wall Street in decades and sent shock waves around the world that triggered a massive bailout plan in Britain and Europe.

Mrs Lagarde – attributed with playing a key role in brokering a bailout deal among G7 finance ministers in Washington last weekend – dubbed Mr Paulson’s decision to let the bank go under “horrendous” as it triggered panic in markets and banks to the brink of a 1929-style financial meltdown.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, she warned that the world’s hedge funds could be the next institutions to be hit by the financial turmoil.

Mrs Lagarde, a perfect English speaker, said that governments must be “vigilant” over the health of hedge funds. “Initially everybody thought the hedge fund sector would be the first one to actually cause the collapse. They are vastly unregulated, they have been operating at the fringes, at the margin, and we need to be careful that there is no contamination effect,” she said.

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Her warning will send a shiver through the $2 trillion (£1.15billion) hedge fund industry, which has doubled in size in the last three years and proved to be one of the most powerful forces in the global financial system.

Read moreFinancial crisis: Christine Lagarde warned Hank Paulson to bail out Lehman Brothers

Europe stuns with €1.5 trillion bank rescue, as France plays role of saviour

Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Holland and Austria have joined forces to launch the greatest bank bail-out in history, offering over €1.5 trillion in guarantees and fresh capital in a “shock and awe” blitz to halt the credit panic.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy Photo: PHILIPPE WOJAZER

The move – unveiled simultaneously in the six states to maximise the show of unity – throws the full weight of the eurozone behind global efforts to stem the crisis.

The move gave a tremendous boost to bourses across Europe, lifting the Euro Stoxx index by 9.53pc in the biggest one-day rally ever.

The pan-European plan – totalling over $2 trillion, or £1.17 trillion – completes the third leg of a dramatic restructuring of finance across the Western world. Sovereign states have now absorbed the brunt of the credit risk in half the global economy.

Read moreEurope stuns with €1.5 trillion bank rescue, as France plays role of saviour

EU Nations Commit 1.3 Trillion Euros to Bank Bailouts

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) — France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Austria committed 1.3 trillion euros ($1.8 trillion) to guarantee bank loans and take stakes in lenders, racing to prevent the collapse of the financial system.

The announcements came as Britain took majority stakes today in Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and HBOS Plc. The coordinated steps followed a pledge yesterday by European leaders to bolster market confidence as the global economy slides toward recession.

“What it should do is stabilize the banking system,” said Peter Hahn, a fellow at London’s Cass Business School and former managing director at Citigroup Inc. “Will it stop us from having a recession? No, nothing is going to stop us from having a recession.”

Read moreEU Nations Commit 1.3 Trillion Euros to Bank Bailouts