Two particularly pernicious and inter-related challenges confront the global financial system. On the one hand, pools of trillions of dollars of savings, particularly in OECD economies, are trapped in sub-optimal investments earning poor returns. On the other, many developing countries face a serious shortage of capital, even for investments that can generate high financial and economic return. The world’s financial system fails to intermediate between the two at any scale. This leads to several perverse consequences.
Long-term investors from rich countries, such as pension funds and insurance firms, have crowded mostly into developed country bonds and stocks. Even truly unconstrained investors such as the giant Norwegian sovereign wealth fund have ninety percent or more of their portfolio invested in such assets. Total allocation to developing countries remains far below the more than 40% (and growing) share of global GDP that they now command. Allocation to unlisted assets in developing countries, which often lack the deep liquid markets that characterize OECD economies, is negligible. Perversely, large pools of savings in developing economies, particularly sovereign wealth funds and foreign exchange reserves, are also after the same listed securities in developed economies.
As the Euro crisis intensifies, an even more serious crisis is brewing in the background, that of impending climate change that threatens not just Europe, but all of humanity. Recent figures on green house gas emissions that exceed the worst case scenario predicted by scientists have shocked the global community.
At the same time, it has become clear that the biggest missing element from all of the European Union's proposals to stem the Euro crisis has been the absence of any growth strategy. Without growth in Europe, we are all doomed to a fate of debt and deflation.
The 99% and Occupy movements have stimulated a wide-ranging public debate about the lack of opportunities, for those at the bottom rungs of society, as well as about the rising levels of inequality accross the world. The EU now has receod unemployment.
Note: This is the English version of an Op-Ed published in Aftenposten, Norway\'s leading newspaper on the 21st of October entitled "Conspicous by its absence"
Norway’s economy is heavily exposed to events and policy shifts around the world, even more so than that of other small countries. The exposure mainly from trade and the investments of the oil fund. Yet, there is an absence of strategy on how best to manage this exposure.
Norway can only do so much against the daily travails of the oil and financial markets that it is so exposed to. However, it can have much greater influence on global and particularly European financial reform efforts that are changing how these markets work. Inexplicably, it has chosen to forgo such influence.
As part of the single market, from which Norway derives significant benefits, it is obliged to adopt most EU financial regulations into its domestic legislation. However, it has little formal influence on what form these take. Norway does have an ‘observer’ status in some regulatory groupings; this brings a ‘voice’ but no ‘vote’.