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BFCSA: Australian towards recession - highest debt in the world thanks to Bankers - Business Spectator Callam Pickering

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Australia towards recession

 

Callam Pickering

23 Jul, 2014

http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/7/23/australian-news/three-forces-pushing-australia-towards-recession

Rampant speculation in the Australian and Chinese property sectors leaves our banking and mining sectors vulnerable to collapse within the next three years. Toxic lending and short-sighted policy have left us poorly placed to handle an economic shock, particularly if it originates in China.

These are the startling views featured in a recent book by former strategy consultant, Lindsay David, in Australia: Boom to Bust. I sat down with David to discuss his book and the broader implications of Australia’s rapidly rising indebtedness, and China’s obsession with property investment.

According to David, the Australian economy is set up around three central pillars: banking, real estate and mining. During the good times -- and with the support of China -- this set-up has proved conducive to strong economic growth, with Australia experiencing a post-war boom that is unprecedented among developed economies.

For 23 years we have, indeed, been the lucky country. But all good things must come to an end.  Australia’s property market has boomed since the mid-1980s -- though in more recent times it has been far more cyclical. Australian banks have binged on mortgage lending, reaping record profits year after year, which has resulted in one of the highest levels of private debt in the developed world.

David’s assessment of Australia’s banking system is startling and uncomfortable reading for those who believe that our major banks are well capitalised and prudent lenders.

Our major banks are huge by international standards; three of the four are currently among the biggest 20 banks in the world for market capitalisation. All four sit among the world’s top 40 banks for total assets.

They are also among the most leveraged financial institutions in the world. Most of that lending has been directed toward mortgages -- debt that is commonly considered to be relatively safe but also does little to add to the productive capacity of Australia.

 

Australian banks have completely embraced the Lehman Brothers model, highlighting just how little they and policymakers have learned from the global financial crisis. In 2013, Australian banks held relatively little cash compared to their more risky asset holdings.

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